by Thomas Givens
In the spring of 1955, I joined the Naval Reserve in Greenwood, Mississippi, with my buddy Frankie Floyd of Linn, Mississippi, and three Rulevillians. The Ruleville group was composed of Luster Bayless, Robert Willingham, and Charles Jones.
Off we went to boot camp in Bainbridge, Maryland. I'd been to the bootheel of Missouri where my great-aunt lived, and I'd been to Memphis--but that was it. And here I was, flying to Washington, DC, on a plane. Had never been on a plane in my life.
We got to DC, and with the aid of the guy in charge of us, we got on a bus and made it to Bainbridge. Talk about homesick . . . I can't describe it.
The boot camp lasted two weeks, and we got the weekend in between for liberty in Baltimore. Wasn't too awed by Baltimore because I was used to the big city of Memphis, having relatives there and spending quite a bit ot time there in the summers.
But here we were--on the town! For some reason, we were walking around, and I heard this song playing on a loudspeaker. Turned out it was Fats Domino singing "Ain't that a Shame." Can you imagine a song like that hitting the charts today?
When you said goodby,
Ain't that a shame?
My tears fell like rain."
Well, that song took off, and the Fat Man came into our lives. He followed up with "So Long" and that was just the beginning.
Being from the Mississippi Delta, I identified with his lyrics. They were simple and down to earth, and Fats sang his songs like he wanted to, no put on, just natural. For instance, in one of his songs, think it was "Poor Me," he had a line: "Yes, I dream't last night." Now, how can you beat that?
Just go back and think about Fats Domino. He played the piano just as well or better than the "Killer" [Jerry Lee Lewis] and Elton John, and he leaned into his songs--"Honey Chile," "Blueberry Hill,"--we lived for his releases.
As far as I'm concerned, Fats Domino is right up there with Elvis. His music was belly rubbing, bopping and turnrow. Thank God for him, and I wish him a long life, ‘cause one of these days I want to see him in person.
He’s the Man!
Contact Judge Tom at Deltajudge2.
For more memoirs from Tom Givens, sample these:
Ahhh, Rufus, How We Loved You!
The Fine Art of Grabbling and Frog Gigging
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