Blue Monday – Fats Domino and the lost dawn of Rock n’ Roll – Book Review


Blue Monday – Fats Domino and the lost dawn of Rock n’ Roll – Rick Coleman

FATSI’m part of a Facebook group called ‘The Record Den’ where like-minded sad O.C.D. suffering record collectors and enthusiasts of a superior popular musical past share their likes; in this case mainly Rhythm and Blues from the 40s and 50s, Soul from the 60s and Progressive Rock Lps from the 70s (yes there’s always at least one truly sad Chemistry Teacher who clings to his Yes and Rush Lps with a sweaty desperation and requires public validation for his self-imposed disability).

A short while ago and whilst suffering from a lack of reading material I asked for suggestions for my next book and bedtime indulgence. I focussed my fellow collectors on what I felt I required. A book that would illuminate the popular 40s and 50s world of Rhythm and Blues music. And ‘Blue Monday’ was suggested to me, in amongst a few others as befitting my requirements. My fellow record junkies were flowing in their praise of Rick Coleman’s book.

I was shocked to discover that it is the ONLY biography of a man who was essential to the world of Rhythm and Blues and centrally important and present in the operating theatre at the birth of Rock n’ Roll. ‘It’s a boy, and he’s got a D.A. and a white T-Shirt on, with 20 soft pack Marlboro already tucked into the short sleeve, Mr. Domino, you must be very proud…’

The book

The book rather wonderfully features as a first step a map of New Orleans, detailing the various districts and locating for all to see important and key features of the city’s music-scape and Fats Domino’s present and historic placement in that geography. Before even beginning to read I found myself wandering the streets, and linking the locations of his various family homes with photographs in the book, shortly thereafter going on Google Earth to street view the various locations as they appear now. Sadly one or two destroyed entirely by Hurricane Katrina and the New Orleans City Governments fraudulent re-claiming of unattended and un-mended land left behind by people too poor to return to it in the stringent allotted time-frame. As you can see, I was fully engaged with this book within seconds of opening it. No mean feat, as I generally don’t get past the first half chapter of books that are poorly conceived or poorly written or both, as is more normally the case.

Rick Coleman takes the reader through Fat’s history, his childhood, his background, placing it strongly and forcefully within the context of New Orleans as a city formed from the sweat and blood of the African diaspora, Catholicism and the indivisible early French settlement of Louisiana. I found the section that revolved around Congo Square, an area established as a location of Black African cultural expression from the city’s earliest days, incredibly interesting and engaging.

Rick Coleman uses the location as a cypher for the changing role and social mobility of a multi-layered Black city culture that shifts and moves with changes in the religion of the region and the political upheaval of Civil War America and ingress of Protestantism. All the time keeping the reader in touch with the music soil of the place, that same substrate that gave rise to a crop of musicians, singers, writers and producers, that included Fats Domino.

The book touches on Fat’s links with other musicians of the era, his long and fruitful if sometime difficult relationship with Dave Bartholomew his writing partner, arranger and frequent band leader. We hear about other movers and shakers of the City at the time; Smiley Lewis and Professor Longhair feature amongst fellow New Orleans musicians and the shifting line up of Fats Domino’s own touring band and the individuals mini stories are well told. We learn about his rise to fame, his signing to and early career with Imperial Records, and movement onwards to other labels, the never-ending tour schedule and the tragic loss of band members to the musicians seeming drug of choice at the time, Heroin and the tragedy of car wrecks reaped through too many miles on the road.

In short the book is well-formed and paced, tells the tales well, fills one in on just who Fats Domino was, what and where gave birth to him and in turn Rock n’ Roll. It’s a real lesson and a Rockin’ Good read. Heartily recommended. If I have one minor criticism it is that the last decades of an artist no longer truly central are skimmed over and compressed in a way that leaves the finish of the book underperforming like a damp firework. A pity as the rest of the book is an explosion of images, information, sights, smells and a vivid retelling of one of the greatest and least lauded artists of the Rhythm and Blues and Rock N’ Roll era.

JUMPING THE SHUFFLE BLUES – Jamaican Sound System Classics 1946 – 1960


This 3CD collects well over three hours of bona fide sound system classics that were instrumental in shaping Jamaican music as we know it today. Quite who played what first is, like the mystery of the island’s first sound, lost in the mists of time, and in truth,who cares… ‘when music is this nice you gotta play it twice!’

