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New Orleans Bids Farewell To Fats Domino


No city sends off its music royalty like New Orleans. Last night, the city bid farewell to native son and rock 'n' roll architect Fats Domino, who died last week. NPR's Debbie Elliott was there for the rollicking procession known as a second line.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Anybody hear my voice - make some noise for Fats Domino.


DEBBIE ELLIOTT, BYLINE: Traffic came to a standstill as hundreds filled the streets to celebrate the life and music of Antoine Domino Jr., whose boogie-style, rhythm and blues piano was famous around the world. But here...

MARVA DOMINICK: He meant the world to New Orleans.

ELLIOTT: Marva Dominick is perched on her walker, watching the parade stroll by.

DOMINICK: I am 72, and I've been knowing Fats since I've been a little-bitty girl.

ELLIOTT: Her uncle played guitar in Fats' band. Dominick is here with her daughter Delvon Green, who says they wanted to pay tribute in the traditional way, not to mourn but to express joy for his life.

DELVON GREEN: This is simply naturally New Orleans.

DOMINICK: Naturally.

GREEN: This is how we do it in New Orleans. Rest in peace, Fats.

DOMINICK: Rest in peace, Fats. Marva's still hanging on there, though. You hear the band?

ELLIOTT: The brass band marches by with throngs following behind, the second line. Women twirl feathered umbrellas, pumping them up and down with the beat.


ELLIOTT: Friends Suzanne Daly and Susan Johanson share memories of seeing Fats Domino in concert.

SUZANNE DALY: He was just a likable guy. He never fell into all the pitfalls that some musicians fall into.

SUSAN JOHANSON: No, he didn't, you know? He didn't.

DALY: He was a good man.

JOHANSON: He was like an ambassador for the city, I guess you could say.

ELLIOTT: And changed music forever, says Johanson.

JOHANSON: He was the beginning of rock 'n' roll, the - like, the sunrise of rock 'n' roll. The Beatles even said, without Fats, there would be no rock 'n' roll.

ELLIOTT: The procession ends in the 9th Ward at Fats Domino's house, once flooded by Hurricane Katrina. Other local music legends gather on the front porch, among them, Dr. John, Charmaine Neville and Troy Andrews, better known as Trombone Shorty.

TROY ANDREWS: I'm not sure where New Orleans music would be. Him and Louis Armstrong are the real pioneers of our music and gave people like myself, the Neville Brothers and people like that a platform to be able to continue to keep the legacy going. So without him, we wouldn't really be here, you know, musically.

ELLIOTT: Only Elvis had more hit records than Fats Domino during his heyday in the '50s and '60s. And everybody here has a favorite.

CORY LUIS: (Singing) I'm walking. Yes, indeed, I'm walking.

My favorite song...

ELLIOTT: Cory Luis says then and now, Fats Domino brought people together.

LUIS: We need this right now. What's going on in this world - this is a great atmosphere out here right now. It's awesome.

ELLIOTT: He points to the diverse crowd dancing down the street - different races, income levels and certainly politics, but all rubbing elbows and swinging hips in tribute to Fats Domino.


FATS DOMINO: (Singing) This time, I'm walking to New Orleans.


DOMINO: (Singing) I'm walking to New Orleans.

UNIDENTIFIED CROWD: (Singing) New Orleans...

ELLIOTT: Debbie Elliott, NPR News, New Orleans.


DOMINO: (Singing) I'm going to need two pair of shoes when I get through walking these blues when I get back to New Orleans. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR National Correspondent Debbie Elliott can be heard telling stories from her native South. She covers the latest news and politics, and is attuned to the region's rich culture and history.