A sign bobbing above the sea of captain's hats and blue and white outfits declared Nov. 1 "All Fats Day" for "St. Antoine of the Lower Nine."
From Vaughan's Lounge in Bywater to the gates of his black-and-yellow landmark on Caffin Avenue in the Lower 9th Ward, an enormous crowd joined a second line parade honoring rock 'n' roll legend and New Orleans icon Antoine "Fats" Domino, who died Oct. 24 at age 89.
Trumpeter and bandleader James Andrews led the band powering the parade, easily overtaking both sides of the St. Claude Avenue bridge over the industrial canal.
The Original Big Nine Social Aid and Pleasure Club's golden banner waved in the front with the Pigeon Town Steppers' fleet of baby pink and light blue suits and feathers, followed by members of Treme Million Dollar Baby Dolls and Black Storyville Baby Dolls, and horn players, percussionists, tambourine shakers, dancers and hundreds of fans marching alongside and wrapped up in them.
Don Bartholomew, son of legendary producer and arranger Dave Bartholomew, and Domino's grandson Chevis Brimmer paraded among the musicians.
The procession brought with it all the sights, sounds and smells of a neighborhood second line — dancing on utility boxes and rooftops, kegs in shopping carts and Heinekens in Igloo coolers, barbecue sandwiches smoked in the beds of trucks, bicycles with slow jams coming from portable speakers — but on a massive scale, concentrating citywide joy and a celebration of life into one main thoroughfare and Domino's block on Caffin Avenue. On a Wednesday.
Outside Domino's former home, Al "Carnival Time" Johnson, Dr. John, Troy "Trombone Shorty" Andrews, Charmaine Neville and members of Domino's family looked out from the porch of 1208 Caffin Ave. to see the streets and neutral ground filled with hundreds of fans, many of whom left flowers and other memorials at its gates following Domino's death. WWOZ-FM's Action Jackson passed around microphone.
"I think he was one of the best ever," said Dr. John.
"If it wouldn't have been for people like Fats Domino, Dr. John, Al 'Carnival Time,' I wouldn't have a foundation to keep this music going around the world," said Trombone Shorty. "Rest in peace to the real king of rock 'n' roll, Fats Domino."