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What the first ever Rock ‘n’ Roll record was will never be truly known, as it’s up for interpretation among music historians what exactly constituted the new genre. Elvis Presley or Little Richard found fame and glamour in the late 1950’s popularizing the genre, but Fats Domino may have found it years before. His 1949 single “The Fat Man” is held by many as the seminal track in rock ‘n’ roll history. It wasn’t even Domino’s original song, but a remake of a 1941 boogie-woogie song about heroine called “Junker’s Blues”.
But when Fats Domino reworked the song to include his triplet rhythms that so exemplify rock ‘n’ roll, the genre may have been born. Before Elvis Presley captured millions of fans with his country-rocker style, Fats Domino had already done it half a decade before. By the time Elvis had begun recording with Sun Records in 1954, rock ‘n’ roll was merely in the mind of one white Cleveland-based DJ, Alan Freed. Alan Freed was the man who originally coined the term rock ‘n’ roll, and before then, there was no classification for the new style.
The story of rock ‘n’ roll’s beginning is also one of segregation. Alan Freed held the first rock ‘n’ roll show in 1955. The lineup was entirely black and Elvis was nowhere to be found. Fats Domino, however, was. Perhaps before anyone else, Fats Domino can be credited with breaking down the barriers between the music listened to by white and black kids, allowing for the later success of Elvis and even the Beatles.
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While Fats Domino’s influence and importance to music history have been lost to the popular consciousness over time, it has never been forgotten by music. The first song John Lennon learned to play on guitar was Domino’s track “Ain’t That a Shame”. Elvis himself called him “the real kind of rock ‘n’ roll”. He was one of the first inductees to the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame and his songs are some of those selected for storage in the Library of Congress’ National Recording Registry.
“I found my thrill on Blueberry Hill”.
RIP Fats Domino.