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Rock, R&B Pioneer Fats Domino Dead at 89

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Fats Domino dies at 89

Fats Domino, one of the architects of rock 'n' roll, died Tuesday at his daughter's suburban New Orleans home. Haydee Ellis, a family friend, confirmed the news to NPR. Mark Bone, chief investigator for the Jefferson Parish coroner's office, tells NPR that Domino, who was 89, died of natural causes.

In the 1940s, Antoine Domino Jr. was working at a mattress factory in New Orleans and playing piano at night. Both his waistline and his fan base were expanding. That's when a bandleader began calling him "Fats." From there, it was a cakewalk to his first million-selling record — "The Fat Man." It was Domino's first release for Imperial Records, which signed him right off the bandstand.

Producer, songwriter, arranger and bandleader Dave Bartholomew was there. He described the scene in a 1981 interview now housed at the Hogan Jazz Archive at Tulane University. "Fats was rocking the joint," Bartholomew said. "And he was sweating and playing, he'd put his whole heart and soul in what he was doing, and the people was crazy about him — so that was it. We made our first record, 'The Fat Man,' and we never turned around."

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