[UPDATE - both Fats Domino and Irma Thomas were found to be alive and out of harm's way last night]
Fats Domino, 76, is missing. New Orleans' legendary Fat Man had lived with his wife, Rosemary, and daughter in a three-story pink-roofed house in New Orleans’ 9th ward, which is now a seascape. But I don't want to talk about him yet, nor New Orleans' "Queen of Soul" Irma Thomas, nor Ernie K-Doe's widow Antoinette (proprietess of the Mother-in-Law Lounge on N. Claiborne Avenue), for they are missing too. And I don't want to write anything that sounds like an obituary because I desperately want them to turn up alive and well, or at least alive.
But I do want to talk about another New Orleans legend because he isn't missing, just a refugee. As of last night, Allen Toussaint, who has done as much as anyone to craft the classic sound of New Orleans over the last 50 years, was stuck at the reeking, leaking Superdome waiting for a bus to Houston's Astrodome.
Allen Toussaint, an exceptional pianist and arranger in the '50s, was the most important producer and songwriter of New Orleans R&B and rock 'n' roll of the '60s. He produced and/or wrote classic, gently funky rhythm numbers and timeless ballads for Lee Dorsey, Barbara George, Clarence “Frogman” Henry, Jesse Hill, Ernie K-Doe, Chris Kenner, The Meters, Aaron Neville, The Showmen, Benny Spellman, and (sigh) Irma Thomas.
Toussaint, along with partner Marshall Sehorn, built the Sea-Saint recording studios in the '70s (where Paul Simon and Paul McCartney both recorded), and continued to produce excellent records for Chocolate Milk, Dr. John, Albert King, Labelle, The Wild Tchoupitoulas (aka the Meters), himself, and many others.
In the '90s Toussaint formed a new label, NYNO, to produce and release indigenous New Orleans music (including his own first album in nearly 20 years), and in '98 he was elected into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. In addition to those he has produced, Toussaint has written songs covered by Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass ("Whipped Cream"), Glen Campbell ("Southern Nights"), Al Hirt ("Java"), Little Feat, Robert Palmer, Pointer Sisters ("Yes We Can Can"), Bonnie Raitt, Rolling Stones, Boz Scaggs, and countless others.
Allen Toussaint was born January 14, 1938 in the Gert Town neighborhood of New Orleans. "It was the piano itself that prompted me to take up music. When I was a small child my Aunt Ethlyn sent an upright piano to our house for my sister, and when I touched the keys I was delighted. My sister started taking lessons, and when I would pick out little melodies, she would tell me what notes they were," Toussaint told me in a late-'90s interview in his soothing Crescent City tones.