Fats Domino, the genial, good-natured symbol of the dawn of rock and roll and the voice and piano behind enduring hits like “Blueberry Hill” and “Ain’t That a Shame,” died Tuesday at the age of 89.
A contemporary of Elvis Presley, Chuck Berry and Jerry Lee Lewis, Domino was among the first acts inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and was reportedly only second to Presley in record sales thanks to a titanic string of 11 top 10 hits between 1955 and 1960.
Born in 1928, Antoine Domino was playing piano and performing in New Orleans honky tonks and bars by the time he was a teenager. At 14, he dropped out of high school, taking jobs like hauling ice and working at a bedspring factory as a way to supplement his music. Domino’s career was effectively kicked off at New Orleans Hideaway Club. While playing piano in local bandleader Billy Diamond’s band, Diamond nicknamed Antoine “Fats” — partly in homage to keyboard-playing predecessors like Fats Waller and partly because, as Diamond told one crowd, “I call him ‘Fats,’ ‘cause if he keeps eating, he’s going to be just as big!” Domino was initially hesitant about the nickname, but it stuck.