Fats Domino Close to Moving Back to N.O.
By STACEY PLAISANCE
Associated Press Writer
NEW ORLEANS (AP) -- Fats Domino broke into soft song as he stepped
slowly through his gutted house in the city's flood-ravaged 9th Ward
on Friday. Sometimes the Hall of Fame piano man murmured a line of his
familiar lyrics. At other moments, he just seemed to be thinking out
loud, with a tune.
"Why such bad luck fall on me?" the 79-year-old sang, looking out a
rear window into the neighborhood where he was born in 1928.
In between melodies, he said repeatedly that it's time to come home.
"I'm ready," he said. "I wasn't ready to leave."
Domino - whose real name is Antoine and who is known in New Orleans
nearly as much for his reclusiveness as for hits such as "Blueberry
Hill," "Blue Monday" and "Ain't That a Shame" - rode out Hurricane
Katrina in the 9th Ward, where the Aug. 29, 2005 storm did some of its
worst damage. His family and agent had reported him missing and
learned days later that he had survived when they saw a photo in The
Times-Picayune that showed him stepping off a rescuer's boat.
Domino, who had been back to see the 9th Ward at least once before
Friday, said he had no doubt he would eventually return for good.
Workers are rebuilding his home, which is expected to be restored by
For many in the heavily devastated neighborhood, which some have said
shouldn't be rebuilt, Domino's return is a sign of hope.
"This is not about just getting one guy back in his house. It really
is symbolic of this city coming back," said Bill Taylor, director of
the Tipitina's Foundation, which is paying to repair the home Domino
has lived in for decades. "There is hope down here now."
Surrounded by blocks of abandoned homes - many untouched since Katrina
- Domino's house was buzzing with workers. Outside, they scraped away
rust from the black iron fence that surrounds the home and gave it a
fresh coat of paint.
Inside, they tried to decide how to replace the air conditioning
system and electrical circuits.
Sitting in what used to be his pink entertainment room on a bench from
the front porch, Domino recalled memories of his life in the 9th Ward
- cutting grass for the neighbors, cooking red beans and rice for
family and friends.
"It don't take a lot to be happy," he said with a smile.
The foundation, which helped scores of musicians after the storm find
housing and new instruments, will spend upward of $100,000 restoring
The foundation is working with Elton John, Tom Petty, Bonnie Raitt,
Willie Nelson, B.B. King and others who will record a tribute album of
Domino's songs to benefit the foundation. Roughly 25 percent of the
proceeds will go toward Domino's home, Taylor said.
The back end of a pink 1959 Cadillac that for years sat in the living
area of his home and served as a couch is being restored. Plans also
call for bringing back many original details, including pink walls to
match the car. A mirrored glass balcony and brass railing, which were
not damaged during Katrina, also will be kept.
After Katrina, Domino was taken to the Superdome, then by bus with
other evacuees to Louisiana State University's basketball arena in
Baton Rouge, where he reunited with his family. They left the arena
and spent two days at the off-campus apartment of Tigers quarterback
JaMarcus Russell, who knew a friend of Domino's family.
Domino spent some time in a New Orleans hotel after that before moving
into a gated community full of newly constructed homes in suburban
James Elder, the man in charge of construction at Domino's home,
expects the home to be finished by summer. Elder said the house's
studs still have to be rid of mold before workers can put in new
insulation and drywall, all of which should be done in the next few
"He could have moved anywhere in his life and career, and this is
where he chose to stay," Elder said. "We're going to try to put it
back to what is was, as close as possible."