“There’s no first rock ‘n’ roll record,” Terry Stewart, president and CEO of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, said standing outside a laundromat on North Rampart Street. “In 1949 when the gentlemen over here with the trumpet, when he and Fats Domino made ‘The Fat Man,’ you can argue that that’s the conceptual start for all this music.” The man with the horn was Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee Dave Bartholomew, and he and Cosimo Matassa were the guests of honor as the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame designated 840 N. Rampart St. – the one-time site of J&M Studios – a rock ‘n’ roll landmark, the 11th in the Hall of Fame’s Landmark series.
“This is the most impactful art form created by mankind,” Stewart said of rock ‘n’ roll. “I remind who how it changed the world for civil rights, for women’s rights and the green movement.”
Stewart presided over the event, which coincided with the start of the Ponderosa Stomp and recognized the Stomp’s Dr. Ira Padnos for his guidance as the Hall of Fame prepares to honor Dave Bartholomew and Fats Domino in November. “Dr. Ike has been a critical part of putting that together.”
Matassa, who owned the studio and engineered classic recording sessions with Domino, Lloyd Price, Roy Brown, Little Richard and many more, sat throughout the ceremony. He suffered a stroke earlier this year and didn’t go to the microphone. Bartholomew was a performer, writer and arranger in Matassa’s studio, and he spoke for the two of them, remembering the other musicians who were a part of those classic New Orleans R&B recordings: “The late Earl Palmer, the late Lee Allen, the great Herbert Hardesty, Dr. John and it goes on and on,” he said. “And you can’t forget the great Cosimo Matassa, Allen Toussaint – one of the greatest – and you can’t forget my partner, Antoine ‘Fats’ Domino. So many great musicians walked through these doors here.” Shortly after, Bartholomew led the audience in an impromptu, a cappella version of “My Ding-a-Ling.”
At one point, Stewart said, “Nobody in New Orleans is shy,” and that observation was borne out in one of the event’s more unusual moments. After the plaque was unveiled, Stewart asked Bartholomew to play. As he started, another trumpet player stepped up and started his own version of “Do You Know What it Means (to Miss New Orleans)?” Bartholomew tried to play along, but the phrasing was so eccentric that he finally had to stop his ad hoc accompanist before playing an ending. Here’s the raw video: