Off Topic Messages

How Pat Boone Stole Fats Domino's Thunder

Tue Oct 25, 2005 8:33 pm

A great big shame :
How Pat Boone Stole Fats Domino's Thunder
by David Hinckley
Sunday, October 23rd, 2005, (New York) Daily News

Two stories about famous seventy-something musicians passed in the night last week, and they shook a few ghosts loose.

Out in L.A., Pat Boone reported that before he retires from touring next year at age 75, he will release multiple CDs of country songs, love songs, gospel songs and patriotic songs.

"A musical fireworks display," he calls it. Then next spring, he'll put out "We Are Family," a CD on which he'll sings duets with his favorite R&B artists. Smokey Robinson joins him for "Tears of a Clown," James Brown for "Papa's Got a Brand New Bag."

Yes, you read that correctly, and let's all agree it's a perfect bookend to a career that took off 50 years ago when Pat scored his first hit with "Ain't That a Shame," a retitled cover of Fats Domino's incendiary R&B rocker "Ain't It a Shame."

And that's where last week's second story comes in.

Down in New Orleans, Fats Domino returned to his house and his publishing company for the first time since Hurricane Katrina washed him out.

Eighteen of his 21 gold records were missing. His white grand piano was wrecked by toxic floodwaters. But like most of his New Orleans neighbors, Fats was happy that he's still here to survey things for himself.

Looking at an "RIP Fats" someone spray-painted on his house when he was reported missing, he said, "I'm still here, thank God. I'm alive and kicking."
Domino has lived a quiet life for years, playing when he feels like it, and that's the direct fruit of songs like "Ain't It a Shame," which launched his pop career just as it launched Pat Boone's.

By the summer of 1955, Fats was a certified R&B star, and "Ain't It a Shame" topped the R&B charts for 11 weeks. But it also crossed over to pop radio, and in the end it wasn't just a hit record, it was an important record. In 2002, it was voted into the Grammy Hall of Fame.

And its path to that prominence remains instructive.

The way the music biz worked back in the day, a popular song often had numerous recorded versions, on the theory that different listeners liked different voices and styles. So once "Ain't It a Shame" became an R&B smash, Dot Records decided to have Boone cut it for the pop market.

At first he balked, feeling its lyrics were unsophisticated and the use of the word "ain't" sent a bad message to schoolchildren.

But he cut it anyway, and it soon plunged him into a deeper controversy that was just starting to mushroom.

By 1955, white music fans had started hearing R&B artists like Fats, Ruth Brown and Little Richard on the radio. They liked them. So now Pat's recording of "Ain't That a Shame" was not just a popular song in a different style. It was a "cover version" many saw as pushing aside the creator's own original record.

Defenders of cover versions argued that they still spread songs to a wider audience. If they were blander, that made them more palatable to many pop fans, and certainly "Ain't It a Shame" sold more copies with two hit versions than it would have with one.

Still, the fact remained that the bleached-out version of a great rock 'n' roll song went to No. 1 while the real version peaked at No. 10.
There's never been much point in comparing Boone and Domino. Pat was, and is, a good pop singer who cut solid, catchy radio records. Fats works in another universe. Their names would not appear in the same sentence except that 50 years ago, they became pop stars with the same song.

A number of black artists later covered by Boone, including Little Richard, said they didn't mind, because the covers promoted the song and the records appealed to different fans.

Domino, speaking years later about "Ain't It a Shame," said the Boone cover "hurt. It took me two months to write, and his record comes out about the same time mine did."

Happily, both Domino and Boone survived. They saw more of their money than many of their peers and were smart enough to hang onto it. That both are still around and making plans in 2005 is a good story.

But if American popular culture is no longer wary of Fats Domino records, what happened with Fats and his neighbors in New Orleans is a reminder of something less encouraging: that today in real-life America, like on the pop charts 50 years ago, we still haven't resolved all issues of color.

Ain't that a shame.
-D.H. ... 4993c.html

Tue Oct 25, 2005 8:38 pm

Interesting read. Thanks for sharing that, Greg.

Tue Oct 25, 2005 8:56 pm

Thanks for that, Greg.

Pat Boone really did steal a black man's hit, didn't he ?

But Elvis got the blame.

Daft, I call it.

Tue Oct 25, 2005 9:47 pm

I put this on "Off-topic" but I do sometimes sputter when i try to explain
(or imagine trying) to say how Elvis and Boone differed in this regard...

I know the answers but...

Tue Oct 25, 2005 9:55 pm

I've got to be honest...I first heard Fats's record when I was about 6 or 7 years old and loved it!!! This was in the early '70's.

I didn't even know Pat Boone recorded a cover until about 3 minutes ago. IMO, Pat Boone is a "pop" footnote...barely more than a joke and not worthy of being mentioned in the same sentence as Fats.

