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PBS ‘American Masters’ to Air ‘Fats Domino and the Birth of Rock ‘n’ Roll’

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PBS’ American Masters series is giving Fats Domino the documentary tribute treatment later this month.

The one-hour episode, titled “Fats Domino and the Birth of Rock ‘n’ Roll,” is scheduled to make its national premiere on Feb. 26, Domino’s 88th birthday. According to a press release, the film “traces how Fats Domino’s brand of New Orleans rhythm and blues morphed into rock and roll, appealing to black and white audiences alike.”

“Fats Domino is one of America’s most beloved entertainers,” said American Masters executive producer Michael Kantor. “In viewing this film, we come to understand the pivotal role he played in the popularization of the big beat style and the birth of rock ‘n’ roll, but also the important influence he had on the music of the ’60s and ’70s.”

As biographer Rick Coleman pointed out, Domino’s music didn’t just help pioneer rock ‘n’ roll — its wide-ranging appeal also helped chip away at segregation. “He had four major riots at his shows partly because of integration,” said Coleman. “But also the fact they had alcohol at these shows. So they were mixing alcohol, plus dancing, plus the races together for the first time in a lot of these places.”

“Fats Domino and the Birth of Rock ‘n’ Roll” includes interviews with a lengthy list of his peers and musical associates, including frequent collaborator and producer Dave Bartholomew, legendary producer and studio owner Cosimo Matassa, and band member Herb Hardesty. An extended cut of the documentary is also arriving on DVD Feb. 26, and is available for pre-order now.

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