He first began performing in 1938 at age 10, and a year later was playing for pennies in honky-tonk bars like The Hideway Club, where bandleader Bill Diamond started calling him "Fats". By fourteen, he had quit school to work days in a bedspring factory so he could perform at night in local clubs. By the time he was twenty, Antoine was married and a father, had survived a near-fatal car crash and had almost lost his hand in an industrial accident. He continued with music into the 40's and was eventually heard by trumpeter Dave Bartholomew, who invited him to join his band. It soon became obvious that this piano player was much more than just a sideman.
Bartholomew helped arrange a contract with Imperial Records in 1949 and served as producer on a cleaned up version of a song about drugs called "The Fat Man" for Domino's first commercial release. The record reached number two on the R&B charts, selling over a million copies and re-affirmed his lifelong nick name. In 1952, Fats placed more songs on the R&B chart, including "Every Night About This Time" and "Goin' Home" and scored again in 1953 with "Going To The River".
Fats Domino's fortunes changed dramatically in 1955 when his song, "Ain't That A Shame" was covered by white recording artist, Pat Boone. Boone's version went to number one and Domino's version on Imperial went to number ten. The song established both artists as stars. In 1956, he put five songs in the top forty, including "I'm In Love Again" (#3) and Fats' rendition of a tune that had reached number one for Glenn Miller in 1940, "Blueberry Hill" (#2). The latter became Domino's highest charting record ever. Fats could also be heard in the background on the records of other artists, such as Joe Turner and Lloyd Price.
In 1957 he appeared in a movie that many consider to be the best rock-and-roll film ever made, The Girl Can't Help It, singing his hit "Blue Monday" (#5). Another Fats Domino hit, "I'm Walkin" (#4) was covered by Ricky Nelson in 1957 and helped to launch the teenage singing sensation's career. Other top ten songs followed in the late 50's for Domino: "Whole Lotta Loving" (#6), "I Want To Walk You Home" (#8) and "Be My Guest" (#8). The last song had a curious origin -- a teenager had been told by his father to get a job or get out of the house, so he wrote "Be My Guest" and waited in line for a chance to pass it on to Fats Domino. He was able to do so, and heard from Domino's agent some time later. Thus began the songwriting career of Tommy Boyce, who would later team up with Bobby Hart to write some of rock and roll's best selling songs.
Fats had his final top ten song in 1960 with the million seller, "Walking To New Orleans". He continued his hit streak by placing 14 more songs in Billboard's Top 40 over the next three years. After moving to ABC-Paramount in 1963, the bottom fell out of Fats' recording career and the best he could do was reach number 35 with a song called "Red Sails In The Sunset", but he remained a popular live act. Although he continued to release new material on several labels, Fats had only one more Top 100 hit, a 1968 cover of the Beatles song "Lady Madonna", originally written by Paul McCartney to emulate Fat's style.
Through the 70s, Fats was on the road six to eight months of the year. In the 1980s, Domino decided he would no longer leave New Orleans, as he had a comfortable income from royalties, disliked touring, and claimed he couldn't get any food he liked anywhere but his home town. His induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1986 and an invitation to perform at the White House failed to get Domino to make any exception to this policy. In 1987, he received a Lifetime Achievement Award at the 29th Annual Grammy Awards.
In 1993, Fats released his first major label album in 25 years, "Christmas Is A Special Day" to critical acclaim, but limited sales. In 1998, he received a National Medal Of The Arts from U.S. President Bill Clinton.
As the new millenium rolled around, Fats Domino was living in a New Orleans mansion with his wife Rosemary, with whom he had eight children, all of whom have names that start with "A". He was a familiar sight around town in his bright pink Cadillac and made yearly appearances at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival and a few other local events where he demonstrated that his musicianship and showmanship were undiminished.
In August of 2005, the 78 year old music legend was rescued from the rooftop of his home after Hurricane Katrina struck. In 2006, he released his first album in nearly two decades, "Alive and Kickin'", to benefit New Orleans musicians impacted by the hurricane. The title track was recorded after Katrina, but most of the other cuts were from unreleased sessions in the 1990s.
On January 12th, 2007, Domino was honored with OffBeat magazine's Lifetime Achievement Award at the annual Best of the Beat Awards held at House of Blues in New Orleans. Fats' next appearance came on May 19th, 2007 at Tipitina's in New Orleans, performing to a packed house. In September of that year, he was inducted into the Louisiana Music Hall of Fame. Fats has also been inducted into the Delta Music Museum Hall of Fame in Ferriday. In December, 2007, Fats Domino was inducted into the Hit Parade Hall of Fame. In May, 2009, he made an unexpected appearance for The Domino Effect, a concert aimed at raising funds to help rebuild schools and playgrounds damaged by Hurricane Katrina.
Fats Domino made a significant mark in rock and roll history. In the period 1949-1960, he had 23 records that sold a million copies and during his career, has racked up over 65 million in sales. He has also received a Grammy Award for Lifetime Achievement.