Tue Oct 25, 2005 9:56 pm

I'll tell you a little known secret about Pat Boone: he cheats at golf. I played with him one year in The Crosby and he was cheating like Jessica Simpson taking a MENSA exam. As usual, we all had some side betting going on (not much, usually about $100 a hole or so) and he's kicking the ball into the fairway on every hole, so me and Johnny Unitas call him on it and he goes ballistic. Wouldn't talk to us the rest of the weekend and actually never came back to play again. Mr. goody-two-shoes my A$$!!!


Tue Oct 25, 2005 10:30 pm

Eagle -

You wrote:
IMO, Pat Boone is a "pop" footnote...barely more than a joke and not worthy of being mentioned in the same sentence as Fats.

Exactly !

And that makes it all the more incongruous that Boone had the No.1 hit with the song, which Fats had written and was his own current single !

Elvis did some covers, but never put out a single in competition with an original version !

Tue Oct 25, 2005 11:48 pm

Tom in North Carolina wrote: so me and Johnny Unitas call him on it and he goes ballistic.

You met Johnny U.!! And got to play golf with him....!!!! My all-time favorite athlete! Seemed like a real gentleman, a real pro and just an all-around neat guy!
I remember back in the 60's he did a commercial..."I want my Maypo"..anyone else remember that one??

Oh yeah, Pat Boone is lame, always was, always will be.

Wed Oct 26, 2005 4:44 am

Boone did a little richard number as about murder. :cry:

Wed Oct 26, 2005 7:53 am

My problem with Boone is not those early covers. His record company foisted those on him. It could have been and was just as easily dozens of other artists and as the Hinckley piece points out, it wasn't all about race. In the early '50s there might be a dozen versions of a single song out at one time. Cashbox Magazine in fact listed the song and gave shared credit to all the artists that made competing versions. Elvis pretty much singlehandedly ended the cover industry as fans wanted to hear his version and his version.

My problem with Boone is the self-aggrandizing tone he has adopted in interviews over the years. Instead of conceding the point, he has always pushed this idea that he was a racial integrator. Sure he gave a broader audience to the songs but with the "black" taken out of them, he did a lot more to further segregation.

Wed Oct 26, 2005 7:38 pm

Elvis and Pat Boone...
likethebike wrote:Sure (Pat Boone) gave a broader audience to the songs but with the "black" taken out of them, he did a lot more to further segregation.

Good point, if harsh.

I wonder, though: this almost seems to be the (incoherent) idea
of those who dismiss Elvis and his legacy as somehow "racist."

Since we agree Pat was "lame" and "not cool," it may be easier to
tag him with the "segregation" assocation, but is it fair?

Is it not similiar to E's bum rap?

In what ways are Pat and Elvis in some ways both given (or were given)
a free ride because of racism?
:shock: That's an inevitable question from less kind (more uninformed?)
observers of both.
ImageImage :roll:

Thu Oct 27, 2005 12:01 am

Pat Boone is a dork. Just my humble opinion. :D

Thu Oct 27, 2005 12:05 am

"Go ahead, 'Eagle', make my day...!"

:lol: :lol: :lol:
Last edited by Gregory Nolan Jr. on Thu Oct 27, 2005 7:57 pm, edited 1 time in total.

Thu Oct 27, 2005 12:07 am

I think it's unfair to compare the two because

1). Boone disliked R&B music and he openly said this then and now. I don't have a problem with that. We all have our own tastes and he preferred to be a balladeer. However, by recording the R&B anyway he was indulging in a more exploitive tradition than Elvis.

2). Many, many times Boone issued a cover record in the 50s tradition which was to hop on a current hit with a similar arrangement and knock it off the air. Not only "Ain't That a Shame" but also "At My Front Door" El Dorados, "Long Tall Sally" and "Tutti Frutti" Little Richard, "I'll Be Home" Flamingos. Although, the Rolling Stones did this ten years later, Elvis never did this. His covers of contemporary hits were relegated to album tracks. "Hound Dog" a complete transformation was three years old, "Mystery Train" had been out over two years, "Too Much" was three years old (by the way Bernard Hardison's original is finally avaiable on CD on an two CD set called "Night Train to Memphis Vol. 2"). The closest he came was probably "Baby Let's Play House" which was an unqualified flop and miles away from Elvis' version.

3) Also by leaving the rough edges on his music, Elvis made it harder to disguise the racism that kept R&B artists off the air. There was no way a station could play "Hound Dog" and say Little Richard was too rough for its audiences ears. This was most certainly not the case whose versions were not rough or salacious in the slightest. What's more they were more (according to the standards of the time) professionally arranged and melodic. Most importantly, Elvis' music was an endorsement of integration and of black culture in general. Boone in no way sings like a black man and that's a huge part of the point. His records turned black sounds white. Elvis got at some middle ground and even those who would profess that he aped black artists would concede that was a lot different than what Boone did. There was no putting it away in the closet. You could make the same case for Elvis' body movements.

Thu Oct 27, 2005 12:12 am

Terrific response, 'Bike, as expected. I sort of know the answer, too,
but like to challenge others - and myself - because we keep
hearing that claim on Elvis repeated...

