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If someone were to accuse me of being a creature of habit, I would not disagree.
Take, for example, my morning regimen, which includes reading three newspapers - always three - while drinking one cup of coffee - always one - reading two blogs, written by people who interest me, and checking out “This Day in History,” which includes people “Born On This Day.”
The words you are now reading were written on February 26. Born on that day were actors Jackie Gleason, Tony Randall, and William Frawley, best remembered as Fred Mertz in “I Love Lucy.”
There were other “Born On This Day” names, but the one that jumped out at me was Fats Domino, the great piano player and singer.
Back in the 1950s and ‘60s, Fat’s Domino was one of the biggest stars of rock and roll, one of the first R&B artists to gain popularity with white audiences with “Ain’t That A Shame,” “Blueberry Hill,” and “Walking To New Orleans,” my favorite.
How big of a star was Fats Domino? He sold 65 million records, that’s how big, and influenced the likes of John Lennon and Elvis Presley.
In Las Vegas, during a press conference after a concert, a journalist referred to Presley as "The King." Presley gestured toward Fats Domino, who was in the room. "No," Presley said, "That's the real king of rock and roll."
Anyway, there was this one time in New Orleans, home to Fats Domino for most his life, and the place I happened to be on a long ago vacation. I was minding my own business on a beautiful afternoon, when a street entertainer started singing “Walking To New Orleans.”
This caused me to remember an article about Fats Domino, an article that described him as being humble, shy and nice to his fans. The article said he would even come to the door of his house in the Lower Ninth Ward of New Orleans to sign autographs.
The Lower Ninth Ward was ground zero during Hurricane Katrina. It wasn’t a good area before Katrina and I wouldn’t wander around there now. His house in the Lower Ninth Ward is where Fats Domino and his family - he had eight children, all with a first name beginning with an A - rode out Katrina and had to be rescued by the Coast Guard.
But the afternoon that I got into a cab and headed to Fats Domino’s house was years before Katrina. I asked the cabbie to wait, told him I’d only be a minute.
The house, like many in New Orleans, was painted in bold colors, yellow and blue. His initials - a big F D - were on the front of the modest and well kept house. The gate was unlocked. I walked up on the porch and rang the bell. I heard piano music coming from inside.
The door opened and there he was. Fats Domino himself. He was smiling so I smiled back.
He was shorter than I expected, maybe five foot, five, and well over 200 pounds. He wore a clean white cook’s apron over an open neck shirt. I could smell something and remembered reading that he loved to cook.
I mumbled something about enjoying his music. He kept smiling. I mumbled something about once seeing him on Dick Clark’s “American Bandstand.”
He looked around me. A tour bus had stopped out front. Nobody got out but I could see the driver pointing to the yellow and blue house. Fats Domino waved and gave them a smile. The tourists waved back. He said it happened all the time.
I had been on his porch making small talk for less than five minutes. He didn’t give the impression he wanted me to go, but I didn’t want to overstay my welcome.
I didn’t ask for an autograph, but I did stick out my hand. We shook.
I went back to the cab. Fats Domino went back to his cooking and his music.
He died last year at age 89.