Bartholomew shaped the sound that became rock and roll

With this week’s show, I try to capture in music the place in rock and roll history of Dave Bartholomew, who passed away recently. You can get the show started now and then read on.

Born on Christmas Eve in 1918, Dave Bartholomew was already a bandleader by the time he entered the Army during World War II. As a member of the 196th Army Ground Forces Band, he gained experience in writing and arranging music. By the end of the 40’s with the war over and with folks ready to dance, he led one of the hottest bands in New Orleans becoming part of the evolution of swing into R&B.

Fats Domino (left) and Dave Bartholomew generated a mountain of hits, all recorded from studios run by Cosimo Matassa.

The pivotal year for him was 1950 when he released his first big hit “Country Boy “(which starts the first full set of the show) and he met, recruited into the studio and recorded Fats Domino, scoring a big hit right out of the box with “The Fat Man” (also featured in the first set). His 14-year work relationship with Domino became one of the most celebrated collaborations in rock and roll. Bartholomew wrote and co-wrote many of Domino’s songs, arranged the horns, performed on his records and basically managed the musicians both in the studio and on tour.

During this time, he worked with many other New Orleans artists through his relationship with Lew Chudd and Imperial Records. One of of these talents was Smiley Lewis who you’ll hear singing the original recording of “Blue Monday.” Other artists were Pee Wee Crayton, Shirley and Lee, Snooks Eaglin and Lloyd Price (for Specialty Records). You’ll hear them all performing songs written or arranged by Bartholomew.

A fine musician (trumpet) and singer, Bartholomew was inducted into the Rock Hall of Fame as a non-performer in 1991 — largely because of his deep involvement with Cosimo Matassa’s J&M studio in New Orleans and, according to his Hall of Fame bio, his ability to shape “the rhythmic orientation of that city into a sound everyone would come to know and love as rock and roll.”

I finish out my Bartholomew segment with covers of Bartholomew/Domino songs by Galactic, George Porter Jr., the Roamin’ Jasmine and Allen Toussaint. Federal streaming rules limit how many songs I can play of one artists so I didn’t play “My Ding-a-Ling” a Bartholomew song made famous by Chuck Berry. In prepping for the show, I noticed a fairly significant difference between Berry’s version and Bartholomew’s. While Berry caught some controversy over the suggestive lyrics of his version, he probably would have gotten in even more trouble had he used the lyrics sung by Bartholomew in the original recording.

Bartholomew’s family carries on the tradition of music making. Here is an OffBeat Magazine article that tells you more.

The rest of the show focuses on the music of Louisiana acts that will be performing in the Northwest this summer. I hope you have the chance to see one of these artists live. Here’s the schedule. Thanks for tuning in.

Author: Tim Sweeney

Volunteer deejay for community radio station KAOS 89.3 FM Olympia, Washington -- www.kaosradio.org. Host of Sweeney's Gumbo YaYa - a two-hour radio show featuring the music of New Orleans -- every Thursday starting at 10 a.m. (PST)

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