Dave Bartholomew, a New Orleans trumpeter, songwriter, arranger and producer who guided the career of Fats Domino and whose recordings brought the festive spirit of his hometown to a national audience in the 1950s, died June 23 at a hospital in Metairie, La. He was 100.
His son Ron Bartholomew confirmed the death but did not give a precise cause.
Mr. Bartholomew, a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee, arranged and produced some of the most memorable recordings of the early rock era, including Lloyd Price’s “Lawdy Miss Clawdy” (1952), Shirley and Lee’s “Let the Good Times Roll” (1956) and Domino’s “Blueberry Hill” (1956).
As a creator of the new rock-and-roll idiom, Mr. Bartholomew crafted arrangements that borrowed liberally from big-band jazz, Dixieland, New Orleans parade bands and even country music.
“At that time, there weren’t any other good arrangers in New Orleans,” said rhythm-and-blues historian Jeff Hannusch. “R&B records weren’t arranged. You were doing stuff off the seat of your pants. It was brand new. You were throwing stuff at the wall to see what would stick.”
The Domino-Bartholomew collaboration began in 1949 when Mr. Bartholomew, a big-band trumpeter and fledgling talent scout, introduced the portly boogie-woogie pianist to Imperial Records. Mr. Bartholomew went on to produce many of Domino’s records, and they also co-wrote such enduring hits as “I’m Walkin’ ” (1957) and “Ain’t That a Shame” (1955). Later, the duo purchased the work of other writers for Domino to perform, including Bobby Charles (“Walkin’ to New Orleans”) and Roy Hayes (“I’m Gonna Be A Wheel Someday”).
Glenn Miller and Louis Armstrong had recorded Domino’s signature song, “Blueberry Hill,” in the 1940s. However, the Domino-Bartholomew version has become the standard arrangement. When Domino sang the line “The wind in the willow played,” Mr. Bartholomew created a melody line that overlapped the pianist’s vocal and filled out the song’s sparse accompaniment.
“I was just covering up an empty spot,” he told the New Orleans music magazine Offbeat in 1990. “But now, everybody who plays ‘Blueberry Hill’ has to have that part in the middle. If it doesn’t come up in the middle, then it’s not ‘Blueberry Hill.’ ”
Mr. Bartholomew also worked with Smiley Lewis, a booming-voiced blues singer whom the arranger termed a “bad luck singer” because his most popular records invariably became bigger hits for other performers.
For Lewis, he wrote “I Hear You Knocking,” later covered by actress and pop singer Gale Storm, “Blue Monday” — an ode to the working week that was more successful for Domino — and “One Night” (1956), sometimes called “One Night of Sin.” The last, a bluesy song about a wild party (“the things I did and I saw would make the Earth stand still”), became a pop hit when Elvis Presley rerecorded it in 1957 — with significant changes to the lyrics.
Presley also covered the song “Witchcraft,” a 1955 hit that Mr. Bartholomew co-wrote for the Spiders, a former gospel group that became a popular rhythm-and-blues act.
Members of the Bartholomew band — including drummer Earl Palmer and saxophonists Lee Allen, Herb Hardesty and Alvin “Red” Tyler — made up the session unit at J&M Studio that would establish New Orleans as a recording center.
Hannusch said that, as a bandleader, Mr. Bartholomew was a “strict disciplinarian” and was “good at telling the players what he wanted to hear. If I were a musician, I wouldn’t want to mess up, because he had a real short temper. . . . I heard him cuss musicians out, but he’d always do it offstage.”
Mr. Bartholomew’s 1991 induction in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame was in the non-performer category, a nod to his prowess behind the scenes. However, as a singer, his 1950 recording of “Country Boy”reached the Top 10 of Billboard rhythm-and-blues charts. Few of his other recordings as a vocalist sold outside of the Crescent City. He said he was surprised when his 1952 record “My Ding-A-Ling” — a smutty novelty he co-wrote and one that he recalled a disc jockey threw in the trash — became a hit for Chuck Berry two decades later.
Dave Louis Bartholomew was born in Edgard, La., on Dec. 24, 1918. He grew up in New Orleans, where his father ran a barbershop. He studied trumpet with Peter Davis, who had taught Louis Armstrong. By his teens, he was working in Dixieland bands and performing on Mississippi riverboat excursions.
In 1942, he briefly joined the Jimmie Lunceford Orchestra before being drafted into the Army during World War II. He played trumpet in a military band, then returned to New Orleans after his discharge and formed his own orchestra.
In 1949, at a gig in Houston, Mr. Bartholomew was approached by Lew Chudd, owner of the fledgling California record label Imperial to work as a talent scout and arranger. One of his first acts as a scout was to recruit Domino to the label.
In 1942, Mr. Bartholomew married Pearl King, who was listed as a co-writer of some of his songs. She died in 1967. Survivors include his wife of more than 50 years, the former Rhea Douse; eight children; a sister; and more than 20 grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
He was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1998 and received a Grammy Trustees Award in 2014.
Occasionally, Mr. Bartholomew erred in judgment. He said he advised Chudd not to release “Blueberry Hill.”
“I said, ‘Man, you’re crazy. That’s a nothing song,’ ” Mr. Bartholomew told Offbeat magazine. “Two weeks later, Lew called me and said, ‘From now on, you keep making those nothing songs.’ We had just shipped three million. That was unheard of during that time period. He said, ‘Go downtown and pick out any kind of car you want for your bonus.’ ”
He added, “I went out and got the biggest Eldorado Cadillac I could find.”
Correction: An earlier version of this obituary misstated some of the lyrics to Fats Domino’s “Blueberry Hill.” Domino sings, “The wind in the willow played,” not “The wind in the willow tree.” An earlier version also incorrectly reported that Mr. Bartholomew was divorced from his first wife, Pearl King. They were married in 1942, and she died in 1967, according to his son Ron Bartholomew. The story has been updated.
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