Here is the text of this lecture; it is meant to be read along with nine videos, which I cannot reproduce because they contain copywritten material. If you were there, it will make sense; if not, sign up!

Lecture 1-At The Keys: Fats Domino & Dave Brubeck

         Hi everybody, welcome to Music Americana: The Gift Of Popular Music. In the next eight weeks we’re going to see and hear some historic music, both commercial and intensely artistic; what all these artists have in common is that they expanded popular music, and our awareness of what music means. That is their gift, to inspire and illuminate our lives on this planet. It would be easy to dismiss this in today’s strident world, but last week, for example, I lost one of my best friends to cancer; just days before he passed, he told me he’d been listening to my new cd, and how much it meant to him. We had many such conversations in our thirty-year friendship, and I know that, in his mind, it was music that most made him feel alive.
         Well, we’re going to start with one of the true pioneers of that great mid-century sea change, rock and roll. Combining rhythym and blues and a rock beat suitable for teen dancing, he was an easy going, humble man who did his job with a smile. And that job was, quite simply, to rock the house on the black club circuit and music charts until July 1955, when Rock Around The Clock hit #1. Suddenly, all the pent-up energy behind the new music made rock and roll in demand; less than a month later, Fats Domino crossed over to the mainstream pop charts, where white guys had their hits.


         With a little interlude from Pat Boone, those were Ain’t That A Shame, I’m In Love Again, and Blueberry Hill, the first crossover hits by Antoine Dominique "Fats" Domino, born February 26, 1928 in New Orleans, LA, the youngest of 8 children of Antoine Caliste Domino and Marie-Donatille Gros, a French Creole couple who had recently moved from Vacherie, Louisiana to the Lower Ninth Ward of New Orleans. His father was a part-time violinist who worked at a racetrack; young Antoine attended Louis B. Macarty School until 4th grade, when he left for a job helping an ice delivery man. At ten, he began learning the piano from a brother-in-law, jazz guitarist Harrison Verrett, and at 14 was performing in New Orleans bars. In 1947 bandleader Billy Diamond heard him at a backyard barbecue and asked him to join his band, the Solid Senders, at the Hideaway Club in New Orleans, where he earned $3 a week; it was Diamond who nicknamed him "Fats", after renowned pianist Fats Waller, but also because the 5’4” musician had a noticably large appetite.
    In 1949 Domino signed to the local Imperial Records label, whose  owner Lew Chudd paid royalties instead of a fee for each song. For their first record he and saxophonist-producer Dave Bartholomew put a straight blues tune on the B side called “The Fat Man.” With Fats’ rolling piano and some "wah-wah" sung over a strong backbeat, the B side took off, hit #2 on the R & B charts and sold a million copies by 1951, the first rock and roll record to do so.


The Fat Man, with some photos, according to Wikipedia a million–selling record, yet somehow it didn’t make the mainsteam Billboard chart. I’m not able to say why that was, but it may have something to do with the fact that black audiences were considered separate but equal, if you know what I mean. In 2015, the song was placed in the Grammy Hall of Fame. And in case you’re curious, it doesn’t appear that Domino ever objected to being called The Fat Man, he seems to have embraced it as a nickname. Its success put him in his own band, with Bartholomew as co-writer, producer and saxophonist, along with bandleader Fred Kemp, horn players Herbert Hardesty and Alvin "Red" Tyler, bassist Frank Fields, and drummers Earl Palmer and Smokey Johnson. Palmer later became the first drummer in the 1960s LA studio backup group that backed up scores of hits, with Palmer’s laid-back but very strong backbeat.
    Fats is wrong, I think, when he says it’s just R & B fifteen years on; that straight triplet piano that he plays, I don’t know if he invented it but it’s in a lot of early rock and roll: it’s the basic music for doo wop, and later for Elvis and Tin Pan Alley hits like I Want You, I Need You, I Love You. It transforms a bluesy tune into something direct and raw, makes a ballad swing, as we saw in Blueberry Hill. Blueberry Hill also has a well-known bass line, it’s Honest I Do, by Jimmy Reed, and turns up later in Sam Cooke’s tune Bring It On Home To Me. It’s a 1940s pop tune previously recorded by Gene Autry and Louis Armstrong, but Fats made it a quintessential rock ballad, and it’s live, I think, when he stands up there’s no piano. Bartholomew thought enough of Fats’ playing to use him as a session musician when he produced other artists, such as Lloyd Price, whose 1952 hit Lawdy Miss Clawdy kicks off with Fats’ intro. Domino and Bartholomew also wrote and cut eleven more tunes that made the R & B top ten before 1955; one, Reeling and Rocking, was an R & B #1 in 1952. After Pat Boone’s version of “Ain’t That A Shame” hit #1, Fats’ own version rose to #16 on the pop chart in August 1955. Boone reportedly suggested changing it to "Isn't That a Shame," an idea vetoed by his producers. Domino complimented Boone's cover, and years later invited Boone on stage, flashed a big gold ring and said, "Pat Boone bought me this ring," meaning the royalties from Boone’s hit. From that point on, he was on the pop charts himself: I’m In Love Again, a with the punch line “Baby don’t you let your dog bite me” hit #5, Blueberry Hill went to #4 and #1 R&B for 11 weeks. it was his biggest hit, selling 5 million worldwide, and it’s also in the Grammy Hall of Fame today. Blue Monday at #9 was followed by I’m Walkin’ at #5 in February 1957; TV star Ricky Nelson’s version of I’m Walkin’ topped out at #4. By 1955, Domino was reportedly earning $10,000 a week, and Imperial Records was releasing two albums a year; they didn’t shy away from rock and roll, calling his first album in November 1955 Rock and Rollin' with Fats Domino, #17 on the Billboard Pop Albums chart. And the hits kept on coming.


