Looking back, it’s very easy to see how The Beatles could be regarded as the moment rock and roll really got moving. After John Lennon, Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr and George Harrison shined under the bright lights of the Cavern Club and later made their generation-defining appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show, the world became engrossed in the bubbling world of pop music. While defined by the term’ popular music’, much of what the Fab Four produced can be discovered as the foundational stones of what we know of rock music today. However, there was a whole ream of incredible performers who provided The Beatles with a rock and roll blueprint.
The Beatles themselves were never afraid to show their affections for the icons who had come before them. Whether it was Lennon defining Chuck Berry as the epitome of rock and roll or the band at large championing the work of Buddy Holly and Roy Orbison as seismic moments in their own musical explorations. The Fab Four always paid homage to the stars who shaped their musical knowledge. George Harrison may have been considered the ‘Quiet Beatle’, but even he shed a word or two about the formative moments of his sonic journey.
Like most working-class lads, Harrison’s introduction to rock and roll came during his rebellious teens, as he broke out of school and found time to frequent local record shops. Naturally, music had always been around him and his family, but the guitarist would be introduced to rock and roll for the first time by the heroic Fats Domino and his song ‘I’m In Love Again’ from 1956: “As I became a teenager, I was about 12 or 13, I first heard Fats Domino ‘I’m In Love Again’. That was the first rock and roll record I ever heard.”
Fats Domino is perhaps the most underrated artist in rock and roll history. Very much rated by those in the know, namely the white adherents that gave the blues a rebirth in the early 1960s, Domino’s legacy is incredible. After learning his craft in the bars of New Orleans as a teenager, Domino signed to Imperial Records in 1949, and it was this that set him on his path to greatness. His success preceded the ‘British Invasion’, and with his contemporaries such as Berry and Waters, he created the sound of the ’60s that was about to change popular culture forever and give the music industry its Big Bang’.
However, despite his mammoth impact, for some unknown reason, he seems to get overlooked in favour of the more iconic rock ‘n’ rollers such as Muddy Waters, Bo Diddley and Chuck Berry. But, clearly, Domino’s reach found its way to George Harrison and, by proxy, he had a hand in one of the greatest bands of all time. Later, Domino and Harrison would meet each other in 1964, not long after the Liverpudlians had released their first records.
The two musicians were performing at the City Park concert when Clarence’ Frogman’ Henry helped to arrange the meeting. It was a usual collision of stars, taking place backstage and with bulbs flashing at every turn. However, perhaps the most significant collaboration came when Domino took on the band’s song ‘Lady Madonna’ in 1968 as part of his record Fats Is Back.
If The Beatles introduced the world to pop music, then we can safely assume that Fats Domino was just as influential as any member of the band. Without Fats Domino, we’d have no Harrison and no Beatles.