Friday, April 04, 2008

Blue Monday: Fats Domino and the Lost Dawn of Rock 'n' Roll

By Rick Coleman

The Beatles were not just on fire in 1964, they were nuclear. On Wednesday, September 16, New Orleans' mayor, Vic Schiro, a bald, mustachioed Italian American, presented them with the keys to the city at a press conference before their show at Tad Gormley Stadium in City Park. The Fabs were in top form. "What do you think about topless bathing suits?" asked the local press. George Harrison dryly replied, "We wear them all the time."

The new kings of rock 'n' roll wanted to meet Domino, whose protege, Clarence "Frogman" Henry, opened the tour for them. He agreed to arrange a meeting. Henry's manager and former Shaw Artists agent Bob Astor had booked the concert. He called up Fats, and they went to the show together. When Domino's Cadillac got hung up in the traffic, Astor attracted the attention of a policeman, who guided them through the confusion to a small trailer behind the stage where the besieged Beatles had found refuge.

"'ello, Mr. Domino," said Ringo Starr as he opened the door.

In the trailer George Harrison and John Lennon strummed unplugged guitars. They all serenaded Domino with an impromptu version of "I'm in Love Again." Fats joined in.

Domino's sparkling fingers put Ringo's rings to shame. Paul McCartney was particularly impressed by his huge star-shaped watch, which was encrusted with diamonds. Harrison was charmed by his sweet nature, as Domino modestly deflected their compliments.

Afterwards, Astor asked Domino what the Beatles said to him. Fats replied, "They were talkin' so fast I barely understood 'em!"

Domino watched as 13,000 girls screamed. Police tackled scores of them as they desperately dashed across the field to reach their idols. "I want to thank everybody for coming, including the football players!" said McCartney, before launching into Little Richard's "Long Tall Sally." The Beatles had won a fan in Domino; they impressed him both personally and musically. "Everything they wrote I liked," says Fats.

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