Dave Bartholomew, the legendary New Orleans songwriter best known for co-writing and producing "Ain't That a Shame," "I'm Walkin'" and "Let The Four Winds Blow" with fellow legend Fats Domino, died Sunday. He was 100.
"His body simply broke down. Daddy was 100 years and six months old. It was just that time," his son said.
Bartholomew began playing trumpet in childhood and worked as a bandleader and arranger before World War II. In the late 1940s, he began working with Domino, who scored a number of hits and became the one of Rock 'n' Roll's pioneers. Meanwhile, the World War II Army veteran became a giant in the New Orleans music scene, making it almost impossible for artists working in the city during the 1950s and 1960s to avoid him.
The collaboration with Domino resulted in a legendary mix of Bartholomew's "Big Beat" arrangements brought to life with Dominio's boogie-woogie piano. Even when they recorded covers of "Blueberry Hill" or "My Blue Heaven," the songs had the Domino-Bartholomew stamp.
"Actually, we never sat down to write anything. He and I just played," Bartholomew said in a 2010 Times-Picayune interview. "I remember one time on 'I'm in Love Again,' we went outside and somebody said, 'Don't let the dog bite you.' So we come back and put that in the song."
Aside from his work with Domino, Bartholomew scored his own hit with 1949's "Country Boy." He also produced Lloyd Price's "Lawdy Miss Clawdy" and wrote Smiley Lewis' hit "One Night" with Earl King. Elvis Presley famously performed "One Night" during his '68 Comeback Special.
Other important New Orleans-based artists who worked with Bartholomew at Imperial Records include Frankie Ford, Chris Kenner, Huey "Piano" Smith and Shirley & Lee. He also appeared on tours with Domino, Allen Toussaint and Dr. John.
"He genuinely loved music, and he genuinely loved being part of the birth of rock 'n' roll as an expression of New Orleans music," WWNO radio host Gwen Thompkins told NOLA.com. "He loved not just having hits, but he loved music, and he loved to get the music right."
George Ingmire, a documentarian who has tracked New Orleans' rich musical history, told NOLA.com that Bartholomew was known for running a "tight ship in the studio."
"There was no showing up late. There was no drinking," Ingmire explained. "You wouldn't have the number of hits that Fats Domino and others who recorded at Cosimo Matassa's studio were it not for that tight ship. There was an enthusiasm and a work ethic that went around. Dave set the tone."
Bartholomew outlived many of his contemporaries, including Domino, who died in 2017.
He is survived by his wife, Rhea; five sons, all of whom still live in New Orleans; three daughters; and many grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
Photo credit: David Redfern/Redferns/Getty Images