Every tune on the release is known to have been played on a Jamaican Sound System at one time!

Yes every tune on the triple cd release is known to have been played on a Jamaican Sound at some point, and this issue doesn’t just comprise the known massive hits of the time, like Wynonie Harris’ – Bloodshot Eyes, but includes many tunes that took years to track down, tunes that weren’t attributed to their original artistes until people more knowledgable than I discovered them. Some tunes that until this release were more widely known by their sound system nicknames, the self penned titles found on labels where the original titles had been scratched out to prevent other rival Sounds finding out what the hell you were spinning.

Released on the 20th of June.

I recently spent a number of hours in the company of Mr Phil Etgart, one of the World’s most respected collectors of Jamaican music, who compiled and researched for this release, penning the excellent and extensive sleevenotes. You can here the interview I conducted with him at his home in Southern England on the Bigmikeydread Reggae Radio Podcast. This post though is intended to whet your appetite and to alert you to the release of this fine collection.

Essential listening.

This fantastic release charts the Shuffle Blues tunes from the USA that profoundly influenced Jamaican music in the early days of it’s creation and as such is essential listening for any lover, not only of just plain old good music, but in this case records that were without doubt played in Jamaica, by Jamaicans before the island even had it’s first record pressing facility!

The tunes included on the release are as follows:

LOUIS JORDAN    SALT PORK, WEST VIRGINIA
LOUIS JORDAN    REET PETITE AND GONE
JACK McVEA    TWO TIMIN’ BABY
FELIX GROSS    WHAT’S YOUR STYLE, BABY
GENE COY    KILLER DILLER
GENE PHILLIPS    ROCK BOTTOM
JOE LIGGINS    DRIPPERS’ BOOGIE (PART1)
GENE AMMONS    JUGHEAD RAMBLE
KING PERRY    GOIN’ TO CALIFORNIA BLUES
TODD RHODES    PAGE BOY SHUFFLE
CALVIN BOZE    SAFRONIA B
EDDIE CHAMBLEE    EVERY SHUT EYE AIN’T SLEEP
GRIFFIN BROTHERS, THE    RIFFIN’ WITH GRIFFIN
HAROLD LAND ALL STARS, THE    SAN DIEGO BOUNCE
JEWEL KING    3 X 7 = 21
JOE LIGGINS    LITTLE JOE’S BOOGIE
TEDDY BRANNON    MIXIN’ WITH DIXON
T-BONE WALKER    HUSTLE IS ON, THE
ARCHIBALD    STACK-A-LEE (PARTS 1&2)
RAY-O-VACS, THE    MY BABY’S GONE
CHARLIE GONZALEZ    I’M FREE
GRIFFIN BOTHERS, THE (FEATURING MARGIE DAY)    STUBBORN AS A MULE
JACKIE BRENTSON    INDEPENDANT WOMAN
JAMES WAYNE    TEND TO YOUR BUSINESS
JIMMY McCRACKLIN    LOOKING FOR A WOMAN
MARGIE DAY & THE GRIFFIN BROTHERS    BONAPARTE’S RETREAT
WILLIS JACKSON    LATER FOR THE ‘GATOR
WYNONIE HARRIS    BLOODSHOT EYES
ROY BROWN    TRAIN TIME BLUES
ZUZU BOLLIN    WHY DON’T YOU EAT WHERE YOU SLEPT LAST NIGHT
LESTER WILLIAMS    I CAN’T LOSE WITH THE STUFF I USE
BIG JAY McNEELY    BIG JAY SHUFFLE
LOWELL FULSON    GUITAR BOOGIE
ROSCO GORDON    NO MORE DOGGIN’
LITTLE WILLIE LITTLEFIELD    KC LOVIN’ (AKA KANSAS CITY)
LLOYD PRICE    LAWDY MISS CLAWDY
SHIRLEY & LEE    I’M GONE
L’IL SON JACKSON    GET HIGH EVERYBODY
JIMMIE LEE    BLUE AND LONESOME
LYNN HOPE    HOPE, SKIP AND JUMP
PAUL BASCOMB    MUMBLES
ROSCO GORDON    TOO MANY WOMEN
LESTER WILLIAMS    BRAND NEW BABY
DAVE BARTHOLOMEW    COUNTRY GAL
HAL PAIGE    DRIVE IT HOME
AMOS MILBURN    ONE SCOTCH, ONE BOURBON, ONE BEER
SMILEY LEWIS    LITTLE FERNANDEZ
MELVIN DANIELS    NO MORE CRYING ON MY PILLOW
SONNY KNIGHT    BUT OFFICER
JIMMY LIGGINS    DRUNK
FLOYD DIXON    HEY BARTENDER
BB KING    YOU UPSET ME BABY
MIKE GORDON0    WHY DON’T YOU DO RIGHT
EARL CURRY    ONE WHOLE YEAR BABY
EDDIE CHAMBLEE    LA! LA! LA! LADY
CHAMPION JACK DUPREE    DRUNK AGAIN
JIMMY McCRACKLIN    BLUES BLASTERS’ BOOGIE
BILL DOGGETT    QUAKER CITY
SMILEY LEWIS    REAL GONE LOVER
CHARMS, THE    LING, TING, TONG
GENE & EUNICE    KO KO MO
BOP-A-LOOS, THE    SOUTH PARK MAMBO
JOHNNY ACE    PLEDGING MY LOVE
OSCAR McLOLLIE    CONVICTED
LLOYD LAMBERT    HEAVY SUGAR
T-BONE WALKER    T-BONE SHUFFLE
SHIRLEY & LEE    FEEL SO GOOD
BARBIE GAYE    MY BOY LOLLYPOP
CLARENCE ‘FROG MAN’ HENRY    AIN’T GOT NO HOME
SMILEY LEWIS     SOMEDAY (YOU’LL WANT ME)
SONNY KNIGHT    CONFIDENTIAL
ROY WRIGHT    YOU PROMISED
BIG MAYBELLE    I DON’T WANT TO CRY
DONNIE ELBERT    HAVE I SINNED
LARRY WILLIAMS    HIGH SCHOOL DANCE
FATS DOMINO    I’M IN THE MOOD FOR LOVE
DOC BAGBY    DUMPLIN’S
ETTA JAMES    PICK UP, THE
DAVE BARTHOLOMEW    SHUFFLIN’ FOX, THE
BOBBY DAY    OVER AND OVER
DOC BAGBY    YOU’RE SO DELIGHTFUL
LLOYD TROTMAN    TROTTIN’ IN
BIG JAY McNEELY    THERE IS SOMETHING ON YOUR MIND
JOHNNY ADAMS    I WON’T CRY
DONNE ELBERT    WILL YOU EVER BE MINE

