Fats Domino, Rock Pioneer, Dead at 89

Fats Domino, whose boogie-woogie style of piano playing influenced generations of rock n’ roll musicians, died Tuesday in Louisiana. He was 89.

Born Antoine Domino, Jr. in New Orleans in 1928, the pianist and singer was second only to Elvis Presley in sales during the early rock n’ roll era of the late ’50s and early ’60s.

Domino’s string of hits included “Ain’t That a Shame,” “Blueberry Hill” and “Walking to New Orleans.” His New Orleans upbringing influenced his music, incorporating the rollicking piano style of Fats Waller and Professor Longhair.

Domino’s influence has carried on through the works of the Beatles, Cheap Trick, Led Zeppelin and Randy Newman. While he is largely credited with being one of the fathers of rock n’ roll, Domino dismissed the notion, telling Rolling Stone, “it wasn’t anything but the same rhythm and blues I’d been playin’ down in New Orleans.”

Domino’s relationship with his long time co-writer and producer Dave Bartholomew generated a string of hits as well as a style of production that influenced Phil Spector’s Wall of Sound. Bartholomew brought extra bass and drums into the studio to assure they could be heard above Domino’s piano. Bartholomew said of his late partner, “just like the cornerstone — you build a new church and you lay the cornerstone, and if the church burns down, the cornerstone is still there.”

He was married in 1947 to Rosemary Hall and they had eight children, all with names that began with the letter A.