In Memoriam: Dave Bartholomew

Published on: June 23rd, 2019

906 Dave Bartholomew [Photo by Black Mold]

Dave Bartholomew [Photo by Black Mold]
Dave Bartholomew at WWOZ in 2004 [Photo by Black Mold]

Famed New Orleans producer, composer, arranger, and musician Dave Bartholomew has passed away on June 23, 2019 at the age of 100. Bartholomew is best known for his string of hits with Fats Domino, Smiley Lewis, Earl King, Shirley & Lee, James “Sugar Boy” Crawford, Robert Parker, and Lloyd Price, among others. His decadeslong influence on the city’s jazz, rhythm and blues, rock’n’roll, soul, and funk sounds cannot be overstated.

Bartholomew was born in Edgard, LA, on December 24, 1918. In 1930, he began studying trumpet with Peter Davis, who had previously taught Louis Armstrong. In 1933, he started playing with Papa Celestin’s band, and went on to work with Clyde Kerr. In the late '30s, he joined the Fats Pichon Band and toured up and down the Mississippi River with the group. These experiences influenced his later work which encompassed elements of pop, country, blues, rock’n’roll, and Dixieland jazz.

Bartholomew served in the U.S. Army during World War II and played in the U.S. Army Band, an opportunity that allowed him to try his hand at scoring and arranging songs. After the war, he began working with the musicians who would become the foundation of R&B in New Orleans and was hired, in 1949, to become house arranger, bandleader, and talent scout for Imperial Records.

Bartholomew’s career with Imperial flourished throughout the 1950s and early 1960s. His most notable triumphs came during his 14-year partnership with Fats Domino, for whom he produced two Billboard #1 hits: “Goin’ Home” and “Ain’t That A Shame,” as well as many other very popular songs. Bartholomew also climbed the charts himself with a national R&B hit, “Country Boy,” that went to #14 in 1949. He worked for numerous labels throughout his career, including Mercury, Aladdin, Trumpet, and his own label, Broadmoor.

Bartholomew’s songs have been recorded by many artists outside of New Orleans, as well. Musicians as varied as Elvis Presley, Chuck Berry, Ricky Nelson, Elton John, The Rolling Stones, Paul McCartney, Bob Seger, Joe Cocker, Hank Williams, Jr., and Joe Cocker have all laid his tracks down with great success.

Bartholomew displayed a keen sense of humor in choosing the songs he recorded for himself. Titles include, ‘Who Drank My Beer While I Was In The Rear,’ ‘My Ding-A-Ling,’ and, more seriously, ‘The Monkey.” 

Bartholomew was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1991, The Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1998, and The Louisiana Music Hall of Fame in 2009 (a year coinciding with the 60th anniversary of his historic first recording session with Fats Domino). 

WWOZ sends its best wishes to his family and friends, and our appreciation for the decades of music he gave us.

Dave Bartholomew will be laid to rest on Monday, July 8, with a "Blue Monday" funeral at St. Gabriel the Archangel Church (4700 Pineda St.) in New Orleans. A visitation that will be open to the public will be held from 9-11:45a. A Mass will follow at noon and will also be open to the public. A private burial will follow.

If you have thoughts or memories you’d like to share, please leave a comment below. 

Below, some of the photos of Dave Bartholomew that we’ve captured over the years, plus video of his appearance at WWOZ in 2008 alongside Cosimo Matassa.

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