Fats Domino: Rock’n’Roll’s Quiet Rebel Who Defied US Segregation

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By Brian Ward in The Conversation.

 

Rock’n’roll trailblazer Antoine “Fats” Domino has died, aged 89. With his beguiling smile, genial image and effervescent shuffle-boogie sound, it’s hard to think of him as radical figure in American culture. Yet, in the mid-1950s, Domino was at the heart of a revolution that transformed western music and had profound social repercussions.

On May 4, 1956 Domino was headlining a rhythm and blues show at the American Legion Auditorium in Roanoke, Virginia. In keeping with the segregation laws of the day, whites and blacks were consigned to separate areas. On this occasion, African-American fans occupied the dance floor while 2,000 whites crammed into a balcony designed for about half that number. Some white fans tried to escape the crush by going downstairs to the less densely packed main floor where, as incredulous local journalists noted, they were spotted sharing seats and “actually dancing” with black rock and roll enthusiasts as Domino ran through an already extensive catalogue of hit songs.

 

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