‘Seen Her With A Gypsy . . .’

Originally posted November 13, 2007

Looking for today’s cover version, I wandered through the RealPlayer, seeking something at least a little out of the ordinary. And I came across a recording by Fats Domino.

So I’ve been sitting here trying to think of something to write about Fats and his travails during and after the flooding of New Orleans two years ago. I think it’s pretty well known that Fats barely escaped his Ninth Ward home during the flooding, and after the waters cleared, pretty much lost to looters everything that hadn’t been washed away.

Anything I thought of, however, seemed trite. So instead of trying to make some kind of comment about the great musician’s recent circumstances, I thought I’d just review a little history: Between 1955 and 1964, according to chart maven Joel Whitburn, Fats had sixty-five singles in the Top 100, with thirty-six of them reaching the Top 40 and ten of those hitting the Top 10. That doesn’t include the hits Fats recorded and charted with between the late 1940s – his 1949 recording, “The Fat Man,” is frequently cited as one of the candidates for the first rock and roll record – and 1955, the point at which most references start their rock and roll charts.

It’s almost impossible to calculate the influence Fats Domino had on music – in the 1950s, in the 1960s and into today. He’s certainly one of the pillars on which modern popular music rests. And one of the newer CDs I am most anxious to hear – it was released in September, but I haven’t gotten my hands on it yet – is Goin’ Home: A Tribute to Fats Domino. The double CD includes performances of Fats’ songs by artists as diverse as Toots & The Maytalls, Los Lobos, Herbie Hancock, Robert Plant and more. Many of the expected performers are on the CD as well: Paul McCartney, Bonnie Raitt, Buddy Guy, Allen Toussaint, B.B. King, Art Neville, Doctor John and – via a recording of “Ain’t That A Shame” from his 1975 Rock ’n’ Roll album – John Lennon.

Another album I’d like to get my hands on and have not done so yet is Fats’ own Live from Austin, Texas, recorded for the television show Austin City Limits in 1986 and released on CD last year.

In the meantime, though, I have a Fats Domino recording of “Have You Seen My Baby,” a song written by Randy Newman and included on Newman’s 12 Songs album in 1970. Domino’s version was evidently recorded in 1968 for the Fats Is Back album – though that’s not at all certain – and was released as a Reprise single in 1970, the same year Newman’s recording of the song came out on his album. That timing may leave some question as to which is the cover version, but that’s a matter of semantics, I think; I’ll give the claim of the original to the writer.

In any case, the song may be better know as the second track on the 1973 album, Ringo, by Ringo Starr.

Fats Domino – “Have You Seen My Baby” [Reprise 0891, 1970]

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