Born David Louis Bartholomew, 24 December 1918 (not 1920!), Edgard, Louisiana. Died 23 June 2019, New Orleans, Louisiana.
Bandleader / producer / singer / trumpet player.
Though many artists have recorded Dave Bartholomew's songs, his name will always be linked with that of Fats Domino. Having achieved massive success with Fats, Bartholomew could afford to be relaxed about his own recording career, which always took second place to his work with Domino. In the 1950s he was undoubtedly the most prominent figure on the New Orleans music scene, responsible for arranging and producing timeless R&B records by not only Fats Domino, but also Smiley Lewis, Lloyd Price, Shirley and Lee and many others.
Bartholomew's father was a Dixieland tuba player and the tuba was the first instrument that Dave learned to play, but the trumpet would become his main ins trument. He was tutored on trumpet by Pete Davis, the same man who had taught Louis Armstrong. Around 1933 the Bartholomew family moved from Edgard to New Orleans. Bartholomew played in several brass bands and jazz combos before Uncle Sam came calling. His army stint was very important for the development of his career and his music. While in the 196 AGF band, Dave learned to write and arrange from Abraham Malone. Returning to New Orleans after the war, Bartholomew formed his first band and quickly installed himself as the most popular bandleader in the Crescent City. He first recorded for the DeLuxe label in 1947, followed by a second session in 1949, which yielded "Country Boy", a strong regional seller (some 100,000 copies). By 1949 Dave had expanded his small jazz group into a bigger band that included saxophonists Alvin 'Red' Tyler, Herb Hardesty and Clarence Hall, bass player Frank Fields, guitarist Ernest McLean, pianist Salvador Doucette and drummer Earl Palmer. (And of course, Dave on trumpet and on occasional vocals.) Along with a few other session men (like Lee Allen, who joined later), they would become the bedrock of R&B in New Orleans in the 1950s, playing on countless sessions at Cosimo Matassa's J&M Studio, the only notable studio in town.
In 1949, whilst in Texas, Bartholomew met Lew Chudd, who owned a West Coast label, Imperial Records. From its start in 1947, Imperial had focused on Mexican music, but Chudd now considered a shift to R&B and asked Dave if he would work for him. Bartholomew became house arranger, producer, talent scout and songwriter for Imperial, operating from New Orl eans. The first two artists that Dave recorded, on November 29, 1949, were Tommy Ridgley and Jewel King. The latter, a blues songstress, would peak at # 4 on the R&B charts with "3 x 7 = 21", in the spring of 1950. But it would be preceded as Imperial's first chart entry by a record that was recorded two weeks later.
While he was in New Orleans setting up the first sessions, Lew Chudd was also interested in finding new talent for the label. He had heard about a pretty good pianist at the Hideaway Club and went there with Bartholomew. That was the first time both men heard Fats Domino. Chudd liked him a lot and immediately signed him to Imperial. Four titles were recorded by Domino on December 10, 1949, with Bartholomew's band. "The Fat Man" (based on "Junker's Blues" by Champion Jack Dupree) entered the R&B charts the next February, peaking at # 2, and eventually selling over one million copies.
Still, over the next two years, most of Domino's follow-ups failed to chart. At the end of 1950, Bartholomew left Imperial after a falling out with Lew Chudd. For 18 months, Dave recorded for Decca, King and Specialty, while Domino's recordings were being supervised by Al Young, a white producer. It must be said, though, that Fats had his first R&B # 1 ("Goin' Home", mid-1952) while working with Young. Domino was briefly reunited with Bartholomew in March 1952, when he was moonlighting on piano for the Specialty recording of "Lawdy Miss Clawdy" by Lloyd Price (a # 1 R&B hit, produced by Bartholomew). After that success, Lew Chudd made amends with Dave and the team of Domino and Bartholomew was back in action, better than before. Almost every Domino single reached the R&B Top Ten in 1953-54, but as yet there was no pop success. That came in 1955, with "Ain't It A Shame", Fats's second R&B chart topper (# 10 pop), although he was outsold by a bland cover by Pat Boone. Same story with the next single : Teresa Brewer's version of "Bo Weevil" went to # 17 on the pop charts, against # 35 for Domino's original. But by the spring of 1956, white teenagers had come to prefer the black originals (due to radio station play lists becoming less segregated) and Fats Domino didn't have to worry about white covers anymore. Bartholomew had brought the New Orleans sound into the mainstream. Million seller after million seller followed for Fats in the second half of the 1950s, mostly co-written by Bartholomew and Domino. Dave is also the composer of the infamous "My Ding A Ling", which he first recorded for King in January 1952. He must have thought that the song had hit potential, because he re-recorded it for Imperial in November 1952 and then again with the vocal group The Bees in 1954 (as "Toy Bell"). He was finally proven right in 1972, when Chuck Berry took the song to the top of the charts, taking writing credit in the process.
Throughout the 1950s, Dave arranged and produced many other Imperial artists, like Smiley Lewis, the Spiders, Bobby Mitchell, Chris Kenner, Roy Brown, Frankie Ford (among many others), as well as the duo Shirley and Lee, who recorded for Aladdin. He also cut almost two dozen Imperial singles of his own, mostly vocals, but also instrumentals. He never had a hit under his own name, but was content with his success as a producer and compo ser. Dave stayed loyal to Imperial until Lew Chudd sold the company to Liberty in 1963. He started his own record label, Broadmoor Records, in 1967, even luring Fats himself into the studio for two releases. For the rest, Bartholomew took a laid back approach to music, collecting his BMI checks. (He has 453 titles in the BMI catalogue.) His most ambitious projects were national and international tours with Fats Domino in the 1970s and 1980s.
Dave's first love was Dixieland jazz and he always stayed interested in that genre, leading his own band and releasing his own Dixieland album in 1981. In 1991 Bartholomew was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, as a non-performer. He released two albums in the 1990s, "Dave Bartholomew and the Maryland Jazz Band" (1995) and the disappointing "New Orleans Big Beat" (1998). Now aged 95, Bartholomew is still living in New Orleans. His place in music history is secured.
More info : http://rockhall.com/inductees/dave-bartholomew/bio/
Discography : http://www.duvigneaud.net/dave_bartholomew.html
Acknowledgements : Jeff Hannusch, John Broven, Dawn Eden, Adam Block.
Recommended CD's :
Dik, September 2014
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