Fats Domino Named ‘Honorary Grand Marshal’

The music of rock ‘n’ roll Hall of Fame performer Fats Domino will “float” through the streets of New Orleans this Carnival season.

Domino has been named honorary grand marshal of the Krewe of Orpheus, the star-studded Carnival club that traditionally parades the night before Mardi Gras.

Although Domino won’t be riding in the March 3 parade, his eldest son, Antoine Domino III, is expected to ride on a float equipped with a piano and speakers to perform his father’s greatest hits, such as “Blue Monday,” ‘‘The Fat Man,” ‘‘Blueberry Hill” and “Walking to New Orleans.”

Photo: Doug Parker/AP
Named “Honorary Grand Marshall” of the Krewe of Orpheus in New Orleans.

Other family members are expected to ride and throw coaster-size, gold-record doubloons and other Fats Domino-themed trinkets from the float.

New Orleans artist Michael Hunt has designed a poster to commemorate the occasion. The posters will be autographed by Domino and available for purchase.

Mardi Gras is March 4.

Domino, 85, moving a little slow and his speech low, smiled for friends, family and a handful of news media who gathered Friday in his suburban New Orleans living room as he was honored by the Krewe of Orpheus with a medallion proclaiming him honorary grand marshal.

“I’m happy to do it,” he said, but added that he hasn’t changed his mind about riding on a float.

“No way,” he said.

Still, his son will play his music.

“He should be all right,” Domino said with a smile.

Domino has been asked to participate in Mardi Gras for years, but this is the first time in recent history he’s agreed.

“It’s jaw-dropping,” said Michael Murphy, an officer for Orpheus. “It’s the biggest blessing that we could ever ask for. We are extremely honored.”

Domino, known for his reclusive nature, rarely leaves the suburban New Orleans home where he’s lived since Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Water poured through a broken levee, flooding Domino’s home in the Lower 9th Ward. His belongings, instruments, pictures and a lifetime of memorabilia were damaged or lost in Katrina’s floodwaters.

But two of his pianos were salvaged and are on public display in New Orleans, though neither of them is playable.

A white Steinway grand piano had its classic looks restored and will be part of the Louisiana State Museum’s music exhibition opening in 2014. His other Steinway piano is on permanent display at the Presbytere museum in the exhibition “Living with Hurricanes: Katrina and Beyond.”

Domino, born in New Orleans in February 1928, sold more than 65 million records between 1950 and 1963, making Billboard’s pop chart 77 times and its rhythm and blues chart 61 times. The pianist, singer and songwriter is regarded as one of the forerunners of rock music, beloved by musicians including the Beatles, Elvis Presley and Billy Joel.

Reminded of his legacy and the inspiration he has been for so many musicians, Fat’s simply said, “That’s nice.”

“He’s so humble,” Murphy said.

It’s not surprising that Orpheus wanted to honor Domino and his music in some way. The Orpheus parade organization is rooted in music. It was co-founded in 1993 by New Orleans native singer Harry Connick Jr. and Sonny Borey, who serves as the parade organization’s captain.

Each year musical guests are invited to ride in the parade and perform at the glitzy ball held afterward at a nearby convention center.

Orpheus leaders have already announced that the 1970s rock band Cheap Trick will be headlining the 2014 Orpheuscapade gala.

Cheap Trick’s biggest hits include “Surrender,” ‘‘I Want You to Want Me” and “The Flame.”

Other musical acts scheduled to perform at the gala include Big Bad Voodoo Daddy and The Party Crashers.

Hunt, the artist chosen by the family to create the commemorative poster for the parade, said he’s beyond honored to be a part of this experience.

He said it just wasn’t an option for Fats to ride on a float.

“Riding in a parade is a lot more exhausting than people realize, especially when you’re throwing, not just waving,” Hunt said. “Very few of his age can do that. But what Orpheus has done rivals any celebrity sitting on a throne. This is going to be an interactive experience unlike anything that’s been done at Mardi Gras before. You’re going to get a Fats family reunion along with a live concert.

“No matter where you are on the parade route, you’ll have the best seat in the house.”