Rock ’n’ Roll Pioneer Dave Bartholomew Dies at 100

1918 - 2019

By Renetta Burrell Perry

The ancestors taught us that death comes in threes. We’ve seen this prophesy come into fruition over the past several weeks. On the heels of losing Leah Chase and Dr. John, New Orleans has lost yet another iconic legend.

Dave Bartholomew; master trumpeter, singer, songwriter, bandleader, producer and one of the principle architects of what we know today as Rock ’n’ Roll died this past Sunday at the age of 100. His son Don shared in his social media post that his father was 100 years and six months old. He said his father’s body was simply tired and he tearfully lamented that Dave was a great man.
Best known as songwriter and producer for a string of Fats Domino’s 1950s/1960s epic hits “Ain’t That a Shame,” “Blue Monday,” and “Walking to New Orleans,” among others, Bartholomew’s artistry transcended New Orleans and flowed around the musical universe, introducing a new sound that would eventually influence generations of musicians all over the world (Elton John, Paul McCartney and the Rolling Stones have all fused his work into projects of their own).

Aside from the mega collaborations between he and Domino, he penned “One Night” for Elvis Presley, “My Ding-a-Ling,” originally recorded by Bartholomew himself, then performed by Chuck Berry, “Let the Good Times Roll” for Shirley and Lee, “I Hear You Knocking” for Smiley Lewis and more. But collaborations between he and Domino yielded 65 singles on the Billboard pop chart between 1955 and 1964.

He was the recipient of numerous awards and accolades including the Grammy’s Trustees Award in 2012 and in 1991 he was inducted into the Rock ’N’ Roll Hall of Fame as a Songwriter.
Born in Edgard, Louisiana, Bartholomew was influenced early-on by the sounds of Louis Armstrong and his father who also was a jazz trumpeter. He started off playing the tuba then the trumpet and eventually played with Joe Robicheaux and Papa Celestin. He would later inspire big named, home-grown players like Allen Toussaint and Dr. John, and many credit his Fats Domino 1949 classic hit, “The Fat Man” with being the first rock ’n’ roll record.
Mayor LaToya Cantrell tweeted: “After giving the world a century of magic and putting in the hard work to create it, Dave Bartholomew has passed. It’s no understatement to say American music would sound very different without his contributions and his talent. Dave Bartholomew helped make the New Orleans sound that echoes around the world to this day. May he rest in God’s perfect peace.”

Famed New Orleanian/Actor Wendell Pierce tweeted: “I heard the news this evening in London that Dave Bartholomew had died. After the shock and sadness, I feel a sense of responsibility. He created the template to leave the boundary of New Orleans and share our artistry with the world. He leaves a great legacy.” Speaking of Dave’s sophistication and ineptness as a renaissance man, he continued, “Dave Bartholomew lived in my neighborhood of Pontchartrain Park. He commuted between New Orleans and Los Angeles as easily as you catch a streetcar on St. Charles Ave. For a Black man in the 40s/50s, by example he displayed a great sense of self-reliance: impressive to me as a boy.”

At press time, no funeral arrangements had been announced.

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