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During the decade of the 1950’s Fats Domino had more than fifty songs make the national charts, far more than any other artist in any field, not just rock.

His success rate in this regard for singles was staggering, but following his debut last January his next couple of releases, while including some huge hits on the regional charts in New Orleans, had failed to make the same impact nationally and thus it wouldn’t be unreasonable to think that he was shaping up to be something of a local sensation and nothing more.

There’s nothing wrong with that of course, a lot of the artists covered here already were consistent sellers in their own territorial market, enough to keep them working and keep the record company reasonably satisfied, but not enough to make them full-fledged stars.

For that you needed consistent national acclaim.

To that end it was with this record where Fats Domino finally proved that New Orleans wasn’t going to be big enough to hold what he had to offer after all.


Always Runnin’ ‘Round
Record companies are conservative by nature, which runs counter to the very thing they’re trying to sell, music, which in the best of circumstances is very progressive, at least in terms of breaking new ground rather than covering the same ground that others had already traversed.

Not surprisingly following his explosive debut from the beginning of 1950 all three of Fats Domino’s subsequent singles had featured uptempo songs as the plug side. Though most were good, some very good, for whatever reason they hadn’t captured the public’s fancy as The Fat Man had. The local sales would be enough to placate most companies for awhile of course, but there was always a risk that facing decreasing returns they’d push their artist more and more into blatant remakes of that initial success.

But Domino and Dave Bartholomew were too good at what they did, even at this point, to feel compelled to pursue that path and were given enough leeway to experiment and subsequently with this, his fifth single, Domino scored that elusive second national hit, one that sounded nothing like what had already connected with audiences.

Because Every Night About This Time is a ballad it went a long way in showing the company that it was the artist himself who was appealing rather than just a specific replicable sound, giving him the freedom to continue to branch out when so many of his competitors were being reigned in to deliver more of what already worked for them.

That can’t be undervalued in the big scheme of things for it’s the final ingredient that makes somebody a star… an ongoing connection fans have to the singer themselves, not just a song or two that captures their fancy. Once you’ve established yourself in a variety of musical guises your potential for sustained success becomes far more likely and true to form arguably nobody in the Nineteen-Fifties had quite the same deep rooted loyalty between artist and fans as Fats Domino.


To Keep From Cryin’
Like most of Domino’s other records up until now this starts with him hammering away on the piano, but unlike those where the tempo is accelerated, this is intentionally plodding, setting a stark, almost dire mood.

The piano isn’t a sad sounding instrument by nature though and as a result its prominence in the arrangement helps to keep the tone fairly neutral even if the deliberate manner in which it’s played is done to emphasize the morose lyrics that finds Domino crying over his girlfriend leaving him.

It’s the way those two elements play off one another that makes Every Night About This Time come to life. He’s dejected over his situation, at times sounding almost on the verge of tears and the music frames this well with the slow aching horn lines and that stuttering piano. But the notes themselves have just a faint hint of vitality in them which while not invalidating the sentiments at least prevents them from sounding too bleak to the casual listener.

The insistent triplets and Domino’s still higher-pitched vocals paint the picture of somebody who is still young and restless which also takes some of the edge off this tale. Coming from an older – or older sounding – singer the misery would seem more of a permanent condition, somebody whose time was running out and thus he’d have reason to think he’d missed his best chance for lasting love.

By contrast Fats sounds more like a green kid who thought his first serious crush was the real thing only to have his heart broken when it didn’t work out and though it doesn’t hurt any less in the moment it’s also far more likely to be quickly overcome as soon as another girl comes along and turns his head.

The story itself is pretty much by the numbers, the plot points falling in the predictable pattern, but the lyrical descriptions used to tell the story are a step above most songs of this nature. The title itself – and thus the entire framework of the perspective he offers – is particularly good, suggesting that it’s when he’s alone after the lights go out where the impact of losing her hits him the most.

The fact he’s so self aware, asking “Can’t you see what’s wrong with me?” and admitting that as devastated as he is over her departure he’s going to let her alone and go her own way rather than make a futile attempt at winning her back, is a nice touch as well, making it a surprisingly mature look at his own inexperience.

Have To Let My Baby Be
With most artists, especially most major artists, these reviews will focus on their own creative advancements from one release to the next with only a few passing comments made about secondary figures involved on the sessions.

But with Domino, as great as he was in every way – singer, songwriter, musician – his success was inexorably tied to what Dave Bartholomew brought to the table, usually as co-writer (though not here) and as bandleader and producer.

You’d think that this would mean early on like this, despite his recent overwhelming success with Fats and a handful of others who made the national charts under his supervision, that Dave would be itching to show off with complicated arrangements to highlight his creativity, but say what you want about Bartholomew’s (totally warranted) high opinion of himself he was always focused on doing what worked best rather than what made him look good… for he knew if he put out records that sold, that was the best validation of his abilities anyway.

Here on Every Night About That Time he shows just how committed he was to that ideal by resisting every urge to make the backing track stand out and instead letting it discreetly add the right hints of sorrow to the vocals so it all doesn’t fall on Fats’ mournful vocals.

The wisest decision he makes is to keep the horns relatively muted, the tenor sounding like a weary man exhaling, and to not insert a solo anywhere on the record. In the middle eight he slips in a slightly more uptempo undercurrent, but keeps it remarkably subtle so it doesn’t change the mood they’re trying to present.

What he does instead to give it some musical distinction is to lets Fats’ piano take advantage of the limited time in the instrumental spotlight, both with the intro and in the slightly spry fade where he finally breaks from the triplet-heavy parts he featured throughout the record before Ernest McLean chimes in with two closing notes on guitar that are a nice, albeit small, touch.


Can’t You See?
When you think back to the vibrant intoxicating productions Dave had already created behind Fats on the more uptempo numbers and then hear this relatively subdued track, you wouldn’t think this would be the one to break through and firmly establish Domino’s mass appeal.

But the pair remain fixated on establishing – and holding – the proper mood throughout the performance and letting Fats’ plaintive vocals forge the emotional bond with the listener in lieu of any musical fireworks it allowed Every Night About This Time to reach its full potential.

It may not be the best idea, song or performance Domino released in 1950 but it’s as sturdy as any of them, holding up over endless listens by never taking a wrong step, in the process allowing Fats to start building different layers to his persona, something which would enable the pair to have far more latitude in their material going forward.

Not only would Imperial not balk at putting out ballads or sad songs from now on, realizing after this that they had the potential to sell just as much, but it’d ensure that they didn’t get stagnant over the years as they might have if they stuck only to one more specialized approach.

In a career with close to a hundred hits there’s bound to be some that get overlooked or undervalued, but while this may not be near the top of most fans lists of absolute favorites this is a record that in some ways helped to make much of what followed possible in the first place by definitively showing that Fats Domino had more to offer than what first met the eye.


(Visit the Artist page of Fats Domino for the complete archive of his records reviewed to date)