The album sleeve alone makes This Is Fats a vinyl to treasure; it’s cheap and cheeky cut-and-paste aesthetic resembles something out of South Park 40 years before South Park was even a thing, and you know before you’ve even put the record on that you’re in for one hell of a good time. If you want more concrete evidence just take a look at Fats’ stats (he sold 65 million records during the 1950s, which was more than anyone other than Elvis) and his importance becomes indisputable. For many he was the missing link between the more traditional rhythm and blues based music and the rock’n’roll movement that followed. His impact on twentieth century music cannot be overstated.
Fats Domino was the first artist to effectively string together bass, drums, electric guitar, piano and brass, and take it to masses. His 1950 debut single The Fat Man sold over one million copies, and preceded the likes of Rock Around The Clock by a full six years. After bringing this new sound to an international audience, the New Orleans-born vocalist and pianist would enjoy an astonishing run of charting singles throughout the rest of the decade, and in the process influence everyone from Bill Haley to The Beatles, and beyond. And it’s on This Is Fats, his third studio album, that he well and truly captured the lighting in a bottle.
As far as album openers go, it doesn’t get any better than the bona fide classic Blueberry Hill. It had been a fairly significant hit for Glenn Miller back in 1940, but in the hands of Fats it became a rock/pop standard that still stands up tall to this day. From here the album ranges from upbeat boogie woogie bad boys like Honey Chile and Blue Monday, which were two of the first rhythm and blues singles to crossover to a pop audience, all the way through to tortured tearjerkers such as So Long and Poor, Poor Me, and down and dirty deep-cuts like Reelin’ And Rockin’ and The Fat Man’s Hop.
What made Fats Domino special besides great songs and catchy melodies was the overriding sense of joy and fun in his music. He can write, he can play, and he can sing, sure, but more than anything else he sounds like he’s loving every second of it, and that good old fashioned charm is impossible to resist. Just look at his happy, chubby little face on the cover of This Is Fats. How can you not love that face? And the music within is equally as enjoyable: it swings and it jumps, and it fills the listener with an overwhelming sense of joy and feeling that everything is alright with the world. And we all need to feel that way from time to time.