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Dave Bartholomew — New Orleans Trumpeter, Songwriter And Bandleader — Dies At 100


Without Dave Bartholomew, rock 'n' roll as we know it might not exist. He was a New Orleans legend - a trumpeter, a songwriter, bandleader and much more. Bartholomew died Sunday at the age of 100. Here's Nick Spitzer, folklorist at Tulane University and host of Public Radio's American Routes, with a remembrance.

NICK SPITZER: Dave Bartholomew was born in Edgard, La., an Afro-Creole community upriver from New Orleans, surrounded by fields of sugar cane. His family moved to New Orleans, where his father was a barber and tuba player. His son's trumpet teacher was Peter Davis, who had taught Louis Armstrong. Dave Bartholomew learned early what he wanted to be in life.


DAVE BARTHOLOMEW: I was cutting sugar cane one day, and it was Thanksgiving. And I started crying in the field. I only cut sugar cane once in my life for only three weeks. And I said, I got to be somebody. The only somebody I knew was that horn. I'm going to try to be something on that horn.


BARTHOLOMEW: (Singing) I'm a little country boy running wild in this big, old town. I'm a little country boy running wild in this big, old town.

SPITZER: "Country Boy" - Dave Bartholomew singing 1949. Prior to that, he'd been in a World War II Army band. After the war, he served as the house bandleader at the Dew Drop Inn, where Bartholomew went on to add new sounds of jump jazz and bebop.


SPITZER: He backed artists like Paul Gayten and Annie Laurie, Roy Brown and Sam Cooke. Bartholomew's players became the studio band at the now-legendary J&M Studios in the French Quarter, where he recorded and produced sessions with Smiley Lewis, Snooks Eaglin, Professor Longhair, Little Richard and Fats Domino. The engineer was the late Cosimo Matassa.


COSIMO MATASSA: If there hadn't been a Dave Bartholomew, there may not have been a Fats Domino. Everything was precise. Everything was rehearsed. Everybody better damn sure wear the same shirt, tie and suit. Dave was the disciplinarian. Dave kept everybody knowing, we're here to make a record. I know we're all having a good time, you know, but we're here to make records.

SPITZER: In 1949, Fats Domino made his first recordings after Bartholomew brought Imperial Records owner Lew Chudd to hear Fats at the Hideaway in the Lower 9th Ward.


BARTHOLOMEW: When I recorded Fats Domino, Fats was playing a song called "The Junker Blues," talking about smoking weed, that type of thing. I say, well, I'm going to call this "The Fat Man." I'm going to call him Fats - Fats Domino.


FATS DOMINO: (Singing) They call, they call me the fat man 'cause I weigh 200 pounds. All the girls - they love me 'cause I know my way around.

SPITZER: "The Fat Man" broke out of New Orleans with Fats Domino's rocking piano, sweet voice and Creole accent. Dave Bartholomew played trumpet and produced this and dozens of other hits, often with the distinctive New Orleans backbeat. By 1955, the duo would bring black and white teen audiences together at concerts in Northern cities when "Ain't That A Shame" went to the top 10. Dave Bartholomew wrote lyrics and shaped the sound for record sales that topped 65 million and made New Orleans rhythm and blues a key progenitor of rock 'n' roll.

Let's say goodbye with one of Dave Bartholomew's most beloved songs, "Blue Monday."


BARTHOLOMEW: (Singing) Blue Monday - how I hate blue Monday - got to work like a slave all day.

SPITZER: For NPR news, I'm Nick Spitzer in New Orleans.


BARTHOLOMEW: (Singing) Oh, hard Tuesday - I'm so tired. I ain't got no time to play. Here come Wednesday. I'm beat to my socks. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Nick Spitzer