“The Fat Man” is how the big time agents used to respectfully refer to Fats Domino. Big agencies had cute names for their stars. You know, like “Tammy Whynot” and “Two Puppies” for 3 Dog Night when only 2 original members were performing on the show. So when anyone around the stage screamed, “Fat Man’s Coming,” everybody knew what they meant.
His manager told me that Fats would rather stay at his farm and eat beans on the porch rather than go out on tour. His management really had to work hard to get him out there to play for his fans.
I’m so happy that they did for this particular night, because I not only opened for him, but I got to witness another great legend perform. Am I the luckiest man in the world or what?
Fats showed up at the Cape Cod Melody Tent on another beautiful summer night with all his musician friends from home and they blew the roof off of the tent. The opening act wasn’t bad either (HAHA – Shameless Plug).
Years later, at The Club Casino in Hampton Beach, New Hampshire, Fats did it again. But this time, I saw him do something that I didn’t see him do on Cape Cod.
The theater stage on Cape Cod was so small because it was in the round that it didn’t lend itself to do what I actually learned later was one of Fats’ signature moves.
For this, Fat’s would sit behind a huge Grand Piano, which was rented especially for him, and he would begin to sing and play “When the Saints Go Marching In” for his grand finale.
Immediately, all of his band members playing their instruments “marched” single file off of the stage, including the gentleman at the very end of the line with the parasol. This always got laughs.
The audience went nuts as the band serpentined through the array of tables arranged throughout the biggest nightclub in New England. Many of them were on their feet singing, clapping and cheering as Fats remained on stage, playing and singing his heart out until the band returned for the big finish.
As an entertainer, I thought, “The band just upstaged him.” My mind raced through so many questions:
How the hell is he going to get the crowd back?
How’s he going to top what just happened?
This was the finale?
How would he close?
So, what does the master showman does?
As the band returned to the stage, still playing “The Saints,” Fats was on his feet, smiling that big wide smile of his and suddenly, he thrusted his hips forward, slamming them into the grand piano in time with the music. The Piano lept forward about a foot each time he did it.
Fats didn’t miss a beat and continued to pelvically thrust the grand piano all the way across the Casino stage.
Everyone in the audience was on their feet, roaring and wildly applauding, even when he was only halfway across the stage.
Another amazing moment to witness in the incredible life I have lived. I only hope that while you read this, that your imagination recreates this scene in your mind, letting you share in a little bit of the joy created by one of music’s greatest legends.
Maybe this will help. I found an old video of Fats doing this at another venue…..