Fats Domino, pictured performing in 2007, has died at 89. (Aviv Small/ Zuma Press/TNS)

Fats Domino leaves rockin’ piano legend behind

Ain’t that a shame: Antoine “Fats” Domino, the pioneering “Blueberry Hill” piano rocker, is gone.

The musician, who influenced artists from Paul McCartney to Randy Newman, died of natural causes at 89 at his home in Louisiana, according to Mark Bone of the Jefferson Parish Medical Examiner’s office in Louisiana, CNN reported.

With producer and arranger Dave Bartholomew, Domino’s tunes established his hometown of New Orleans as a rock ‘n’ roll hotbed in the 1950s-60s. The pair recorded “The Fat Man” in late 1949, considered one of the first rock ‘n’ roll records, and followed with more than 30 Top 40 hits, including 23 gold singles.

Among the titles: “Ain’t That a Shame” — Domino’s first crossover hit, watered down in a higher-charting version by Pat Boone — “I’m Walkin’,” “I’m Ready,” “Valley of Tears,” “I Want to Walk You Home” and “Walking to New Orleans.”

He got his nickname from musical collaborator Billy Diamond, who told a Louisiana news station, “He reminded me of Fats Waller and Fats Pichon. Those guys were big names and Antoine — that’s what everybody called him then — had just got married and gained weight. I started calling him ‘Fats’ and it stuck.”

He sold more records than any 1950s figure except Elvis Presley, according to Rolling Stone, and his distinctive triplet-based piano style was widely imitated.

McCartney wrote “Lady Madonna” in emulation of the pianist’s work, and Newman told the New York Times, “I was so influenced by Fats Domino that it’s still hard for me to write a song that’s not a New Orleans shuffle.”

Domino’s string of hits ended in the 1960s, but he continued to tour and earn royalties, allowing him to live comfortably in New Orleans, where his pink Cadillac could often be seen outside his Ninth Ward house.

When Hurricane Katrina struck in 2005, there was early concern that Domino, who had decided to stay, had been killed. Someone even spray-painted “R.I.P. Fats — You will be missed” on his house.

But he and his family were rescued by a Coast Guard helicopter. His estate wasn’t as fortunate: “We lost everything,” he said at the time.

BIG FIRE BENEFIT

With headliners such as Metallica, Dave Matthews and G-Eazy, Band Together Bay Area, coming to AT&T Park on Nov. 9, is sure to be among the higher profile benefits for the North Bay firestorm recovery effort. Tickets for the concert ($49.50 to $199.50) go on sale at 10 a.m. Oct. 27 at www.ticketmaster.com.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY

Rapper Schoolboy Q is 31. … Skater Sasha Cohen is 33. … Actor Jon Heder is 40. … Writer-actor Seth McFarlane is 44. … Singer Keith Urban is 50. … Singer Natalie Merchant is 54. … Actor Cary Elwes is 55. … Actor Dylan McDermott is 56. … Musician Bootsy Collins is 66. … Politician Hillary Clinton is 70. … Game show host Pat Sajak is 71. … Actress Jaclyn Smith is 72.

— Staff, wire report
Band Together Bay AreabenefitBlueberry HillDave MatthewsDeathFats DominoMetallica

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