For 55 years, since at least 1950, pianist and singer Antoine "Fats" Domino had been a star in New Orleans. For almost as long, he'd been a star across this country, and around the world.
In the early 1950s Fats Domino went to work as one of the architects of what became known as Rock 'n Roll, and he is without a doubt one of its founding fathers. (He actually began recording prior to 1950.) Along with Chuck Berry, Little Richard, Elvis Presley and a half dozen others, Fats was among the first group of artists inducted into the Rock And Roll Hall of Fame, in 1986.
Of all the many great and distinguished musicians who have come from New Orleans (hundreds, perhaps thousands of them), two names stand above and beyond all others as the most enduring and most significant: Louis Armstrong and Fats Domino. The across-the-board appeal and acceptance of their music, to millions and millions of people down through the decades, places them both in a separate, special category from their peers.
To say so is not to minimize in the least the contributions of such great New Orleans musicians as Dr. John, Al Hirt, Mahalia Jackson, Lee Dorsey, Jelly Roll Morton, Snooks Eaglin, Professor Longhair, Smiley Lewis, Kid Ory, Clarence "Frogman" Henry, the Meters, Allen Toussaint, King Oliver, the Neville Brothers or the members of the Marsalis Family. And that is naming but a few.
It may well be true that there have been many musicians from New Orleans, Louisiana (including some of those just mentioned) who were more proficient players, better singers, and greater songwriters or composers. But there were none who communicated their music more powerfully to so many diverse kinds of people, near and far. Louis, playing his trumpet and singing, and Fats, playing his piano and singing, spoke volumes to the average person. In each man's case, the simple art he created ended up having a universal aspect to it, and a lasting impact.
Louis Armstrong died in 1971, but has gone down in history as one of the greatest musical figures of the 20th Century. There have been scholarly books written about Armstrong, and his pioneering contributions to the world of jazz music. But there are people everywhere around the globe, of all ages and all walks of life, who know the name Louis Armstrong. And most of these peopl