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Tuesday, February 26, 2013

February 26, 1928

Welcome to the last Tuesday Timeline of the month!  For today’s topic, we’re going back quite a few years into the past.  And, just as we have done with the previous three Tuesday Timelines, this one will be devoted to an event in “Black History Month” within the world of pop culture.

As always though, we have other happenings that took place in the world throughout history.  So, let us take a look back through all the February 26 world events of the past.

364 – Valentinian I is proclaimed Roman Emperor

1794 – Copenhagen’s Christiansborg Palace burns to the ground

1802 – Les Miserables author Victor Hugo is born in France

1815 – Napoleon Bonaparte escapes from Elba

1829 – Levi Strauss, the man who created the first company to manufacture blue jeans, is born in Germany

1887 – Actor William Frawley (a.k.a. Fred Mertz) is born in Burlington, Iowa

1909 – Kinemacolor – the first successful color motion picture process – is shown to the public at the Palace Theatre in London

1914 – HMS Britannia (sister ship of the Titanic) is launched from Belfast, Ireland

1917 – The world’s first jazz record is recorded by the Original Dixieland Jass Band

1919 – The majority of the Grand Canyon is officially declared a United States National Park by President Woodrow Wilson

1920 – Robert Wiene’s “The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari” debuts in Berlin, which becomes the very first German Expressionist film (on the same day that actor Tony Randall is born)

1929 – President Calvin Coolidge signs an executive order to establish the Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming

1932 – Country singing legend Johnny Cash is born in Kingsland, Arkansas

1935 – Adolf Hitler orders the Luftwaffe to be reformed, which violates the Treaty of Versailles

1952 – Vincent Massey becomes the very first Canadian-born Governor-General of Canada

1961 – Hassan II becomes the King of Morocco

1966 – The ROK Capital Division of the South Korean Army massacres 380 unarmed citizens in South Vietnam during the Vietnam War

1972 – One hundred and twenty-five people are killed following the collapse of a dam in Logan County, West Virginia

1987 – The Tower Commission rebukes President Ronald Reagan for not controlling his national security staff at the height of the Iran-Contra Affair

1991 – The town of Al Busayyah is seized and captured by American forces during the Gulf War

1993 – Six people are killed, and thousands more injured after a truck bomb detonates underneath the North Tower of the World Trade Center in New York City

1995 – The United Kingdom’s oldest banking institution, Barings Bank, collapses following a $1.4 billion loss by securities broker Nick Leeson

2004 – The Republic of Macedonia President Boris Trajkovski is killed in a plane crash in Bosnia and Herzegovina

2009 – British born actress Wendy Richard dies of cancer at the age of 65

2012 – 17-year-old Trayvon Martin is shot at close range by George Zimmerman, setting forth a controversial series of events

So, as you can see, February 26 was filled with lots of events...the good, the bad, and the ugly. 

February 26 also happens to have a lot of celebrity birthdays associated with it as well.  The following people who are unwrapping birthday gifts and blowing out candles are Tom Kennedy, Ariel Sharon, Josephine Tewson, Mitch Ryder (The Detroit Wheels), Sandie Shaw, Sharyn McCrumb, Elizabeth George, Emma Kirkby, Jonathan Cain, Michael Bolton, Rupert Keegan, Kevin Dunn, Joe Mullen, Greg Germann, Susan J. Helms, Kelly Gruber, Chase Masterson, Mark Dacascos, Mark Fortier, Currie Graham, Tim Commerford (Rage Against The Machine), Ed Quinn, J.T. Snow, Steve Agee, Erykah Badu, Max Martin, Jenny Thompson, Marty Reasoner, Greg Rikaart, Tim Thomas, Josh Towers, Corinne Bailey Rae, Gary Majewski, Kertus Davis, Nate Ruess (Fun), Kara Monaco, Alexandria Hilfiger, Hannah Kearney, Teresa Palmer, and Taylor Dooley.

Today’s blog subject also is celebrating a birthday.  Birthday number 85, to be specific.

So, right off the bat, this should tell you that our subject was born on February 26, 1928.

Our subject was born in New Orleans, Louisiana, and grew up in the district known as the Lower Ninth Ward (the same area that was nearly wiped off the map in 2005 when Hurricane Katrina flooded the majority of the city).  His first language was Creole, and he was surrounded by music at an early age, with his father playing the violin, and his uncle being jazz guitarist Harrison Verrett.  I suppose his upbringing might have something to do with the fact that he had thirty-five singles charting on the Top 40 charts during his heyday, and released five gold records before he was thirty years old.

And, the reason why I mentioned Hurricane Katrina in the paragraph above?  I’ll get to that in a minute.

For now, let’s take a look at the life and career of Antoine Dominique Domino Jr.  Of course, those of you who might have been fans of his will know him best as Fats Domino, who turns eighty-five years old today!

Fats Domino first started to get attention as a recording artist at the age of just twenty-one, when he recorded his first single, “The Fat Man” in December 1949.  He co-wrote the song with Dave Bartholomew, and was recorded for Imperial Records at J&M Studio (run by Cosimo Matassa) in New Orleans.  While Domino sang and played the piano on the record, the rest of the band was made up of Earl Palmer (drums), Frank Fields (string bass), Ernest McLean (guitar), and four saxophone players (Herbert Hardesty, Clarence Hall, Joe Harris, and “Red” Tyler).

