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Fats Domino, Rock Pioneer and ‘Blueberry Hill’ Singer, Dies at 89

Famous hits include ”Ain’t That a Shame“ and ”Walkin’ to New Orleans“

Antoine “Fats” Domino, the New Orleans-based rock pioneer behind such hits as “Blueberry Hill” and “Ain’t That a Shame,” died Tuesday at age 89.

Domino’s family confirmed the news on Wednesday morning to WWL-TV reporter Eric Paulson. He was surrounded by family and friends. Mark Bone, chief investigator with the Jefferson Parish coroner’s office in Louisiana, confirmed his death to the Associated Press. 

Five of his records released before 1955 sold more than one million copies and were certified gold. Domino also had 35 records in the U.S. Billboard Top 40.

Domino was born in New Orleans in 1928, and learned to play the piano at an early age. In the summer of 1947, he performed at a backyard barbecue and New Orleans bandleader Billy Diamond came to hear him play. Diamond then asked him to join his band, the Solid Senders.

His first recording, “The Fat Man,”was released in 1949 and he subsequently released a series of songs with producer Dave Bartholomew, the saxophonists Herbert Hardesty and Alvin “Red” Tyler, the bassist Frank Fields, and the drummers Earl Palmer and Smokey Johnson.

Other hit singles include “Ain’t That a Shame,” “Blueberry Hill” and “I’m Walkin.'” He released his debut album, “Carry on Rockin,” in 1955, but it was reissued as “Rock and Rollin’ with Fats Domino” in 1956.

Domino also appeared in two films released in 1956: “Shake, Rattle & Rock” and “The Girl Can’t Help It.”

He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1986, its first year. The next year, he won a Grammy Award for lifetime achievement, and he received a National Medal of Arts from President Bill Clinton in 1998.

Domino had his last pop hit in 1968, performing a cover of “Lady Madonna,” released earlier that year by the Beatles. However, he toured into the ’90s — his last tour was in Europe for three weeks in 1995.

When Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans in August 2005, the media reported Domino as missing. Instead, the musician had huddled up on the second story of his home, which was flooded, with his family and was later rescued by New Orleans Harbor Police and transported to a Baton Rouge shelter.