Soulful Soundalike: Teenage Allen Toussaint Impersonates Fats Domino
As a 19-year-old in 1957, Toussaint was asked to sound like the star he had grown up listening to.
The death in November 2015 of the peerless Allen Toussaint was a great loss to the heritage of rhythm and blues music, and today we’re reminiscing about the first time he ever appeared on record — for another departed New Orleans figurehead. It was as a 19-year-old in 1957, when Allen was asked to sound like the star whose disc it was, and whom he had grown up listening to, Fats Domino.
Allen’s musical education as a young man growing up on the outskirts of New Orleans was greatly informed by Domino and another favourite son of the Crescent City, Professor Longhair. In 1957, as Toussaint began to make his own way as a studio musician, he played the piano (uncredited, as was almost always the case at the time) on Domino’s song “I Want You To Know.”
In an interview with NPR (National Public Radio) in 1988, Toussaint recalled the circumstances of the recording session. “[It] was popular during that time to play like other people,” he said. “I hadn’t established who I really was yet so if they wanted someone who would play like others, like Ray Charles or Fats Domino, they could very well call me and know they would get what they were looking for.
Listen to uDiscover Music’s Fats Domino Best Of playlist.
“And Fats Domino was out of the country, and Dave Bartholomew, who was his producer and writer on many songs, called me in to play like him, like Fats Domino would play on a song called ‘I Want You To Know’ and another called something about a little school girl. And I went in and played, and that was sort of a milestone in my early getting started…it never was hush-hush among the musical community. The guys around knew, and it was kind of fun.”
“I Want You To Know,” with Fats’ vocals duly added, appeared as the flipside of his “The Big Beat” single late that year, which was the title song of a movie starring William Reynolds. The A-side went to No.26 on the American pop chart, but such was Domino’s popularity by then that the B-side became a Top 40 hit in its own right, reaching No.32 in an 11-week run.
Buy or stream “I Want You To Know” on The Complete Imperial Singles.