Fats Domino Circle
I’ve got nothing against the Revivalists but do they compare with Fats, a true world treasure? Didn’t he deserve a full-page cover of OffBeat? And if you still need to rename Lee Circle, I think that Fats Domino Circle would sound great.
—Jean-Pierre Bruneau, Montreuil Sous Bois, France
I see great visions of how the now-empty circle—formally known as Lee—can be transformed. Using the existing tower it can be done in a couple of ways.
Dedicate it to all the keyboard players, like Fats Domino, Professor Longhair, Dr. John, Allen Toussaint and the others that I can’t think of right now. Have piano keys winding up the tower and then silhouettes—busts—in metal works of the players set out from keys and that winds up the tower too—dimensional, depth.
Around the tower, on the sidewalk, will be names and dates. Either like what Tipitina’s does outside their business or raised stone (like grave stone markers) with a plaque on it.
The new name of the circle? It needs to be something funky.
—Cathy Dee Reed, Ocean Springs, Mississippi
Thankfully, my gratitude for the wonderful music and extreme joy that Fats Domino gave us for so many years overrides my sadness over his passing. But I am genuinely sad about Fats’ death, despite my awareness that his performing days ended some time ago. Whether he performed at a particular Jazz Fest or no, Fats for me was the embodiment of the best of New Orleans music, and just knowing that he was around was reassuring.
Unlike the also-revered Buddy Holly, Fats was not a teenager at the time that he emerged as a rock ’n’ roll artist in the mid-1950s. In this respect, Fats was similar to Chuck Berry, two years older, and Little Richard, four years younger. Yet Fats, with the stellar guidance of Dave Bartholomew, recorded high quality, timeless music that greatly appealed to youth. In so doing, he conveyed a warmth and optimism that was evident on his recordings and live performances. At the tender age of eight, I was already following Fats Domino and loved “Ain’t That a Shame” (1955) and then “Blue Monday,” “Blueberry Hill,” and all the rest.
My high regard for Fats’ music never wavered as I entered adulthood. My wife and I took advantage of every opportunity to see him live, and we were never disappointed. I also came to recognize the virtuosity of Dave Bartholomew’s “house band,” enjoying the unique contributions of Lee Allen, Herb Hardesty, and others.
In time, I discovered Fats’ earlier rhythm and blues recordings that preceded his rock ’n’ roll hits, starting with 1949s “The Fat Man,” up until the mid-’50s, when he successfully crossed over into what we knew as rock ’n’ roll. The brilliance of the early songs—including “Goin’ Home” and “Goin’ to the River”—became apparent to me. Through good fortune, the ubiquitous Cosimo Matassa became a friend and a source of history. On one occasion I asked Cosimo why Fats would have recorded “Goin’ to the River,” given its pessimistic, suicidal theme. With a smile, Cosimo cogently set my mind at ease: “If you sing about it, then you don’t have to do it.” This made eminent sense to me, as a child and adolescent psychiatrist already committed to the healing power of music.
When I think about Fats and New Orleans, I recall what for me was the golden era for New Orleans music, which I first experienced live at 1981’s Jazz Fest and then later at many others. I was entertained by Ernie K-Doe, Jessie Hill, and Clarence “Frogman” Henry (thankfully still with us), plus Bobby Mitchell, Tommy Ridgley, Johnny Adams, Frankie Ford, Bobby Marchan, and of course Allen Toussaint and Irma Thomas, all classic New Orleans R&B artists. At the head of the line was the singular Fats Domino.
My immediate response upon learning of Fats’ death was that, with Fats now gone, I must abandon my lingering belief that, chronological age notwithstanding, I am still a “kid.” Upon further reflection, however, I realize that Fats is still truly with us. So I will maintain my pleasant delusion of youthfulness a while longer.
—Gordon R. Hodas, MD, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
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