    "Whole Lotta Loving" (#6), "I Want to Walk You Home" (#8), and "Walking To New Orleans” at #6 gave Fats more top ten hits, though no #1 songs. He appeared in the 1956 films Shake, Rattle & Rock! and The Girl Can't Help It--I think that’s where I’m In Love Again was recorded--played Ed Sullivan again in 1957, along with American Bandstand. Ebony Magazine dubbed him the "King of Rock ’n’ Roll". He was on the road 340 days a year at $2,500 per night, owned 50 suits, 100 pairs of shoes and a $1,500 diamond horseshoe stick pin. meanwhile, Chuck Berry went to jail, Little Richard became a minister, Jerry Lee Lewis married his 13-year old cousin, and Elvis went into the army. Fats found himself amid a new generation of teen stars, Ricky Nelson, Fabian, Frankie Avalon, and  "Walking' to New Orleans" in September 1960 was his last top ten hit. He toured Europe in 1962 with the Beatles as opening act, and played the first of many times in Las Vegas. Imperial Records was sold in 1963, and he said "I stuck with them until they sold out," then moved to ABC-Paramount, who made him record in Nashville with a new producer; after 11 singles he left ABC for Mercury, then moved to the much smaller Broadmoor label, where he reunited with Dave Bartholomew. During the 70s he had a string of record contracts with various labels, United Artists, Reprise, with little success; only one song during the decade cracked the top 100, a cover of the Beatles Lady Madonna, which Paul McCartney said he wrote in Domino’s style. Nearly all his recordings were covers of famous tunes, which may explain the lack of hits; it’s a common affliction, a singer makes it big and begins covering all his favorite songs by other artists.
         Fats continued to be a popular performer, and it’s easy to see why: though his records sounded alike, his live shows rocked. He was still working steadily when the R & R Hall Of Fame opened and inducted him in their first year, followed by a lifetime Grammy a year later. He toured until 1995, when he said he would no longer leave New Orleans, since he didn’t need the money and could not get food he liked anywhere else. In 1998, when President Clinton awarded him the National Medal of Arts, Fats declined to go to the White House to accept. He owned a mansion in the Lower Ninth Ward, was a familiar sight in his pink Cadillac, and made yearly appearances at the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival such as this one, in 2002.


