Joe Lauro, director of Fats Domino and The Birth of Rock ‘n’ Roll, details the hurdles and challenges when making a film about a living legend, and a very private one at that.
The first hurdle was finding archival footage of Fats Domino’s performances from the 1950s and 1960s. Lauro found the footage he needed to go forward with the film in French National Archives, of all places.
Lauro also had to win Fats Domino’s own interest and trust in Lauro to make a documentary film about his career. Lauro was introduced to Domino by a friend and then pitched his film idea; although Domino did not turn it down, he remained ambivalent.
The turnkey proved to be a gift that Lauro made for Domino. Lauro edited vintage footage together of Domino’s favorite boogie-woogie piano players (including James P. Johnson and Meade “Lux” Lewis ) and sent it to him in a video. Domino loved being able to see his music idols and began to take Lauro seriously, calling him “video Joe.” Lauro had won Domino’s attention and trust. Because Fats Domino is such a private man, as is his family, Lauro decided that Domino’s enormously successful career would be the focus of the film.
Lauro was able to interview Domino’s collaborators who had written and performed with him his entire 60-year career, including songwriter and bandleader Dave Bartholomew, saxophonist Herb Hardesty, and lifelong friend and tour manager Billy Diamond.