by Robert Wilkinson
February 26 is the birthday of two pioneers of their own unique style of music! Yes, “the Man in Black,” Mr. Johnny Cash, shares a birthday with a pioneer of N’awlins style rock and roll, Mr. Antoine “Fats” Domino.
We’ll begin today’s tribute with a huge shout-out to Johnny Cash (February 26, 1932 – September 12, 2003), one of the most influential musicians of the 20th century. He was an actor, author, and singer-songwriter across many musical genres, including country, rockabilly, rock and roll, blues, folk, and gospel. He is a member of the Country Music Hall of Fame, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and the gospel Hall of Fame.Truly a pioneer of “outlaw country,” along with Willie, Waylon and “the boys,” his rich baritone-bass voice was compelling, as was his life story. Rebellious, somber, serious, and humble, he did a LOT of concerts behind prison walls, Folsom Prison being the most famous. Today we have a few early performances, and a few classic ones with Willie and “the Highwaymen.”
From 1956, Johnny Cash in the original audio-only song "I Walk The Line.”
For an extra treat, from sometime in the 50s, “the man in black” in a great live PBS performance of “I Walk the Line” (Sorry about the audio, but back then television sound technology wasn’t very good!)
From 1958, “the man in black” (not wearing black) in another live tv performance on “Town Hall Party” of “I Walk the Line”
Also from 1959 on the Town Hall Party, Johnny performing “Folsom Prison Blues”
This one is from the late 50s on Tex Ritter’s Ranch Party television show, with Johnny Cash and the Tennessee Two doing a fairly rockabilly version of his hit “Get Rhythm”
From the Grand Ole’ Opry in 1962, Johnny live performing “Big River” Boom chicka boom!
From 1973 in Australia, Johnny Cash with his equally legendary and talented wife June Carter Cash performing Bob Dylan’s classic “It Ain’t Me Babe”
From Prague in 1978, Johnny and June live doing the legendary Tim Hardin classic “If I Were A Carpenter”
Here are the Highwaymen - Willie, Waylon, Kris Kristofferson, and Johnny Cash doing the classic hit "Mamas, Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up To Be Cowboys." We'll follow this with Kris singing his hits "Help Me Make It Through The Night" and "Me and Bobby McGee." I found a segment of them doing "Crazy." live in Scotland, and we'll close this segment with an apt song, "Living Legend."
No Highwaymen concert would be complete without a performance of the Vaughn Monroe classic, “Ghost Riders in the Sky”
For our encore, here's Willie and Johnny Cash on VH1 doing Johnny's gigantic hit "The Ring of Fire," followed by an audio-only clip of them doing Willie's composition "Crazy." We now take this into a great video performance of "Folsome Prison Blues," and finish this quartet of duets with Johnny and Willie doing the classic "Ghost Riders in the Sky."
Last year I found Johnny Cash and Willie Nelson in a complete 44 minute clip from 1988 of the VH1 storytellers, but it’s disappeared this year. There are individual tunes on you tube, but I just don’t have the time to assemble all of them into a comprehensive set.
Though I already gave you a bit of this earlier, for our third encore (well, he WAS one of "the Million Dollar Quartet!") we have the entire 98 minute concert of The Highwaymen Live in 1990 - Willie Nelson, Johnny Cash, Kris Kristofferson, and Waylon Jennings. Kick back and enjoy the legends!
We now turn our huge Happy Birthday spotlight on another legend of our time, the amazing Antoine Dominique “Fats” Domino Jr, (February 26, 1928) perhaps the greatest New Orleans R&B and rock and roll piano player of all time. First, a little history from Wikipedia:
His father was a well known violinist, and Domino was inspired to play himself. He eventually learned from his uncle, jazz guitarist Harrison Verrett. Fats released five gold (million-copy-selling) records before 1955. Domino also had 35 Top 40 American hits and has a music style based on traditional R&B ensembles of bass, piano, electric guitar, drums, and saxophone.
He’s considered one of the earliest pioneers of rock and roll due to his 1950 hit “The Fat Man,” (which sounds like it’s from the same genre as the classic “Stag-O-Lee”) but his greatest years were from 1955-1960 when he released a string of hits including “Ain’t That A Shame,” “Blueberry Hill,” “I’m Walkin’,” “Valley of Tears,” "Whole Lotta Loving," "I Want to Walk You Home," and “Walkin’ to New Orleans,” along with many more.
If you don’t know who this American classic is, well, you’re in for a treat! For your enjoyment, Fats Domino!
From November 1956 on the Ed Sullivan Show, a great performance of “Blueberry Hill”
From the Perry Como Show in May 1957, Fats in a definitely live ”hep” performance of “Valley of Tears,” “It’s You I Love,” and “I’m Walkin’”
Here he is lip synching in a 50s Alan Freed jukebox movie of “Ain’t That A Shame”
From 1962, Fats live performing “Let the Four Winds Blow”
From what looks like the Mike Douglas Show in December 1973, Fats doing his trailblazing hit “The Fat Man”
We have a foursome from 1985! First, a great performance of Fats doing “Walkin’ To New Orleans”
We’ll close this brief set with his legendary hit, “Blueberry Hill”
Also from the mid-80s courtesy of the BBC, here’s a brief clip of Fats Domino and Jools Holland – “Walkin’ To New Orleans”
From the Hague Jazz Festival, Fats doing “Blue Monday”
From 1999 at the New Orleans Fest, Fats in a live performance of “Shake Rattle and Roll”
Here’s Fats with Ricky Nelson doing a duet of a song they both made into major hits! “I’m Walkin’
Here are a few studio versions of some of his greatest hits set to stills.
First, from January 1950, the original boogie-woogie studio version of “The Fat Man”
From November 1961, the studio version of “I Hear You Knocking”
Here’s the audio-only 1964 studio version of “Kansas City”For the final number, get up and dance!! From 1958, the original audio-only studio 45 of “Whole Lotta Lovin’”
For our encore, I found what is said to be the last filmed performance of The Fat Man. Last year I had the entire 56 minute documentary from 2005 about Hurricane Katrina, the fear that Fats Domino died in that disaster, and some amazing music. It’s the story of a resolute community hanging tough!
This year that entire film is no longer on you tube, but I did find this! Fats Domino – Walkin’ To New Orleans Pt. 1 (11+ min)
So here’s a great big thanks to Johnny and Fats for being two of the originals and giving us both immortal and infinitely danceable tunes! RIP Johnny, and keep on rockin’, Fats! Happy 86!!
© Copyright 2014 Robert Wilkinson