NEW ORLEANS -- Next week the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame will for the first time honor two men at their 15th annual American Music Masters series. Antoine 'Fats' Domino and Dave Bartholomew will be celebrated for their contribution to rock and roll.
The two had not talked for years, until recently, when Eric Paulsen brought Dave to Fats' house. And when these two living legends got together, it was magic.
Fats is 82. Dave turns 90 next month. But they felt like teenagers when they saw each other.
These two living legends who helped give birth to rock and roll have not talked in years. As with many musical geniuses, there were differences and hard feelings that got in the way of a beautiful friendship.
But not on this day. It was just two old friends meeting at Fats' house.
Dave had his sons Ron and Don with him, and it became a family reunion of sorts with Fats' daughter Adonica.
Fats Domino and Dave Bartholomew go back a long way. Dave met Fats in 1949 at a little club in the 9th Ward and was amazed at his talent on the piano. Within a week and a half, they were in Cosimo Matassa's J&M Studio on Rampart Street, making a record that arguably is one of, if not the, first rock and roll songs.
And giving it a name was a no brainer.
'Because everybody called him the Fat Man, so what else you gonna call the song?' Dave said.
The song 'The Fat Man' started it all, and 61 years later, these two have still got it.
From there it was hit after hit after hit. The collaboration of Dave Bartholomew, Fats Domino and Cosimo Matassa turned out to be magic.
There's no doubt about it. There would be no Fats Domino without Dave Bartholomew, there would be no Dave Bartholomew without Fats Domino, and there would be no Fats and Dave without Cosimo Matassa.
'That's right. Shake on that,' Dave said, extending his hand to Domino.
'We haven't shook hands in years,' Fats said, shaking his hand.
'We haven't shook hands in years because we didn't understand life,' Dave said. 'Now that we have gotten older, we understand life. We're supposed to shake hands.'
Back in the old days, much of their music was not something they toiled over to write. It was a couple of guys having fun and jamming, and something would just happen.
'And out of a clear blue sky you'd start saying, 'I'm walking, yes indeed, talkin,'' Dave said. 'But we couldn't find the rest of the words, so we said let's go ahead and add New Orleans. But we were jamming because we were having so much fun.'
They had to go back to New Orleans to finish 'I'm Walkin'' because this is where the music was.
'In other words we always have a lot of rhythm in our world, plus the blues, and quite naturally New Orleans being known for its second line, we considered that too, and when we added to it, we were very lucky it went over big,' Dave said.
And one of their biggest was a song they didn't write but are best remembered for, an old song that even the great Louis Armstrong had done. But when Fats and Dave did 'Blueberry Hill', it became a rock and roll classic.
So it is fitting that the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland will honor these two legends of this great American genre of music, all started by these two men jamming on the piano and a horn.
'Antoine, you still got it man,' Dave said.
'You've still got it too,' Fats responded.
Fats and Dave, the kings of rock and roll.
Special thanks to author and music historian Rick Coleman for use of archival photos in this story. Coleman is author of the book 'Blue Monday:Fats Domino and the Lost Dawn of Rock 'n' Roll'(Da Capo Press).