In 1964, a bunch of rock ‘n’ roll legends met face-to-face in New Orleans.
The Beatles were in the Big Easy for their City Park concert that September and were determined to meet one of their idols, Antoine “Fats” Domino Jr., whom they named as a major influence.
George Harrison called Domino’s “I’m in Love Again” the first rock ‘n’ roll song he ever heard, while Domino’s 1955 “Ain’t That a Shame,” which was later covered by John Lennon, was the first song the Beatle learned to play.
The band was scheduled to have a day off following the concert, which they played to a sold-out crowd of 12,000 screaming fans.But a last-minute show was added for reportedly $150,000 — estimated to be six times the Beatles’ standard fee — leaving them with less than 24 hours in New Orleans, and sights of nothing but the park, their hotel and the airport. (The tour initially included 25 cities in 30 days.)
Despite their hectic schedule, and the difficulty of tracking down the typically reclusive Domino on such short notice, another New Orleans musician, Clarence “Frogman” Henry — who was among the concert’s openers — agreed to help set up a meeting. Domino was “getting groceries in a store or something,” Paul recalled.
Eventually, Domino and his manager Bob Astor were brought to a trailer that doubled as the backstage area for the concert’s performers. There, the band and Domino hung out for about an hour, taking pictures “for his kids,” John said. “[We] had a sing-song with him.”
Two known photographs from the meeting exist, and are included in Ron Howard’s Beatles documentary, Eight Days a Week: The Touring Years. Paul later recalled Domino’s fashion sense, noting that “he had a very big diamond watch in the shape of a star, which was very impressive.”
For his part, when Domino was asked whether he got to meet the Beatles, he famously responded, “No, they got to meet me.” But they clearly made an impression. In 1968, Domino covered the Beatles’ “Lady Madonna,” which became his last charting single.
‘Lady Madonna’ was me sitting down at the piano trying to write a bluesy boogie-woogie thing,” McCartney recalled in a 1994 interview. “It reminded me of Fats Domino for some reason, so I started singing a Fats Domino impression. It took my other voice to a very odd place.”
Domino also covered another McCartney-written Beatles song, “Lovely Rita,” originally found on 1967’s Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. Domino offered his take a year later on his Fats Is Back album, and “Everybody’s Got Something to Hide Except Me and My Monkey” from the Beatles’ White Album.