“There is no, no, no place like New Orleans for music. The pioneers are here. We built the house. You can redecorate it, but we laid the foundation.”
We are very excited about this year’s American Music Masters Series! The program, entitled “Walking to New Orleans: The Music of Fats Domino and Dave Bartholomew” will be held here in Cleveland November 8-13th. Domino, a legendary piano player, wonderful singer, and galvanizing performer, and Bartholomew, an accomplished trumpet player, arranger and bandleader, make up one of the great partnerships of rock and roll. They wrote more than 50 songs together, including “Ain’t That a Shame,” “Blue Monday,” “I’m in Love Again” and “I’m Walkin.’” In a 1999 interview with the New Orleans Times-Picayune, Dave Bartholomew said “Fats and I, I think that the Lord put us together.” Domino responded, “I’m pretty sure...Who else would do it?” We are so grateful to our honorees and their families for all their help in making this event possible. We met with them back in June, which Terry Stewart described in a previous blog post.
Because Domino and Bartholomew both predate rock and roll and are first generation rock & rollers, their work opens some great discussions about how we make distinctions between rock and roll and rhythm and blues. In 1956, Fats said, “Well, what they call rock and roll now is rhythm and blues. I’ve been playing it for fifteen years in New Orleans.” And Domino’s story reminds us that rock and roll helped beat down racial segregation—his concerts drew large, enthusiastic crowds of black and white young people who integrated the dance floor.
The music created by Fats Domino and Dave Bartholomew inspired the first generation of rock and roll artists like Little Richard, Elvis Presley and Jerry Lee Lewis, all who began their recording careers after Domino. Domino also had a big impact in England. The Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Van Morrison, Steve Winwood, and Elton John have all cited Domino as an influence on their sound. Reggae artists Bob Marley, Jimmy Cliff and Toots and the Maytals have all acknowledged Domino’s impact.
In 1999, I saw Fats Domino play at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage festival. It was a reunion with Bartholomew, a recognition of the 50th anniversary of “The Fat Man,” their first record together, recorded in December of 1949 at Cosimo Matassa’s J&M Studios in New Orleans. It was one of the most remarkable shows I’ve ever seen. The band was large and mighty—and included the legendary Herb Hardesty on saxophone—and laid down an irresistible backbeat. Fats played with so much energy and charisma—the farthest thing from an oldies show you could imagine. It reminded me of something that Ruth Brown once said of Fats Domino: “Of course his music is spiritual. That’s what he’s about and always was. It made you want to move. There was nothing you could do; you had to move.”
Through the week of American Music Masters, along with our partners Case Western Reserve University, we plan to tell all these different stories—and more that we’re still learning about--in events ranging from K-12 classes to a conference to our tribute show. To learn more, check out our web pages, where we have posted performance videos, interview footage and a whole host of recommended resources for learning more about Fats Domino and Dave Bartholomew. Click here to explore them, and we’ll see you in November.