The song became a minor hit in New Orleans by Christmas 1949, with Imperial Records claiming that the single had sold ten thousand copies in ten days!  By 1953, the song had sold a million copies!  And, from that first single (which many people consider to be one of the first rock and roll records ever released), Fats Domino’s career continued to take off.

It took Fats Domino about five years to make a crossover into the more mainstream pop charts, but when Domino released the 1955 single “Ain’t That A Shame” reached the #1 position on what was called the Black Singles Chart (it peaked at #10 on the Pop Charts), it was kind of overshadowed by the fact that a cover version by Pat Boone that same year hit the #1 position on the charts for two weeks!  Of course, one of the speculated reasons behind the reason why Pat Boone’s version did better on the charts than Fats Domino’s version was because Boone’s version received more airplay in states and cities that were more racially-segregated.  Though, it appeared that Fats Domino’s feelings weren’t hurt too much.  He did compliment Boone for singing the song so well.

TRIVIA:  The Four Seasons also recorded a version of the song “Ain’t That A Shame” in 1963, which peaked at #22 on the charts.

Here’s some more trivia surrounding the debut album of Fats Domino.  Did you know that it was released with two different titles?  When the album was originally released in November 1955, it was under the name of “Carry on Rockin’”.  It was subsequently released as “Rock and Rollin’ with Fats Domino” in early 1956.

And, no matter what name the album went under, this single below ended up becoming one of Fats Domino’s biggest hits.

Although “Blueberry Hill” was not an original Fats Domino composition (it was originally released in 1940 by the trio of Vincent Rose, Al Lewis, and Larry Stock), it peaked at #2 on the Pop Charts in 1956.  It became his biggest hit, selling over five million copies between 1956 and 1957, and it would forever be immortalized by Ron Howard in the television series “Happy Days”, when his character, Richie Cunningham, would sing the opening line of the song in several episodes of the sitcom.

Fats Domino would continue to have much success on the charts throughout the 1950s and early 1960s with singles such as “I’m Walkin’”, “Valley of Tears”, “Whole Lotta Loving”, “Be My Guest”, “Walkin’ To New Orleans”, and “My Girl Josephine”.  Of course, that success did not come without some lows...perhaps the most public display of this came in November 1956, when a riot broke out during one of his concerts in North Carolina.  The riot got so out of hand that Domino had to escape out of a window!

Domino remained with Imperial Records until 1963, when the company was sold.  During his time with Imperial, he had recorded sixty singles in total, with two-thirds of those songs placing within the Top 10 on the R & B charts alone!  In 1963, Domino moved to a new label, ABC-Paramount Records...but the change in record label came at a price.  He was forced to relocate from New Orleans to Nashville, and was assigned a new producer and arranger, which effectively put an end to the partnership he shared with Dave Bartholomew (though they would later reunite in the late 1960s when Domino joined Bartholomew’s Broadmoor label).  The change in label and personnel also changed the sound of Domino’s sound, and despite recording almost a dozen singles with the record company, only one (1963’s “Red Sails in the Sunset”) charted within the Top 40.  Domino left ABC-Paramount in 1965, and continued recording at a variety of labels before deciding to cease recording new material in the early 1970s.

By the 1980s, Domino returned to New Orleans to spend the rest of his life, and despite being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1986 with the opportunity to perform at the White House, he refused to go.  He was finished with touring (he had said in numerous interviews that he didn’t like going on tours), and he already had a comfortable income from song royalties.  He moved to the Lower Ninth Ward in New Orleans, and remained there until the mid-2000s. 

In the late night hours of August 28, 2005, Hurricane Katrina was about to make landfall in New Orleans, and while many of the residents of New Orleans fled the city or took shelter in the Superdome, Fats Domino opted to stay at his home with his family because of the fact that his wife was in poor health.  When Katrina passed over New Orleans, the Lower Ninth Ward was almost completely flooded, and one of the houses that were affected was Fats Domino’s.

In fact, Fats Domino’s home was so badly damaged that it was initially believed that Domino had died in the storm, because nobody close to him had heard from him since.  It wasn’t until September 1, 2005 that everyone learned that Fats Domino and his family were rescued by the Coast Guard, and evacuated to a shelter in Baton Rouge.  Sadly, Fats Domino ended up losing everything in the hurricane, but he still had his family, which was more important.

Slowly, but surely, Fats Domino’s life has gotten back on track.  The National Medal of Arts Award that Fats Domino was awarded in 1997 was destroyed in the hurricane, but on August 29, 2006 - the one year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina – Domino was awarded a replacement medal by President George W. Bush.  Domino also released an album in 2006, in which all the proceeds from the album went to the Tipitina’s Foundation (a charity designed to benefit local musicians).  Domino was awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award by OffBeat Magazine in January 2007.  Nine months later, he was inducted into the Louisiana Music Hall of Fame.  And, in May 2009, Fats Domino sat in the audience at “The Domino Effect”, a concert named after the legend aimed at rebuilding schools and playgrounds in New Orleans neighbourhoods destroyed by Hurricane Katrina.

So, I suppose it’s fitting that Fats Domino would spend his retirement years helping raise awareness towards the city that he has called “home” for the majority of his 85 years on this Earth.

Happy birthday, Fats Domino!

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