Dave “I invented the big beat” Bartholomew 1918-2019.

The late, great Fats Domino left with Dave Bartholomew, who died in New Orleans on Sunday, June 23rd 2019.

Born Davis Bartholomew in Louisiana in 1918, Dave helped write and record some of early rock ’n’ roll’s most enduring hits, including ‘Lawdy Miss Clawdy’ for Lloyd Price in 1952, ‘Ain’t That a Shame’ in 1955 and ‘Blueberry Hill’ in 1956 for Fats Domino, and ‘I Hear You Knocking’ for Smiley Lewis in 1955. Bartholomew also  produced ‘Let the Good Times Roll’ for Shirley and Lee in 1956. 

Dave Bartholomew had almost 40 U.S. Top 40 hits and sold some 100 million records with Fats Domino alone, whom he discovered in New Orleans in 1949. “Dave heard me” (in the Hideaway Club), said Fats. “I didn’t know anything about making a record until he said, ‘We’re going into the studio next week’”.

At the control panel, Bartholomew described himself as a slave driver. Cosimo Matassa, owner of New Orleans’ J&M studio, once observed, “Fats’ very salvation was Dave being stern enough and rigid enough to insist on getting things done.” Their first single, ‘The Fat Man’, recorded in December 1949 for Imperial, sold over a million. 

Altogether, Dave Bartholomew had over 4,000 song-writing credits. His ‘I Hear You Knocking’, covered in Britain by Welsh rocker Dave Edmunds in 1970, spent six weeks as UK number one. He liked to say, “I invented the big beat”.

The young Dave Bartholomew.

Taught trumpet by Pete Davis – also Louis Armstrong’s trumpet tutor – Bartholomew moved in 1933 from the sugar town of Edgard on the Mississippi River, to New Orleans, with his family. Aged 15, he also played tuba like his musician father. Back in those days before electrification, the tuba had more cut-through than the string bass.

In New Orleans, Dave led jazz, brass and riverboat bands before writing and arranging for the U.S. Army through WW2. After the war, he formed Dave Bartholomew and the Dew Droppers, a hot band pioneering rhythm & blues from jump blues and swing. “Putting it mildly, said a 1947 review .… “they make the house rock”.

Dave Bartholomew songs ‘One Night’ and ‘Witchcraft’ were hits for Elvis Presley and Dave also wrote/arranged/produced for everyone from T-Bone Walker to Roy Brown to R&B singer Robert Parker.

Dave Bartholomew is survived by his second wife, Rhea, and eight children from various relationships.

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