    Fats and his wife were rumored to have died, and after someone spray-painted "RIP Fats. You will be missed" on his house, it was robbed and vandalized. Rescued by a Coast Guard helicopter, the family was taken to a shelter in Baton Rouge, where JaMarcus Russell, the starting quarterback at LSU and boyfriend of their granddaughter, took them home. "We've lost everything," Domino said; the family home was gutted and repaired in 2006, the same year President George W. Bush personally visited Fats and replaced the National Medal of Arts medallion that President Clinton had given him. Gold records were replaced by the RIAA and Capitol Records, which owns the Imperial catalogue, and January 12, 2007 was made "Fats Domino Day in New Orleans" with a signed proclamation.
    In 2006 Fats released his first new album in 25 years, Alive and Kickin’, to benefit the Tipitina’s Foundation for indigent musicians. We saw Jambalaya, from his last public performance, at Tipitina’s on May 19, 2007, where he donated his fee.
    Besides the R & Rall of Fame, Domino is in the Louisiana Music Hall of Fame, the Delta Music Museum Hall of Fame, the Rhythm and Blues Music Hall of Fame in Detroit, and won the Rhythm & Blues Foundation’s Ray Charles Lifetime Achievement Award. Biographer Rick Coleman says Domino brought together black and white youths in shared appreciation of his music, a factor in the breakdown of racial segregation. says Domino was the best-selling African-American rock-and-roller of the 1950s, the VIllage Voice’s Robert Christgau wrote “this shy, deferential, uncharismatic man invented New Orleans rock and roll.”
    All this importance seems to have had little effect on Fats himself, who remained the same sweet guy all his life, personally and musically. He and Rosemary Hall Domino married in 1947, and had eight children: Antoine III, Anatole, Andre, Antonio, Antoinette, Andrea, Anola, and Adonica, and they remained together until her death in 2008. And he stuck to his style; he never wrote a classical suite or claimed to play jazz, though he sure could play, that is the coolest version of Swanee River I ever heard. In interviews Fats did not call his work rock and roll, but “the same rhythm and blues I been playin' down in New Orleans." But it was rock and roll, and he was an important influence on other stars, including Elvis, who at a press conference after a show gestured toward Domino, who was there, and said "that's the real king of rock and roll." John Lennon recorded “Aint That A Shame” and said it was the first song he ever learned to play; Paul McCartney wrote "Lady Madonna" in Domino's style.
    Fats Domino died on October 24, 2017, at his home in Harvey, Louisiana, age 89, from natural causes, according to the coroner's office. His funeral, in true New Orleans style, turned into a massive street party with competing bands playing together. During his career he had 35 Top 40 hits, and in 2004, Rolling Stone ranked him #25 of the "100 Greatest Artists of All Time."
    BTW, though the mnost commercial hits are usually love songs, not all fats' hits were: here's one from the early 60s.

"I'm Gonna Be A Wheel Someday" live

    Now if Fats Domino was a reluctant pioneer playing what he thought was NO R & B, a piano player in jazz, and especially a composer, can’t just write words to blues changes. Bebop had gone about as far as it could go; new approaches were needed. One was modal jazz, developed by George Shearing, Miles Davis, and others; a second was to mess with the time, change the way things were played rhythmically. And that brings us to Dave Brubeck.


    David Warren Brubeck was born December 6, 1920 in Concord, CA, his father a cattle rancher of Swiss ancestry, his mother, from England, a lapsed concert pianist teaching piano for extra money. With two brothers who became musicians, he took lessons from his mother, intending to become a rancher; then, after faking his way through an audition, got into the College of the Pacific music conservatory, before they discovered he could not read music. Citing his skill at counterpoint and harmony, the college agreed to let him graduate if he promised never to teach piano. He was drafted in 1942 and served overseas in Patton's Third Army, but played the piano at a Red Cross show and was ordered to form a band. He created one of the army’s first integrated bands, "The Wolfpack," and also met saxophonist Paul Desmond. Returning home, he studied music for real, first with Darius Milhaud, who told him not to study classical piano, then with twelve-tone pioneer Arnold Schonburg, ending in a disagreement because Schonburg insisted every note had to be structured. Brubeck then teamed up with vibraphonist and bongo master Cal Tjader and also had an octet, an eight–piece group that  included saxophonist Desmond. Neither worked much, as jazz bands struggled in the postwar years, until 1949, when they got a record deal with Coronet Records, a San Francisco label then bought by Fantasy Records, and recorded some well-known songs as vehicles for improvisation, we heard That Old Black Magic from 1950wwith Tjader on bongos, and Love Walked In with the octet. The records took off, selling 10,000 copies a month, and a steadily-working band, the Dave Brubeck Quartet, got a 1951 residency at San Francisco's Black Hawk nightclub. But what really worked was touring colleges, recording their concerts for albums, such as the 1953 live album Jazz at Oberlin, from which we heard The Way You Look Tonight. Jazz critic Gary Giddins later wrote it would "make many short lists of the decade's outstanding albums". The concert also led to accrediting jazz as a legitimate field of study at Oberlin; Wendell Logan, the chair of Oberlin's Jazz Studies Department, called it as "the watershed event that signaled the change of performance space for jazz from the nightclub to the concert hall". The Guardian's John Fordham wrote that it "indicated new directions for jazz that didn't slavishly mirror bebop, and even hinted at free-jazz piano techniques still years away from realisation". The group moved in 1954 to the much bigger Columbia Records, releasing Jazz Goes To College, we heard The Way You Look Tonight; a Time magazine cover story in 1954 made Brubeck, the second jazz musician on its cover after Louis Armstrong, feel embarrassed, and told Duke Ellington “it should have been you.”
         Other critics weren’t as impressed, calling Brubeck’s playing stiff, and hinting it was white man’s jazz, not anything very original. Then, in 1956, Brubeck hired Joe Morello on drums, and in 1958 Eugene Wright on bass for a Europe tour, we heard Tangerine. This became the classic Dave Brubeck Quartet, and within a year they were doing something original: they were experimenting with time signatures, moving from standard 4/4 time to 9/8 and 5/4.


