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Dave Bartholomew, Composer and Producer Who Guided Fats Domino’s Career, Dead at 100

UNSPECIFIED - JANUARY 01: Photo of Dave BARTHOLOMEW; Posed studio portrait of Dave Bartholomew (Photo by Gilles Petard/Redferns)

New Orleans songwriter, producer, trumpet player, and Fats Domino collaborator Dave Bartholomew died today, the Washington Post reports. His death was confirmed by his son Ron Bartholomew, who did not reveal his father’s cause of death. The foundational rock and roll musician passed away earlier this morning at a hospital in Metairie, Louisiana. He was 100 years old.

Bartholomew was born in Edgard, Louisiana in 1918 to parents Louis and Mary Bartholomew. In his youth, he learned to play the tuba and trumpet before moving to New Orleans at age 15. There, he started performing in local jazz bands before being drafted into the U.S. Army during World War II.

Upon returning to New Orleans in 1945, Bartholomew started his own band, Dave Bartholomew and the Dew Droppers, which became a foundational part of the city’s nascent R&B scene. Songs like “She’s Got Great Big Eyes” and “Country Boy” were recognized outside of his community, with the latter single eventually reaching number 14 on the Billboard R&B chart.

Bartholomew went on to work as an A&R for the early R&B imprint Imperial Records, where he produced hits for Fats Domino, Lloyd Price, and Smiley Lewis. Domino became an especially close collaborator after “The Fat Man,” his 1949 single co-written by Bartholomew, became an astounding success, reaching as high as number 2 on the Billboard R&B charts. Throughout the 1950s and 1960s, Bartholomew helped Domino continue his commercial success, co-writing and producing hits like “Blue Monday,” “I’m Walkin,” “I’m Gonna Be a Wheel Someday” and “Let the Four Winds Blow.”

Bartholomew also had sustained success with other artists. His songs for Earl King, Tommy Ridgley, Robert Parker, T-Bon Walker, the Spiders, and Roy Brown would become some of the biggest R&B hits of the 1950s. Bartholomew songs like “One Night” (written for Fats Domino) and “Witchcraft” (co-written for the Spiders) would eventually be recorded by Elvis Presley. In 1972, Chuck Berry recorded his song “My Ding-a-Ling,” which would go on to become his only number one single on the Billboard Hot 100.

Bartholomew was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1991. Though inducted as a non-performer, his songs have continued to resonate with musicians of all ages. In 1998, he was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame, and later received a Grammy Trustees Award in 2014. He is survived by his sister, eight children, more than 20 grandchildren and great-grandchildren, and his wife of more than 50 years.