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(Soundbite of song, "I'm Walkin'")

Mr. FATS DOMINO (Singer): (Singing) I'm walkin', yes, indeed and I'm talkin' 'bout you and me I'm hopin' that you'll come back to me, yeah.


Legendary rock-and-roll singer and songwriter Fats Domino made a rare and suspense-filled appearance in his hometown, New Orleans, last Saturday. Accompanied by his band, he sat down at the piano at Tipitina's nightclub and played some of his greatest hits to a sold-out audience. He opened with "I'm Walkin'," although what we're hearing right now is a 1957 recording.

(Soundbite of song, "I'm Walkin'")

Mr. DOMINO: (Singing) Whatcha gonna do when the well runs dry? Are you gonna sit right down and cry. Whatcha gonna do when I say bye bye? All you're gonna do is dry your eye. I'm walkin'.

YDSTIE: Keith Spera, the music writer for the New Orleans Times-Picayune, was in the audience for the show and he joins us from member station WWNO. Thanks for being with us, Mr. Spera.

Mr. KEITH SPERA (Music Writer, New Orleans Times-Picayune): My pleasure.

YDSTIE: 0Must have been quite a thrill.

Mr. SPERA: You know, the drama of a Fats Domino performance these days is not about the quality of the performance itself. You know, that's going to be good. The drama is whether or not there's going to be a performance at all.

YDSTIE: Right. He's got stage fright, right?

Mr. SPERA: Yeah, and it seems to have grown more acute since the trauma of Hurricane Katrina, you know? He was supposed to close out the 2006 New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival. There's a big build up to his grand finale performance, he was featured on the souvenir poster that year. And on the morning of the performance, he didn't feel up to performing. And then at 79 years old, I mean, he just doesn't want to perform all that much anymore.

YDSTIE: So describe what happened on Saturday night. What was it like?

Mr. SPERA: Well, in incredible build up to this night because, you know, first performance since Katrina, so it was a sold out-crowd. People had bought $200 VIP tickets, fans had flown in from New York and Washington, D.C., and Texas, a huge amount of anticipation, but up until the very last minute - and I'm talking after his band was already on stage - no one really knew if he was going to get up on that stage.

YDSTIE: And the promoters didn't as well, right?

Mr. SPERA: Exactly. And the funny thing about that is he was the one who actually came up with the idea of performing at Tipitina's. So he did make it to the club, but then backstage, he said infamously, this is news to me. I'm supposed to perform? I didn't know.

YDSTIE: And how was it?

Mr. SPERA: Well, fabulous. You know, as soon as the man is on stage, decades dropped away. His voice is as sunny as it's ever been. His touch in the piano is strong. People are just completely eating it up. He did "Ain't That a Shame," "Shake, Rattle and Roll," "Valley of Tears," "Jambalaya." I mean, just moving through all these songs almost nonstop with five horns backing him. He had Herb Hardesty on tenor sax, the guy that's played with him since the '40s, so it sounded just like a classic Fats Domino show.

YDSTIE: Keith Spera is a music writer for the Times-Picayune newspaper in New Orleans. Thanks, Mr. Spera.

Mr. SPERA: My pleasure.

YDSTIE: And we'll go out on a 1956 recording of Fats Domino's hit, "Blueberry Hill." Did he play that last Saturday night?

Mr. SPERA: He did indeed, and it sounded almost exactly like the record.

(Soundbite of song, "Blueberry Hill")

Mr. DOMINO: (Singing) I found my thrill on blueberry hill. On blueberry hill when I found you. The moon stood still on blueberry hill and it lingered until my dreams came true. The wind in the willow played love sweet melody.

YDSTIE: You're listening to WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News.

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