On what would have been his 90th birthday, ILYOS pays tribute to the great New Orleans rock’n’roll pioneer with an array of covers by the likes of Elton John, Paul McCartney, John Lennon, Cheap Trick, Aussies the Loved Ones and Billy Thorpe & the Aztecs and more.
The late great Antione Domino Jr – aka Fats Domino – would have turned 90 today if he hadn’t sadly passed away last year on October 24.
One of the great original rock’n’rollers, Domino brought to prominence the easy rolling sounds of New Orleans Rhythm & Blues. Not a prolific songwriter – although he did receive a co-write on some of his hits – his arrangements of others’ songs were so distinctive that it’s easy to recognise which subsequent covers his versions inspired. And make no mistake, no one would be covering these songs anyway if it wasn’t for Fats having recorded.
To pay tribute to this musical giant, ILYOS gives you 15 great covers of songs that Fats made famous.
And before we start let’s remember TV’s Happy Days, whose Richie Cunningham had a signature tune of his own, thanks to Fats. Here it looks like Richie finally found his thrill…
The Loved Ones – Blueberry Hill
Let’s start in Australia with one of the great ‘60s Melbourne bands, whose singles including “The Loved Ones” and “Ever Lovin’ Man” and sole album Magic Box are considered Australian classics. Steeped in New Orleans music from the get-go, it was no surprise they’d try one of Fats’ signature tunes, and it’s a fabulous version, highlighted by the incredible vocals of Gerry Humphrys.
Cheap Trick - Ain’t That A Shame
Hard rocking popsters Cheap Trick love their ‘50s and ‘60s rock – they’re often compared to the Beatles – and they included this killer cover of Fat’s 1955 smash on their 1978 breakthrough “Live at Budokan” LP. Interesting to note they cut this some years after John Lennon’s version (see below) and members of the band were subsequently invited to take part in the original sessions of what became John’s final album Double Fantasy.
Dave Edmunds - Blue Monday
The Welsh rocker’s first solo hit was a cover of “I Hear You Knocking”, originally recorded by another New Orleans R&B legend Smiley Lewis and a ‘50s hit for Fats. To follow it up he cut this killer Fats cover.
Paul McCartney - I’m in Love Again
The Beatles loved their ‘50s rock’n’rollers, and both Lennon and McCartney released versions of “Ain’t That A Shame”. Macca included this version of Fats’ #3 1956 hit on his 1988 Russian–only LP CHOBA B CCCP.
Norah Jones - My Blue Heaven
The first of a number of songs from the wonderful 2007 Fats tribute album, Norah’s is a beautiful tribute from one piano player to another.
Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers – I’m Walking
From that same tribute album, a fabulous version of a rare Fats Domino original – and one of his great hits – from a band that knew their rock’n’roll history inside out and could play anything.
Bruce Springsteen & The E-Street Band – Let the Four Winds Blow
Like Petty & The Heartbreakers, Bruce and the E-Street Band have always showed off their love of ‘50s and ‘60s rock, and this 1961 Fats hit was a regular in their live shows from ‘73 to ‘75.
Billy Thorpe & The Aztecs – Sick & Tired
Written by fellow New Orleans artist Chris Kenner but a big hit for Fats in 1958, “Sick & Tired” was a favourite of many mid-‘60s pop and R&B bands, and here’s a young Thorpie rocking it up a storm in ’65.
Robert Plant with Lil’ Band of Gold - I’ve Been Around
More than any other hard rock band, Led Zeppelin were steeped in early rock’n’roll and R’n’B, and Robert Plant, in particular, has been known to explore it in his solo career. In the mid-2000’s he recorded a number of tracks with the superb Louisiana super-group/bar band Lil’ Band of Gold for the previously mentioned Fats tribute album. Check out this live great track recorded in the same week they recorded those cuts.
John Lennon – Ain’t That A Shame
From John’s great Phil Spector album of ‘50s and early ‘60s covers Rock’n’Roll.
The Band – I’m Ready
From The Band’s own album of early rock’n’roll covers, Moondog Matinee. A fabulous version of Fats’ 1959 smash.
Bobby Charles - Before I Grow Too Old
Louisiana singer-songwriter Bobby Charles co-wrote this 1960 Fats hit with Fats and producer Dave Bartholomew and recorded his own version on a much-loved 1972 with backing from members of the Band and Dr John.
Ry Cooder - My Girl Josephine
In 2005 Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans and for a while Fats was presumed to be one of her victims. Fortunately, he survived, and images of him being rescued by boat went around the world. Shortly thereafter an all-star Concert for New Orleans was held, and of course, American Music Master Ry Cooder was on hand to serve up a wonderful version of another of Fats’ great 1960 hits here.
Dr John – Walking To New Orleans
Six weeks after Hurricane Katrina, a bunch of local luminaries came together for the New Orleans Social Club project (a nod to Ry Cooder’s hugely successful Buena Vista Social Club project no doubt). Dr. John, who since the ‘70s has done as much if not more than anyone to take New Orleans culture to a rock audience, contributed this wonderful version of another one of Fats’ signature songs co-written by Bobby Charles.
Elton John – Blueberry Hill
Another track from the great all-star Fats tribute was Elton John’s version of “Blueberry Hill”. Elton, another piano man who first showed off his love of ‘50s rock’n’roll with his Daddy Cool-inspired hit “Crocodile Rock”, reprised his version of “Blueberry Hill” last year to mark Fats’ passing. He prefaces this version with a loving tribute and thanks “for all the inspiration and pleasure” that Fats gave. Happy Birthday Fats.