Blue Monday: Fats Domino And The Lost Dawn Of Rock ‘n’ Roll
Among his 1950s contemporaries, Fats Domino has seemed to exist in a literary limbo. Books about Elvis have turned into a cottage industry while Chuck Berry, Buddy Holly and Jerry Lee Lewis have been the focus of multiple biographies. Nearly 60 years after his recording debut, Domino at last gets his due.
Rick Coleman brings a diligence and relentlessness to the task of pulling the New Orleans legend from the historical shadows, having spent twenty years on research and writing. The result is an informative and detailed account of an influential musical pioneer.
A fourth-grade dropout, Domino saw the piano as the way to a better life. His warm vocal style and a love of rhythm & blues led to a musical and songwriting partnership with Dave Bartholomew and the recording of “The Fat Man”, his first single, in late 1949.
That single helped to put New Orleans on the map and established a blueprint for Domino’s 1950s success. Writing his own songs (“Ain’t That A Shame”, “I’m Walkin'”) and making other songs his own (“Blueberry Hill”, “My Blue Heaven”), Domino became the second-best-selling artist of the decade, behind Elvis.
Domino’s rise to stardom came during a turbulent period in race relations, and Coleman notes that Domino was a force in breaking down segregation through his record sales to both whites and blacks, as well as his performances for integrated audiences.
Through extensive interviews with Domino, his family, his friends, and musical associates, Coleman delivers a well-rounded portrait of the artist, including his longstanding and occasionally contentious relationship with Bartholomew.
Coleman makes the occasional error. Songwriter Harlan Howard’s name is transposed. A discography, even a partial one, would have been helpful. Still, Blue Monday remains an exemplary biography.