In April of 2005, the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival added an extra day to the first weekend of its annual extravaganza. Now, both weekends, as opposed to just the second weekend, would begin on Thursday and close out on Sunday. Hallelujah! One more day of music. This was perfect, as I had already been going the first weekend for 6 years. No need to change plans now. It was on that "first" first Thursday, where I got to see Fats Domino for the first time, and at the age of 77, he proceeded to rock the socks off of a ridiculous mob of people, including yours truly. At 77 years old, Fats was still banging that piano with his belly a good twenty feet forward. At 77 years old, Fats was still holding court in his home town of New Orleans and with the greatest of ease, managed to get 50,000 people to pay attention. Well, that's how I remember it.
I remember the Fair Grounds being incredibly manageable that "first" first Thursday. Didn't anyone get the memo? There was barely a wait for food, or the head. Stage hopping was quick and elbow free. It was a dream come true. Of course, it wasn't quite so desolate. Everyone was over at the Acura Stage waiting on Fats. They did, of course, get the memo.
Then August came. August of 2005. And everything changed. If 50% of my listening was music from New Orleans, from this point on, it became 100%, as if I could somehow get inside, or through, or within or above all those people and turn things around.
Just minutes ago, I read a friend's post, saying his first exposure to Fats Domino was from watching "Happy Days." I can't say that I knew much more than the few 45's by Fats in my collection. "Blueberry Hill" was a novelty and quite frankly, as much as I loved "Happy Days," Richie Cunningham made me hate "Blueberry Hill."
Fats Domino's health has been in question for years. Every once in awhile, you'd read about a Fats spotting in front of his house, and you'd stop worrying for a little bit. We don't have to worry no more. Rest easy, Mr. Domino.
One more thing...
I own a 6 LP set from the U.K. that has just about everything you need by Antoine "Fats" Domino, and still, just a month or so ago, I found a bunch of original LPs on Imperial. They were in wonderful shape and the dealer basically told me to take them, that he couldn't give Fats Domino records away. I knew what he meant. It's one of the reasons I stopped trying to sell them. Another reason is, there are no bad Fats Domino records. Not the earliest recordings from the late 40's, not the meat on Imperial from 50's, not the unfairly forgotten recordings on ABC and not his come back on Reprise from 1968. I am happy I took these records home. Think I'll spend the next two or three days with them.
Happy Trails, "Fats."