A week from today the Lenten season begins. This means the last hurrah of Mardi Gras is right around the corner. It also means that today is the birthday of Fats Domino, one of New Orleans’ most iconic and colorful characters.
I lived in New Orleans for four years. I suppose my fate was sealed from the get-go. Parades are an idiotic waste of time in my opinion. This means that me and about 99% of that city don’t get along for about 7 weeks of the year. I had to find another means of embracing the city’s culture.
Aside from the food scene, music was the easiest method of cultivating camaraderie with the locals. Back then I was an avid ska music fan. A friend with an encyclopedic knowledge of music pointed out to me how the Jamaicans developed their signature back-beat rhythm.
For some reason, the only strong long-range radio signal to reach Jamaica from the US was out of New Orleans. Go back to when ska music was born; late 50s, early 60s. And who was big in New Orleans’ music scene at that time? Fats Domino.
The rolling piano R&B structure was adopted with emphasis on the offbeat. The piano matching the guitar upstroke would create a “ska” sound when played in unison.
It is said that jazz and R&B are truly original American musical styles. I guess, through Domino’s accidental influence, ska music is one of America’s auditory first cousins.
Domino was born and raised in New Orleans’ Lower Ninth Ward. Playing piano in honky-tonks as early as age 10, he quickly established himself as a presence in the city’s vibrant jazz scene. His first song, The Fat Man, was released in 1950 and reached over 1 million in sales three years later. Covered by everyone from John Lennon to Yellowman to Pat Boone, Domino’s foot-stomping, piano-banging sound continues to echo through the music of others.
So let’s raise a glass and give cheers to this influential ambassador to New Orleans music on his birthday. It’s Mardi Gras time, too, so what better beer to toast him with than an Abita Mardi Gras Bock? The shiny brass color reminds me of a saxophone hue; Domino usually played with two of them. Spicy, fruity German Perle hops mingle with the pilsner and crystal malts for a scent combination of honey, fresh hay and biscuit. Semi-sweet with enough hop bite for balance, flavors of toasty malt and caramel dance with a slightly muted wet earth leafiness and a touch of nutty carob. Not as rich as most bock beer, Abita’s has a light, crisp body making it easy to enjoy without weighing you down.
Ain’t that a shame? Not this beer. Happy birthday, Fats!