I remember shortly after Hurricane Katrina blew through New Orleans hearing a news broadcast that caused me to drop what I was doing and listen in. The after effects of the hurricane were monumental, but this particular broadcast had something personal in it for me. It was reported that Fats Domino was missing. When I heard that announcement, I was devastated. I loved the Fat Man (so named due to the lyrics in his song titled appropriately enough, “The Fat Man”). Even though his music came from an era other than mine, I was a big fan. And it was all due to a movie that came out in my sophomore year of high school.
In August of 1973 American Graffiti was released and if ever a movie was timed perfectly with a particular point in a young man’s life, this one was for me. I was not yet old enough to drive, but each of my friends had their license by then, so I was already experienced in “riding around”. And that’s what the movie was all about; a number of teenage friends riding around one summer night in small town America.
When my friends and I saw the movie, it made such an impression on us we mimicked a number of the activities featured in the film; drag racing main street, Chinese fire drills, and certain amorous activities in the backseat of a car; which I won’t elaborate on here. And the really interesting thing is, as the movie celebrated the early 1960’s, a number of us had automobiles from that time period, which could have been featured in the movie. But the most influential aspect of the movie for me was the soundtrack. The music that played throughout the film came from the late 50’s and early 1960’s, a time when I was in diapers and grade school, and when I heard it, I was smitten. I fell in love with the music from those early days of rock and roll. Fortunately for me, there was a movie soundtrack available, and I immediately went out and bought it. A double 8-track. Cool.
On the soundtrack I was introduced to Buddy Holly, The Big Bopper, Chuck Berry, and a host of others. Some of the songs I fell in love with were Runaway by Del Shannon, Fannie Mae by Buster Brown, Almost Grown by Chuck Berry, Ya Ya by Lee Dorsey, Get a Job by The Silhouettes, and Do You Wanna Dance? by Bobby Freeman (Click on the links and enjoy yourself). But of all 41 songs on the two tracks, only one artist impressed me enough to go out and buy his music; Fats Domino. The featured song in the soundtrack was Ain’t That a Shame?, but after buying his greatest hits, I found a number of tunes I liked even more than that classic. Here are just two of my favorites, My Girl Josephine and Walkin’ to New Orleans.
By the way, they found Fats. With his signature smile, how could they miss him?