Passings: Herb Hardesty, New Orleans Musician Who Worked With Fats Domino (1925 - 2016)

by VVN Music

New Orleans musician Herb Hardesty, who worked extensively with Fats Domino and Dave Bartholomew, died on Saturday in Las Vegas at the age of 91.

Rick Coleman, author of the Fats Domino biography Blue Monday, wrote:

My great friend Herbert Hardesty passed last night at 8:00. He was 91. We were close for 30 years since I first interviewed him in 1986 for my Fats Domino book. He was always sweet and a gentleman. He and Earl Palmer were my very best musician friends. He was, of course, one of the greatest rock 'n' roll and r&b saxophonists, playing the majority of the solos on Fats' hits on classics like "Ain't That a Shame," "I'm Walkin'," "I'm Gonna Be a Wheel Someday," etc., etc. He was also the soloist on Lloyd Price's landmark 1952 hit "Lawdy Miss Clawdy," and countless classics by Smiley Lewis, Shirley & Lee, Bobby Mitchell, Roy Brown, etc. He also played trumpet and was superb on that as well. His versatility was displayed when he was asked to play the baritone solo on Fats' "Blue Monday." Herbert picked up the instrument and played a classic, claiming never to have played a bari before or since. He recorded and toured with Tom Waits in the 1970s. Herbert played with his main man Fats from 1949 to 2006--an incredible nearly 57 year span from the "The Fat Man" session to Fats final gig at Tipitina's. I would be remiss not to mention the great Dave Bartholomew, with whom Herbert played before Fats, and utilized Herbert's skills on countless sessions. The documentary "Walking Back to New Orleans" about Fats' final show at Tipitina's barely mentioned Dave and failed to mention Herbert at all...

Herbert will be returning to New Orleans himself for burial through Rhodes Funeral Home. Marti, his mate of 35 years, is bringing him home from Las Vegas where he had lived for over half a century... God bless you my friend. We love you!

Coleman has been posting a treasure trove of performance videos with Hardesty on his Facebook page.

Born in New Orleans in 1925, he began playing the trumpet at the age of 6 on an instrument given to his father by Louis Armstrong. By the age of 14, he was being paid to play in a number of local bands.

In 1941, Hardesty joined the Army Air Corps, playing saxophone in their band, an instrument he allegedly learned to play in two days. He eventually became a radio technician as part of the Tuskeegee Airmen.

He returned to New Orleans after the war and atteneded Dillard University, playing music on the side at such establishments as the Hurricane Bar and Club Desire. His first recording occurred in 1949 when casual friend Dave Bartholomew asked him to sit in on a session with Chubby Newsome. Later in the year, he toured with Roy Brown.

On December 10, 1949, Hardesty was again in the studio with Bartholomew, this time to record a song called The Fat Man with the young Fats Domino. It started a relationship that would last until Domino's final show at Tipitina's in 2006. Over that time, Herb played on almost every hit that Domino made including I'm Walkin', Ain't That a Shame and Blue Monday.

He also became part of the regular band at Cosimo Matassa's J&M Recording Studio in New Orleans, playing on such hits as Lawdy Miss Clawdy for Lloyd Price along with recordings by Little Richard, Shirley and Lee, Big Joe Turner and many others.

In 1957, Hardesty also tried his hand as a recording artist for labels like Wing, Paoli, Mutual and Federal Records but without great success. A full disc of unreleased material was put out in 2012 by the U.K.'s Ace Records (The Domino Effect). His most successful was probably a single he recorded with The Diamonds (also credited as Herb Hardesty and His Orchestra), Chick-Lets.

Herb was a regular part of Fats Domino's band until 1971 when Hardesty moved to Las Vegas. Over the years, he played with the Duke Ellington Orchestra, the Count Basie Orchestra and Tom Waits group (1978-1979).

In 1980, he rejoined Domino and stayed with him until his final show, later playing with Dr. John.

Hardesty is survived by his partner, Marti, and two sons.





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