It was on Sept. 16, 1964, that The Beatles met one of the true legends of early rock 'n' roll, Fats Domino, who died Oct. 25. The day the meeting was originally scheduled to take place was supposed to be a day off for the group, but things changed thanks to a very persistent Charles O. Finley, who was prepared to do anything to have the Beatles play in Kansas City where he owned a baseball team, as Beatles historian Bruce Spizer told AXS.com in an exclusive interview.
“The Beatles had originally planned on having a day off in New Orleans during that tour,” he said. “And when Charles Finley made the offer of $150,000 for that concert and the Beatles agreed they would play Kansas City, they lost their day off which was going to be in New Orleans.” They still got to meet Fats Domino as he was brought to the backstage area of City Park Stadium in New Orleans.
Paul McCartney said later that Domino had to be tracked down and that he was found in a grocery store. “I don't know if it was exactly correct. I know that he did need to be tracked down and he was down in the Ninth Ward,” he said.
“One of the versions I read was they went to his house in the Ninth Ward,” he explains. “So it may be a combination of things that someone from the road crew went to his house in the Ninth Ward and he might not have been there. And they might have said he's at the grocery store. Who knows? But there may be a certain element of truth to it. But they did make the effort to get him to come down and see them. It certainly wasn't a case of Fats saying, 'Hey, the Beatles are in town. I need to go see them.'”
A picture of the meeting survives and it appears they may have been singing together, but Spizer says he doesn't know that that happened. “They were sitting around in a trailer-type dressing room in City Park Stadium, but I don't know if it was anything that musical. It looks like a fun picture, so who knows? ” he says.
Domino later spoke of the meeting, he said. “Fats was asked whether they got to meet the Beatles in New Orleans. And he famously said, 'No, they got to meet me.' Fats was a wonderful man. He wasn't saying it in a condescending way. He merely knew that the Beatles wanted to meet him and it meant a lot to them to get to meet him. And of course, he was very proud of that.”
Spizer said he was a big fan of Domino's music. “Growing up in New Orleans, my favorite groups to listen to were The Coasters, initially pre-Beatles and I also loved listening to New Orleans rhythm and blues music, which, of course, meant Fats Domino. And when the Beatles came along, they instantly became my favorite group. And it was great to know that when the Beatles did play in New Orleans that they did get to meet Fats Domino and that he was a hero to them.”
The Beatles paid a somewhat of a tribute to Domino with their song “Lady Madonna,” on which the piano sounds a bit like Domino. According to Paul McCartney in 1994, the song was inspired by him trying to write a blues-inspired boogie-woogie song. “It reminded me of Fats Domino for some reason, so I started singing a Fats Domino impression. It took my other voice to a very odd place,” he said.
Domino covered the song himself while he was signed to Reprise Records, along with two other Beatles songs, “Everybody's Got Something to Hide Except for Me and My Monkey” and “Lovely Rita.” None of the songs were chart hits but “Lady Madonna” and “Lovely Rita” appeared on his 1968 Fats Is Back album. “Everybody's Got Something to Hide Except for Me and My Monkey” appeared on a single. All three songs are available on a collection originally released by Rhino Handmade called Sweet Patootie: The Complete Reprise Recordings.
Both Paul McCartney and John Lennon covered one of Domino's trademark songs “Ain't That a Shame. McCartney's version appeared on Choba B CCCP, while Lennon's appeared on Rock n' Roll. That album also included “Just Because,” another song recorded by Domino. Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr both appeared on a cover of “I'm in Love Again” from Klaus Voormann's album Voormann and Friends: A Sideman's Journey. McCartney and Lennon also appeared on a 2007 tribute CD called Going Home: A Tribute to Fats Domino. McCartney performed with Allen Toussaint on “I Want To Walk You Home.” The disc included Lennon's version of “Ain't That a Shame.”
McCartney issued a statement on Oct. 26 talking about meeting the rock legend and giving his thoughts on his music. “Rest in peace Fats Domino, the great rock ’n’ roll pianist, and singer who thrilled us in our early days in Liverpool. His hit records like ‘Ain’t That A Shame’, ‘Blueberry Hill’, ‘I’m In Love Again’ and many others introduced us to the sounds of New Orleans rock ‘n’ roll. We were excited to meet Fats once in his hometown of New Orleans. He was wearing a huge star spangled diamond encrusted watch which was our first encounter with bling! His voice, piano playing, and musical style was a huge influence on us and his appearance in the film ‘The Girl Can’t Help It’ was truly magnificent. As one of my favorite rock ‘n’ roll singers, I will remember him fondly and always think of him with that twinkle in his eye. I read that he had eight children. He himself was named Antoine. His kids were named Antoine III, Anatole, Andre, Antonio, Antoinette, Andrea, Anola and Adonica. Now that is pure Fats!”