It is another of those off-piste moments for Salut! Live and the Cover Story series comparing the same song, different versions.
First of all, join me in saluting the memory and achievements of Fats Domino, who has just died aged 89. He was one of the artists whose work I most enjoyed when I started listening to music, and Blueberry Hill was among the first records I bought back then. It may still be in the loft along with greatest hits LPs by the Everly Brothers and the Shadows.
That would have been at the very start of my American pop phase - Del Shannon, Crystals, Ronettes, Chiffons, even - briefly .. honest - Patsy Cline, Skeeter Davis and Jim Reeves - just before the Mersey Beat phenomenon and, later, the blues and folk music. Oddly enough, Domino's Blueberry Hill was released in 1956 - when I was only eight - so I can only think it had some renewed airtime and interest in the early 1960s.
So that was the second mistake in your life...— Bob Hudson (@Bob__Hudson) October 25, 2017
The other mistake Bob refers to was, of course, making Sunderland AFC my lifelong footballing passion. Of which, mercifully, no more here.
There really is no contest when it comes to Blueberry Hill (unless you know of a contender). It has to be Fats.
But I offer a version by way of comparison from a duo formed by two of the best-known products of French and Canadian music respectively, Johnny Hallyday and Celine Dion.
Hallyday is France's Elvis. I enjoy some of his songs, recognise a strong voice and wish him well in his struggle to overcome cancer.
I once had a builder doing a job for me in France who'd play his music non-stop as he worked and that was certainly a test of my appreciation.
But I was delighted when the decidedly left-wing British singer-songwriter Robb Johnson wrote a terrific series for these pages on a singer whose work he, occasionally to his own surprise, adored. Catch the first of a three-part series (there are links to the other instalments) at https://www.salutlive.com/2007/07/robb-johnson-my.html.
Celine Dion's singing is always impressive, outstanding even, if some of her song choices leave me cold. I recall my old pal Rudy, the animator at a karaoke bar in Le Lavandou, saying he lost the will to live once the fifth female wannabe singer on the same night had chosen Pour que tu m'aimes encore or My Heart Will Go On as her song.
I also remember my French wife, her sister and sister's husband laughing out loud at Dion's French-Canadian accent when interviewed on French TV. It naturally sounded fine to me.
But that has nothing to do with this comparison. Hallyday and Dion don't do too much wrong on the live version
I reproduce here. Without the slightest attempt to be mawkish because the man has just died, Fats Domino is streets ahead. For me, Domino dominance begins with his own boogie-woogie piano introduction.
And I did not know until now that Domino was christened Antoine and was of French Creole descent. Nor, until I read the New York Times obituary, that he described himself as being as wide as he was tall ("rotund and standing 5 feet 5 inches"). Still less that Presley once responded to a reporter's reference to him being the king of rock and roll by pointing to Domino (also in the room) and saying: “There’s the real king of rock ’n’ roll.”
There is also an earlier version of Blueberry Hill by Louis Armstrong. I had a lot of time for Satchmo but find it too slow (that said, I left the YouTube stream running and thoroughly enjoyed all the tracks that followed).
Thanks for the music, Fats Domino, and especially for this interpretation.
* Please use the Salut! Live Amazon link to buy Fats Domino's Blueberry Hill - and whatever else takes your fancy while there (it won't make me rich but every little helps keep the site afloat) at https://www.amazon.co.uk/exec/obidos/ASIN/B00008LNYR/salusund-21