    It seems amazing to realize that two of the most highly acclaimed jazz albums ever were both recorded in 1959, Kind of Blue by Miles Davis, the biggest seller of all time, being the other; Time Out, on the other hand, was the first jazz album to sell a million copies. It was an unlikely success, based on ignoring the standard American rhythms of ¾ and 4/4 and instead working in 9/8 for the opening number, Blue Rondo a la Turk, and 5/4 for the second, titled Take Five, the expression used by musicians when taking a break.
    Brubeck said the idea for Time Out came in 1958 during a State Department-sponsored tour of Eurasia, where he heard Turkish street musicians performing a traditional in 9/8 time broken into 2-2-23 phrases, a meter rarely, if ever, played in the US. After writing Blue Rondo a la Turk he decided to continue writing in other time signatures; Desmond jumped in and wrote Take Five, the only tune not by Brubeck. Recorded in New York in summer 1959, the album got negative reviews at first, but grew in popularity, eventually reaching #2 on the pop charts in 1961 when Take Five, released as a single without its lengthy drum solo, hit #25 on the singles charts. Take Five has been covered numerous times, including by Brubeck himself, with some versions adding words. Wikipedia says it’s the top selling jazz single ever, though I question that; I think some 1940s hits, Chattanooga Choo Choo, for example, were bigger sellers but aren’t considered jazz because they were popular music at the time.
    This lecture and the Quartet are named for Dave Brubeck, but I think it’s obvious that Paul Desmond played a big part in what made this music important, so let’s give him a little respect.

    We started with Emily, the one live non-Brubeck piece I could find, by Paul Desmond, born Paul Emil Breitenfeld, November 25, 1924 in San Francisco, to Shirley and Emil Aron Breitenfeld, his father Jewish, his mother Catholic. His father was a pianist who accompanied silent films in movie theaters and arranged for music companies. Paul began violin first, then clarinet at twelve, and was also a writer for his high school newspaper. At San Francisco State College he picked up the alto sax, but was drafted and stuck in San Francisco and never saw combat. After the war, Brubeck hired him and fired him a couple of times, for the two were very different personalities, with Brubeck a serious family man and Desmond a free spirit who gambled in Reno and had a string of girlfriends. In 1950 Desmond split for New York, then returned to California after hearing Brubeck's trio on the radio. But Brubeck didn’t want to hire him, so Desmond agreed to babysit Brubeck's children to get into the band. They had a contract that made Brubeck the group leader but gave Desmond 20% of all profits and forbade ever firing him. Unlike the strait-laced Brubeck, the saxophonist read Timothy Leary and Jack Kerouac, used LSD, drank Scotch heavily and was a chain smoker. He was also a very funny guy, who saw a former girlfriend on the street and said "There she goes, not with a whim but a banker" (a reference to T.S. Eliot's "This is the way the world ends / Not with a bang but a whimper"). Commenting on his own laid-back sound, he said “I have won several prizes as the world's slowest alto player, as well as a special award in 1961 for quietness.” Diagnosed with lung cancer in 1977, he happily noted his liver was healthy, calling it “One of the great livers of our time.” Brubeck said of Desmond that “What used to scare me is I'd look at him and it would just be whites in his eyes, wouldn't be any eyeballs.”
    Brubeck, Desmond, drummer Joe Morello, who spent his early years with singer Marian McPartland, and bassist Eugene Wright were such a great combo that Columbia Records, which had refused to record rock and roll to that point, decided to team them up with some of their stars, including blues singer Jimmy Rushing, Leonard Bernstein and the Ny Philharmonic, and Carmen MacRae, all three albums recorded in 1960. They weren’t big sellers, though, what the public wanted were more time explorations, and the band buckled down and got busy. 1961brought Time Further Out, #8 on the Billboad album chart, with Unsquare Dance in 7/4 time, a single that made it to #74. Brubeck called it “a challenge to the foot-tappers, finger-snappers and hand-clappers. Deceitfully simple, it refuses to be squared.” Countdown—Time in Outer Space followed in 1962, dedicated to astronaut John Glenn; the first track, Countdown, is a typical bar boogie, stride piano with two extra notes added in, giving it a count of 10 instead of 8.  It also featured "Eleven Four," we heard it from Live at Carnegie Hall, which some critics called “Brubeck’s best concert ever.” The song has a pattern of five beats, then two sets of three to create a measure of eleven. The album peaked at No. 24 and stayed on the chart for 21 weeks. The St. Petersburg Times called the album "modern jazz at its finest."
    Besides the time series and backing up others, the group also made several records with tunes inspired by tours abroad, such as Jazz Impressions of Japan, featuring the quiet piece Koto Song, in 1964. It did not make the charts, and they returned to normalcy with “Time In“ in 1965, the last time-oriented album; we heard the sax solo and end piece of “40 Days,” fitting, as Brubeck broke the group up in 1967. They did not play again til a reunion concert in 1976. Brubeck, meanwhile, left Columbia for Atlantic and formed a new band with saxman Gerry Mulligan; when they played Newport, Desmond sat in.


