Venerated musician Dave Bartholomew is turning 100 this month and was scheduled to be the guest of honor at his 100th birthday bash this past Saturday. However, he has been hospitalized and is currently under doctor’s care.
OffBeat spoke with Bartholomew’s son, Don Bartholomew, who informed us his father was taking medication for a urinary tract infection and suffered complications. After being taken to a hospital in an ambulance, it was determined the medication had infiltrated his bloodstream to a problematic degree. That was cleared up, at which point doctor’s noticed high levels of potassium in his blood, a sign of heart failure. However, Mr. Bartholomew is in good spirits and expected to be released later this week.
In fact, he seems to already be on the mend. “He kept me up talking until two in the morning,” Don says. “I was ready to get out of there!”
As of now, Dave’s centennial birthday celebration plans are on hold but will be revisited in 2019 with a tribute concert.
In the current issue of OffBeat, John Swenson spoke with Bartholomew about his milestone of a birthday and his legacy. The following is an excerpt:
I did so many songs with so many people, all in New Orleans, that I can’t remember them all. It was a wonderful time. Fats Domino, Smiley Lewis, T-Bone Walker, I was running the whole thing. I didn’t have to get an okay from anyone else. I sold millions and millions and millions of records. I wasn’t getting millions, I was getting thousands because I didn’t own any of the publishing back then. I wrote the songs, but I was working for Lew Chudd then. You’ve got to keep in mind when we first started I didn’t know anything about publishing. I was just looking for a job so I could take care of my family. Down in Louisiana we would make a record so it would get played and we could expose ourselves and make money and people would know us. I was a talent scout for the whole country. I could have recorded anywhere I wanted but I recorded in New Orleans. I made a few records on my own that made a little bit of noise—‘Country Boy,’ ‘My Ding-a-Ling’ and a few little things like that. ‘My Ding-a-Ling,’ I actually wrote that in the ’40s but nothing came of it so I threw it in the trash can. Then along came Chuck Berry in 1972 and he recorded the thing in London. Somebody called me and said ‘You got the number one tune in London.’ I said ‘What is it?’ ‘My Ding-a-Ling.’ You got to be kidding. The last time I saw it was in the trash can. But all in all I did all right. My band was very popular. It was a household name for many, many years. I had a radio show on WJMR comin’ out of Cosimo Matassa’s record store on Rampart Street. It was a tremendous success. Everyone wanted to come in and play with Dave Bartholomew. We had tunes, we were knockin’ them out.
Get well soon, Dave!