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DAVE BARTHOLOMEW,
1918-2019

One of rock & roll’s first great producers and songwriters, Dave Bartholomew, died Sunday in his hometown of New Orleans. He was 100.

A trumpeter, arranger and bandleader, he produced and/or wrote scores of Fats Domino’s hits and produced/arranged signature songs from the Big Easy that straddled R&B and rock & roll: Lloyd Price’s “Lawdy Miss Clawdy,” Shirley and Lee’s “Let the Good Times Roll,” Smiley Lewis’ “I Hear You Knocking” and Domino’s “Ain’t That a Shame” and “Blue Monday.”

Bartholomew, inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1991 and the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1998,  was famous for adding a back beat to blues, giving Domino a unique sound on early hits such as 1949’s “The Fat Man.” Bartholomew’s exceptional band, which he led on tours with Domino, featured drummer Earl Palmer and the saxophonists Lee Allen and Alvin “Red” Tyler who would back Little Richard on record and Sam Cooke in concert.

"A rock and roll pioneer, Bartholomew's innovative approach to his craft helped define the New Orleans sound and establish the metropolis as one of our nation's great music cities,” said Recording Academy President/CEO Neil Portnow. “He achieved profound success from his partnership with fellow New Orleans-native Fats Domino, producing and co-writing several chart-topping hits, including ‘Ain't That a Shame,’ ‘I'm Walkin',’ and ‘Let the Four Winds Blow.’ Bartholomew's impactful contributions to the field of recording were recognized by the Recording Academy when he was selected as a Trustees Award recipient in 2012. He has eternally influenced rock and roll music, and his legacy will continue to inspire generations of musicians for years to come.”  

After playing in local bands as a teenager, he started writing and arranging music while in the Army, and after serving in World War II he formed his own group in New Orleans. He was soon signed to Imperial Records and working for them as a talent scout when he heard Domino perform and signed him to the label where Domino would land more than three dozen Top 40 pop hits.

On his own records, Bartholomew opted for a more regional flavor that veered toward big band jazz influenced by rhythms from Africa and the Caribbean. His song titles reflected nightlife in the Big Easy — “Carnival Day,” “Preservation Hall Song”  and one, 1952’s “Who Drank the Beer While I was in the Rear,” had a B-side, “Little Girl Sing Doing-a-Ling” that Chuck Berry would interpret two decades later and register his lone #1 single. In addition, Elvis Presley had a hit with Bartholomew's "One Night." 

 

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