Newfound Fats Domino footage will be part of documentary

Production is underway on a documentary about Fats Domino, the New Orleans recording star who sold 60 million records in the 1950s and ’60s.

Joe Lauro, a regular presenter of historic film footage at the New Orleans roots music festival, the Ponderosa Stomp, began work on the Domino documentary about eight years ago. Lauro is president of Greenport, N.Y.-based Historic Films Archive, LLC.

“The Big Beat: Fats Domino and His Band” will focus on the early years of Domino, his musical collaborator, Dave Bartholomew, and their band members. Lauro has filmed interviews with all of the surviving members of the group, including Domino and Bartholomew.

Rick Coleman, author of the award-winning 2006 biography, “Blue Monday: Fats Domino and the Lost Dawn of Rock ’n’ Roll,” also filmed an interview for the project and contributed photos and album covers.

Covering 1949 (the year Domino recorded his first hit, “The Fat Man”) through 1962, the documentary will include a concert film featuring Domino and his band. Lauro found the film, shot in France in 1962, in the French National Archive.

“To find a 45-minute concert of any African-American rock ’n’ roll band filmed in 1962 is almost completely unheard of,” Lauro says. “Generally, the pioneers of rock, both black and white, were only allowed short appearances on TV dance party or variety shows or they lip-synced one of their current hits in a Hollywood teen movie.”

While Lauro plans to concentrate on Domino and Bartholomew, he also intends to cover members of the duo’s band, including saxophonists Lee Allen and Herb Hardesty, drummer Cornelius “Tenoo” Coleman and guitarist Walter “Papoose” Nelson.

Lauro plans to begin editing the Domino documentary this fall. He has financial backers but is seeking additional funding through an online Kickstarter campaign that launched Aug. 15 at kickstarter.com/projects/1241805955/the-big-beat-the-story-of-fats-domino-and-his-band. The Kickstarter funding will help cover music licensing fees.

“Because Fats has always been extremely shy with interviewers and rarely ever speaks about his music and its history, he has been overlooked by many scholars and fans of American roots music,” Lauro says. “I hope my reputation as a producer-director of films about important American musicians will help us gain an audience who will be wiling to reevaluate Fats and his place in American music.”