Dave Bartholomew, New Orleans Giant, Dead at 100

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Dave Bartholomew (right)
with Fats Domino

Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee Dave Bartholomew, who discovered Fats Domino and co-wrote, arranged and produced many of the pianist’s hits, died today (June 23) at age 100. His death was confirmed by his son, according to published obituaries from New Orleans. The cause was heart failure. The place of death has not yet been revealed.

A trumpeter and bandleader in his own right, Bartholomew found his greatest success working behind the scenes in New Orleans. He is also a member of the Songwriters Hall of Fame and the recipient of a special Grammy Trustees Award (the latter was presented to him by Dr. John, who recently passed away).

Among the songs Bartholomew is credited with writing or co-writing are “Ain’t That a Shame,” “Walking to New Orleans,” “I’m In Love Again,” “Blue Monday” and “I’m Walkin’” for Domino. He also arranged Domino’s hit version of “Blueberry Hill.”

Bartholomew also wrote “I Hear You Knocking,” a hit for Smiley Lewis (and later Dave Edmunds) and “My Ding-a-Ling,” a #1 hit for Chuck Berry. He co-wrote “One Night,” an Elvis Presley hit (first recorded by Lewis). And Bartholomew wrote and produced “Lawdy Miss Clawdy” for Lloyd Price (with Domino on piano) and arranged and produced “Let the Good Times Roll” for Shirley and Lee.

Listen to Bartholomew’s own version of “My DIng-a-Ling”

Davis Louis Bartholomew was born in Edgard, La., on Dec. 24, 1918. He moved to New Orleans in 1933, where he took up the trumpet, inspired by Louis Armstrong. Bartholomew played with local jazz bands, then, after serving in the Army during World War II, led a dance band in the city, the Dew Droppers, which is often credited as helping to usher in the rhythm and blues style and setting the scene for rock ‘n’ roll. Bartholomew and his group recorded their first sides for De Luxe Records in 1947 and he had a top 20 R&B hit in 1950 with “Country Boy.”

Watch Dave Bartholomew perform with Fats Domino in 1986

In 1949, he was hired by Imperial Records in New Orleans as an A&R man, and discovered the young Antoine “Fats” Domino., recording the latter’s first single, “The Fat Man,” that year.

Dave Bartholomew

That single sold over a million copies and launched the careers of both men. Bartholomew recorded  his own version of his composition “My Ding-a-Ling” in 1952, but the Berry cover didn’t arrive for another two decades, when it reached #1 on the pop chart (remarkably, Berry’s only single to do so).

Related: Our report on the death of Fats Domino

In addition to the string of Domino hits (Domino died in 2017), Bartholomew’s songs were also recorded by numerous other New Orleans-based artists, including Chris Kenner and Frankie Ford. After Imperial Records was sold in 1963 (at which time Bartholomew and Domino ended their professional relationship, not working together again for decades), Bartholomew continued to write, arrange and produce for other labels. He also led a traditional Dixieland band in the ’70s and ’80s. Bartholomew was inducted into the Rock Hall in 1991 in the Non-Performer category.

Watch Fats Domino perform “Blueberry Hill,” arranged by Dave Bartholomew, on The Ed Sullivan Show

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Jeff Tamarkin

Best Classic Bands Editor Jeff Tamarkin has been a prolific music journalist for more than four decades. He is formerly the editor of Goldmine, CMJ andRelix magazines, has written for dozens of other publications and has authored liner notes for more than 80 CDs. Jeff has also served on the Nominating Committee of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and as a consultant to the Grammys. His first book was 'Got a Revolution! The Turbulent Flight of Jefferson Airplane.' He is also the co-author of 'Shell Shocked: My Life with the Turtles, Flo and Eddie, and Frank Zappa, etc.,' with Howard Kaylan.
Jeff Tamarkin
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