Episode 8: The Fat Man and Fats Domino
Welcome to episode eight of A History of Rock Music in Five Hundred Songs. Today we're looking at Fats Domino and "The Fat Man". Click the full post to read liner notes, links to more information, and a transcript of the episode.
A couple of notes:
This one originally ran very long, so I've had to edit it down rather ruthlessly -- I know one of the things people like about this podcast is that it only takes half an hour. I also had some technical issues, so you might notice a slight change in audio quality at one point. I think I know what caused the problem, and it shouldn't affect any other episodes.
Also, this episode is the first episode to discuss someone who's still alive -- we're now getting into the realm of living memory, as Dave Bartholomew is still alive, aged ninety-nine -- and I hope he'll be around for many more years.
As always, I've created a Mixcloud streaming playlist with full versions of all the songs in the episode. The Mixcloud, in fact, was created before I edited this one down, and so contains one song -- "Junko Partner" by Dr. John -- that doesn't appear in the finished podcast. But it's a good song anyway.
Fats Domino's forties and fifties music is now all in the public domain, so there are all sorts of cheap compilations available. However, the best one is actually one that was released when some of the music was still in copyright -- a four-CD box set called They Call Me The Fat Man: The Legendary Imperial Recordings. We'll be talking a lot about Fats in the coming months, and there's a reason for that -- his music is among the best of his era.
The performance of the Gottschalk piece, "Danza", I excerpted is from a CD of performances by Frank French of Gottschalk's piano work. I recommend it to anyone who is interested in the development of American music. I first learned about Gottschalk from his influence on another great Louisiana-raised pianist, Van Dyke Parks, and Parks has excellent orchestral arrangements of Gottschalk's "Danza" and "Night in the Tropics" on his Moonlighting: Live at the Ash Grove album.
I talk early on about The Sound of the City by Charlie Gillett. I recommend that book to anyone who's interested in 50s and 60s rock and roll, though it's dated in some respects (most notably, it uses the word "Negro" thoughout -- at the time, that was the word that black people considered the most appropriate to describe them, though now it's very much looked upon as inappropriate).
The only biography of Fats Domino I know of is Rick Coleman's Blue Monday: Fats Domino and the Lost Dawn of Rock 'n' Roll. It's a very good book, though I don't totally buy Coleman's argument that the rhythms in New Orleans music come directly from African drumming.
The recording of "New Orleans Blues" by Jelly Roll Morton is from a cheap compilation called Doctor Jazz (100 Original Tracks) -- it's labelled "New Orleans Joys" there, but it's clearly the same song as "New Orleans Blues", which appears in a different recording under that name on the same set. That set also has Morton being interviewed and talking about the "Spanish tinge". The precise set I have seems no longer to be available, but this looks very similar.
And finally, the intro to this episode comes, of course, from the Fat Man radio show, episodes of which can be found in a collection along with The Thin Man here.
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