    It’s worth noting that all of the videos we are seeing today, except Newport nd Take Five, were taken in Europe or Australia; apparently nobody here, not even Columbia Records, thought of video taping the  band, despite their hits and live albums, and hey didn’t play Ed Sullivan or tv shows.
    Paul Desmond died May 30, 1977, of lung cancer, with his will leaving all proceeds from "Take Five" to the Red Cross, which still earns $100,000 a year from the song. He was a brilliant player, I listened to Desmond’s albums in college to study, they were great background music; his soft tone floating over Brubeck's polytonal piano was compelling and always understated.
    Brubeck continued working, writing many new works, from a cantata with words of Dr. Martin Luther King to a 1988 episode of the CBS TV series This Is America, Charlie Brown. He toured in the 1970s and 80s as Two Generations of Brubeck, with four of his six children with Iola Whitlock, who wrote lyrics for his songs. Married in 1942, they were together 70 years. Saying the war had given him a spiritual awakening, he became a Catholic in 1980, shortly after completing The Mass To Hope, which he performed in St Petersburg, Russia, in 1997. It is today, along with Take Five, Brunbeck’s mos performed work, with several college an d conservatory productions of it on youtube. In 2006 he was awarded Notre Dame's Laetare Medal, an honor given to American Catholics. Dave and Iola also co-founded the Brubeck Institute  at their alma mater, the University of the Pacific, which provides fellowships for jazz students. Though his college told him he could never teach, he received honorary doctorates from the Berklee School of Music and Eastman School of Music in Rochester, NY, along with the Benjamin Franklin Award for Public Diplomacy from the US State Department, the California Hall of Fame, the Miles Davis Award at the Montreal Jazz Festival, and Kennedy Center honors in 2009, on his 89th birthday. There is even an asteroid named for him, 5079 Brubeck.
    Dave Brubeck died of heart failure on December 5, 2012, in Norwalk, Connecticut, one day before his 92nd birthday. The LA Times called him "one of Jazz's first pop stars," The NY Times noted he’d continued to play well into his old age, including the Chopin piece we saw, he was 90 at the time. The Daily Telegraph wrote: "His work list is astonishing, including oratorios, musicals and concertos, as well as hundreds of jazz compositions. This quiet man of jazz was truly a marvel.” Robert Christgau dubbed him the "jazz hero of the rock and roll generation". Here in the US, May 4, or 5/4, is informally observed as "Dave Brubeck Day" after the time signature of "Take Five". It is his best known work, and led to my favorite video I have seen lately; it seems that Wynton Marsalis, jazz director at Lincoln Center, invited the Sachal Jazz Ensemble of Lahore, Pakistan to New York to share the stage with his own band. The trouble was, they couldn’t learn the music in the four days they had; until, that is, they got to Take Five.


    So remember, no matter how bad it gets out there, “When people are soulful and they want to come together, they do.”
    See you next week.