I'll have to check out that original TOO MUCH...!
Last edited by Gregory Nolan Jr. on Thu Oct 27, 2005 12:28 am, edited 1 time in total.

Thu Oct 27, 2005 12:22 am

I don't want to paint the picture that Elvis did not get airplay that wasn't accorded to some of the black artists though. Although say "Hound Dog" may have forced some stations to play Little Richard, I'm sure there were some stations who were not the least bit embarrassed to answer an inquiry like this.

Little Richard- You play Elvis why won't you play me?

Station manager- You're black.

Then the station manager would go back to business as usual. One thing that is hard to appreciate now is that racism was blatantly practiced openly and without shame in many quarters at that time.

Thu Oct 27, 2005 12:31 am


In this "pro-Elvis" environment here and the occasional non-fan
buffoon who
tags him as a racist, we run the risk of assuming all of us appreciate
that no matter Elvis' immense, gigantic talents, other acts
of merit just could not break through....

Elvis helped change that. Ironically, some today think he was
part of the problem, which is sad revisionism.

I do think he sucked the oxygen out the room for nearly all,

Thu Oct 27, 2005 1:46 am

Fats will always be cool.
Boone will always be a fool.

Thu Oct 27, 2005 4:06 am

Pat Boone rocks!
Put him in the RnRHOF!

- seriously, what a crock.

So...Black artists are angry that White People listened to black music,
liked that music, and did cover versions.

Boone & Presley were racially integrating with music.
Isn't that a historically good thing?

But still, someone gets pissed off...50 years later.

can't wait for the news that Jackie Brenston is mad at Bill Haley
for covering "Rocket 88"

Thu Oct 27, 2005 7:19 am

You're kidding about Boone right. He did steal the opportunities for the original performers to have hits with their records. It wasn't a 100 percent race thing as country records were covered in the same way and black on black covers like the Charms covering the Jewels' "Hearts of Stone". But the scene in "Jailhouse Rock" is indicative of what happened when a major label artist covered a burgeoning hit on an indie. That record often disappeared.

Thu Oct 27, 2005 7:29 am

the songwriter(s) surely made money from Elvis
and Boone cutting their songs.

Little Richard didn't get royalties off Elvis' versions?
Sure he did.
So he can shut up. He got paid.

Piss on these hasbeens using their skin color
as an excuse to bitch about their failure to get
bigger hits in their youth.

Elvis rules - even if he sings the phone book.

Lemme guess :roll: ...a black guy compiled the phone listings.

BTW, the Elvis and Boone covers are bonefide legitimate
covers. (Pennimen) accompanies the song titles right?
It's not the like the lawsuit zone of borrowing lyrics like
Led Zep allegedly did with black artist blues songs.

Thu Oct 27, 2005 8:12 am

Racism and broader distribution of major labels did get in the way of artists like Richard getting the sales they might have. It's a fact. It is also a fact that performers like Richard who wrote their songs did get royalties (Even though Richard got cheated out of a lot of his. He even said in his book he had no grudge against the performer who cut his songs but against their publishers.) However, a performer who came up with an original interpretation of a given song only to see it wiped out by a major label were left without anything. And even for a performer like Richard they were denied the greater exposure and accompanying better paying gigs that would have come with the broader recognition. I can't stress this enough, the Boone covers were done just as an R&B hit was starting to break and they basically stole the original artist's chance at airplay. What's worse though is that artists like Boone did not even to do this. He was primarily a balladeer. His popularity is likely to have been just as strong without his covers.

I do agree that it is unfair to single him out and it was an industry wide practice. Other artists that participated in Boone style covers include Perry Como, Gale Storm, Teresa Brewer, the McGuire Sisters, the Crew Cuts and the Diamonds (a group IMO that succeeded in bettering its source on "Little Darlin'"). It also was not strictly a race thing. Marty Robbins even did it to Elvis in 1954 with "That's All Right Mama".

Thu Oct 27, 2005 7:23 pm

Graceland Gardener wrote:

can't wait for the news that Jackie Brenston is mad at Bill Haley
for covering "Rocket 88"

G G, no bloody way would that happen...HALEY"S version "is" murder.


Thu Oct 27, 2005 9:41 pm

To me, there is a world of difference between covering a song a few months or years later and rushing out a cover version to compete with the original in the current singles chart !

Pat Boone and some others did the rushed covers with 'black' hits a lot.

Elvis didn't, but he has been 'tarred with the same brush'.

Not to mention how Boone 'sanitised' the songs; tore the guts out of them and presented them as rock 'n' roll with the danger removed.

Nice, acceptable records for white teenagers to buy.

Rock 'n' roll with the rock 'n' roll removed, more like.

Thu Oct 27, 2005 10:05 pm

I think that Fats, and Little Richard, and Bo Diddley are in actuality,
envious and jealous of those young rap/hip-hop millionaires,
and resent their generation's ease of success and money-making.

But as old-timers, conveniently blame it on Elvis and "whitey" in general.