… in fact over 80 tracks chart sound system classics on this three cd set.

Go buy your copy for under a Tenner Now!

SWEET SOUL MUSIC – Peter Guralnick


Within the first hundred pages, you’ll know stuff you won’t have heard elsewhere…

I’m not going to witter on, this will  be a pithy review, terse, to the point, direct, an easy read; much like this wonderful book that has been around since the 1980s and tells the story of Southern Soul Music.

Beggining with the R&B roots of ‘Soul’ (though, really it don’t take a genius, to work out they is the same damn thang), he takes us through a fairly linear exploration of the major figures, Sam Cooke’s gospel beginnings and secular sexuality, the usurping of Black music and it’s repackage as Rock ‘n Roll, Ray Charles and the genius that he was… and the story of Solomon Burke; telling an amazing tale of how he once played to a giant crowd of Klu Klux Klan members by ‘accident’, which will have you heaving, in laughter and relief as the Sheriff escorts him to the county line!

He leads you through the story of Stax, the Muscle Shoals phenomenon, the growth of the South as exporter of Soul music in general, James Brown’s career, the incredible rise of Otis Redding, Jerry Wexler and Atlantic’s dominance of the R&B market, the crossover of Soul to the ‘White’ audience, and with all tell tale of those names never heard of before who were pivotal in the development of Black music in the United States in the 50s, and 60s.

If you knew (like me) bugger all about ‘Soul’ music before reading it, you might consider yourself more than a little illuminated by the time you get to the end of the tale.

Read it and love it.