New Orleans, Louisiana native Fats Domino is one of the rock and roll genre’s founding members. His creole roots meant he got the cajun-inspired, big band sound down pat early, with a “rolling piano sound” unheard of until he came along. Performing throughout the South, he took the music he grew up with and added soulful flavor with blues stylings.
Soon, he was recording some of R&B’s quintessential tracks. Not stopping there, along with others like Chuck Berry in the 1950s, he hopped on the budding rock and roll train and helped drive it, defining what we know as rock today with strong backbeats and amped up instrumentation.
Over the course of his historic career, it is estimated he sold over 110 million albums. Let’s dive right into the best Fats Domino songs below.
10. Be My Guest
Fats Domino worked with several top-tier songwriters over the course of his legendary career. One of those songwriters was Tommy Boyce, who later became an industry darling while writing for the popular singing group The Monkees. But before his success with The Monkees, he found himself in a hotel room lobby, waiting hours for Fats to walk in so maybe, just maybe, he could present him with a demo. That demo recording was ‘Be My Guest,’ co-written by John Marascalco (who worked closely with Little Richard). Fats immediately loved the song and decided to record it. The New Orleans-style rhythm and blues number boasts a fun, offbeat rhythm that would go on to influence everything from the budding Jamaican music scene to future superstars like Elvis.
Recommended: Our pick of the best Little Richard songs.
9. I Want to Walk You Home
Known as a pioneer of rock and roll, Domino’s recordings released throughout the ’50s had a significant impact on several musical movements, not just the early days of rock. He was deeply influential among R&B movers and shakers, and he scored several number one hits on the Billboard R&B charts. ‘I Want to Walk You Home’ was the last of those “number ones.” It’s an easy-going ballad with single-note guitar chops that give it a distinct rhythm as Fats sings about a romantic night coming to a close while walking his girl home. The Beatles were another group heavily influenced by Fats’ music, and Paul McCartney recorded this as a cover later in his solo career in 2007.
8. I’m In Love Again
With Domino’s commanding ‘I’m In Love Again,’ you can really hear the first howl of rock and roll embedded in the track. A bold riff drives the song, with a jazz-style full band backing up the musician as he declares, with a touch of woe, that he’s indeed fallen in love again. Written with longtime buddy and co-writer Dave Bartholomew, the ’56 hit was one of Fats’ popular singles, staying on top of the charts for several weeks. A talented pianist, we also catch Domino’s fast-moving fingers dancing on the keys with this one. From the song’s stylistic formula to his emotive vocal performance, a part of rock and roll was born with this essential Fats track.
Recommended: See our pick of vintage rock and roll songs.
7. Walking To New Orleans
In the ’70s and ’80s, rock opera became a huge movement, with dynamic pieces often containing big, orchestral pieces. Long before this trend hit the airwaves in those decades, Domino was already innovating his early rock tunes with classical music elements. A flowing strings section is front and center with ‘Walking to New Orleans.’ Written by Bobby Charles, the songwriter was a huge fan of Domino’s and convinced him to visit should he ever be back in his hometown of New Orleans. One day, Fats took him up on the offer and stopped by his house. Charles played him ‘Walking to New Orleans’ in honor of his trip back to the Louisiana music hub, and Fats loved it. Music partner Dave Bartholomew was the one to suggest an orchestral overdub. Not one to shy away from trying something new, Fats agreed, and this breezy song become one of the rock icon’s most unique, beloved recordings.
Recommended: Our pick of other songs with New Orleans in the lyrics.
6. My Girl Josephine
A favorite for Fats when he played live, ‘My Girl Josephine’ was another one of his major commercial successes. Held together by a grooving rhythm, Domino sings about a former flame as he reminisces on young love and wonders if the girl in question, Josephine, remembers their time spent together. He had a string of top R&B hits, but this one sticks to a more pop-flavored vibe. Considered to be one of his greatest hits, the single rounds out his sound and shows he wasn’t just an R&B artist relegated to one genre, but a skilled musician leading the way for others into unexplored musical landscapes.
5. Blue Monday
A blues foundation and sax solo are front and center for this rock hit by Fats. ‘Blue Monday’ was another Bartholomew-penned track, and its slow churning rhythm and big band sound were right in Domino’s wheelhouse. Several other musicians, including Buddy Holly, recorded their own renditions, but none comes close to what Fats delivered. His husky voice and stirring performances had audiences feeling the words he sang while they listened. The single and its success became so closely associated with the R&B artist that his 2006 biography written by Rick Coleman was named after the song’s title.
4. Jambalaya – On the Bayou
A Hank Williams original, a true New Orleans native put a whole new spin on the cajun-inspired ‘Jambalaya – On The Bayou’ track when he recorded it. Williams was from Alabama, so when he recorded the single, he had to really perform to get that Louisiana-specific drawl to come out on the tape. But when Domino recorded it, no acting was necessary. He let his roots do the talking and even though it’s a cover, it sounds like ‘Jambalaya’ was meant for Fats all along. Williams’ original was a huge hit. But Fats’ was also highly successful. Fans in the UK loved his rendition, and it went on to become an essential tune in his repertoire.
Recommended: Our hand-picked selection of the finest hank williams songs.
3. I’m Walkin’
A jazzy, New Orleans number that struts and strolls, Fats supposedly came up with the idea for ‘I’m Walkin” after his car broke down and a couple of his fans called out to him when they saw him walking on the side of the road (they could have at least offered him a ride). The song took on the shape of a metaphor for lost love, with a guy singing about his girl who’s decided to call it quits with their relationship. Though the song deals with a sad state of affairs, the concise lyrics and upbeat, jovial instrumentation make it a fun, party-themed song. Fats loved to record those. ‘I’m Walkin” quickly became another wildly successful track, and his recording is still the go-to rendition today.
2. Ain’t That A Shame
A huge crossover hit with both R&B listeners and fans of pop, ‘Ain’t That a Shame’ is a classic Fats track that incorporates some of his favorite songwriting tricks, including hooking audiences right from the start by wasting no time getting into the meat of the song. Another melancholy breakup story, the musician counteracts this with a compelling band performance featuring his playful piano skills and talented backing band. By the time this single was recorded, Domino found himself far away from his New Orleans home in the bustling entertainment capital of Hollywood, recording in one of the town’s studios. Because of this, the track has a more polished feel, and sound engineers made sure to produce the track with a smooth bluesy tone that went over big with fans.
1. Blueberry Hill
Only Fats Domino could take a song from the 1940s first sung by America’s beloved cowboy, Gene Autry, and create the industry’s bonafide preferred version during a random recording session in a Los Angeles studio. That’s exactly what he did with this country-tinged, oldie but goodie, ‘Blueberry Hill.’ Appearing on what is considered to be one of rock’s first albums, The Fat Man, his co-writer Dave Bartholomew begged him not to record it because of its over-saturation. But Fats, ever the calculated risk taker, didn’t listen. Even his band struggled with the tune because they were so surprised by Fats’ request to lay down the track. Domino even outdid the legendary Louis Armstrong’s rendition. This was done so by the Louisiana son’s tried-and-true loveable cajun drawl that left ladies swooning and his unmatched piano work. Despite significant initial pushback, ‘Blueberry Hill,’ which was originally written by a few songwriters penning tracks for Autry’s The Singing Hill film, became a Fats Domino smash hit.
Recommended: This appears on our list of the most important 1950s songs.