Fats Domino’s career and relationship with New Orleans is chronicled in a new documentary, “Fats Domino: Walkin’ Back to New Orleans,” that will air over the next few years on public broadcasting stations.
“Fats embodies everything good about New Orleans,” said friend David Lind. “He’s warm, fun-loving, spiritual, creative and humble. You don’t get more New Orleans than that.”
The film documents Domino’s career from his first single, 1949’s “The Fat Man,” to his bouts of performance anxiety in recent years.
Footage from the 80-year-old singer’s first and last New Orleans club performance since 2005’s Hurricane Katrina is the basis of the special.
Songs from his performance at Tipitina’s in May 2007, including hits like “I’m Walkin’” and “Ain’t That a Shame,” are featured along with interviews with friends and and fellow musicians such as Dr. John, Irma Thomas, Randy Newman and Allen Toussaint.
“They did a good job,” Domino said during a recent invitation-only showing of the film in New Orleans. “It turned out real nice, and I’m real grateful they did that for me,” he said.
When Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans, Domino lost his yellow-and-white house in the Lower Ninth Ward neighborhood, along with three pianos, dozens of gold and platinum records and other keepsakes and memorabilia.
Before the screening, Domino was presented with reissues of his Grammy lifetime achievement and Hall of Fame awards for “Ain’t That a Shame” and “Blueberry Hill,” which were destroyed by flood waters.
The documentary features footage of Domino walking through his damaged studio along with a recording session with Robert Plant during the making of the album “Goin’ Home: A Tribute to Fats Domino” that was recorded last year.
Although he now lives in the New Orleans suburb of Harvey, Domino often visits his publishing house.
The studio, which was built in the 1930s and is an extension of his old home in the lower Ninth Ward, was rebuilt after Katrina by the Tipitina’s Foundation.
“He loves to go and visit that house,” Mary von Kurnatowski, co-founder of the Tipitina’s Foundation, the nonprofit organization affiliated with the club, said. “He has tremendous memories of decades using that building, musicians he’s worked with, and of time spent there with his family.”
The roughly hour-long film is narrated by actor John Goodman, who also has a special relationship with The Big Easy.