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For the first time in his now three year recording career, Dave Bartholomew stepped foot into the studio to cut his latest batch of records in March of 1950 while basking in the glow of his success in another capacity.

Over the past few weeks two of the records he wrote and produced for others, Fats Domino’s The Fat Man and Jewel King’s 3×7=21, had cracked the national Billboard charts (and he’d soon strike pay dirt again with Archibald’s Stack-A-Lee) and with those impressive achievements padding his résumé the focus on Bartholomew’s OWN career was irrevocably altered.

At this point of course that may not have affected his thinking as he stepped to the microphone but it’s appropriate and more than a little ironic to note that the lead single to emerge from that session turned out to be a song that exemplified that shift in roles as much as any other.


Spend The Rest Of My Life
Dave Bartholomew may still have been thinking of himself primarily as an artist in the early part of 1950 but as was becoming clearer with each passing week he was transforming into someone far more responsible for the careers of OTHER artists in his new role as Imperial Records producer and naturally that would begin to dictate where his best compositions would end up.

Ain’t Gonna Do It certainly isn’t his best, or perhaps not even among the upper echelon if we’re particularly ruthless in imposing a strict cut-off for his vast catalog of classics, but despite failing to make a mark with it himself with today’s release it was a song that he continually believed in and kept recycling with a wide array of artists hoping that one of them might do it justice.

He’d go on to cut it with The Pelicans, Smiley Lewis, Roy Brown and Fats Domino over the next dozen years while Sonny Burgess turned in a credible rockabilly version that Bartholomew had nothing to do with but which shows that he wasn’t alone in thinking this song had potential.

But of all of those only Smiley Lewis really succeeded with it artistically and it has become the definitive performance of the song, instantly memorable as much for his shimmering bell horn vocals as its catchy melody.

However that’s six years down the road still, which means for those hearing this release by Dave Bartholomew in April 1950 they had nothing to compare it to and so it’d be up to Dave, and Dave alone, to try and make it memorable.

Oh No… No No
Even without factoring in Lewis’s definitive take on this song, this is actually a fairly decent record even if it’s clear on first listen that it’s not quite all it could be.

You can certainly see why Bartholomew was gung-ho about this tune all those years however. I mean forget about the royalties he’d receive for constantly reviving it but the fact is this has got a really good groove to it, a melody that can’t help but become stuck in your head and plenty of room for some tasty solos that were right up the alley of his stellar band of musicians.

Unfortunately the one relative weakness of the original Ain’t Gonna Do It is the guy delivering it vocally.

I feel bad saying that because Bartholomew is a singer I really like even though he’s got a very unusual tone and a quirky sense of vocal rhythm that can take awhile to get a handle on as a listener. But if those aren’t exactly weaknesses then they’re at least obstacles that need to be overcome with songs that negate those technical drawbacks. When he’s at his best he’s even able to capitalize on those vocal quirks by coming up with with songs featuring an equally unique structure.

But unfortunately for him this is a much more straightforward sort of composition that doesn’t lend itself to that sort of shape-shifting delivery. It sets a sensible melodic course that never deviates, employs a steady rhythm that is easy to grasp and tells a pretty basic story with no odd lyrical embellishments to give it a sense of whimsy that Bartholomew’s vocals can accentuate.

In other words it’s an ideal song… for anybody else! Someone who’s more of a natural singer with an effortless style, which might be why he kept handing it out like Halloween candy to all the singers who came knocking on his door with their bags out looking for some treats.


Ain’t Roamin’ No More
I think maybe the best way to describe Bartholomew’s singing is to imagine his throat as being less a tubular shape like most humans and instead picturing it as a hallway with lots of corners and doorways in it.

In other words, when singing his voice never seems quite sure of its path and not only hesitates on its route, which accounts for his staggered phrasing, but also runs into the door frames thanks to the dim lighting down around the larynx. Because of this his voice has to always feel its way along before locating the exit.

As a result his vocals are never smooth sounding even though he’s got a modestly pleasant, though slightly nasal, tenor with which to work. One listen to Domino or Lewis singing and you’re struck by their ability to project their voices with an unerring confidence, whereas with Bartholomew you’re laying odds on it bouncing off the wall of his trachea and falling back down his windpipe.

By contrast to those singers Bartholomew’s perpetually off-balanced line of attack comes across as somewhat awkward sounding on Ain’t Gonna Do It. He’s shouting too much for one thing, not to mention trying to emphasize the rhythmic cadence rather than the melody which for this song is backwards, as the entire musical backing is locked in on the rhythm, especially with that choppy horn pattern and so doubling up on that only causes you to lose the melodic thread too much.

The song itself though has a lot going for it for while the story is very succinct, just a few lines repeated throughout actually, its point is pretty universal and well put across, as Bartholomew is determined to settle down into a life of domestic tranquility with his bride and leave behind his wild days hitting the nightspots with his pals.

New Orleans rock was always known for its lyrical simplicity, preferring instead to drive home the rhythm, and while this may scale things down a little too much, there’s quite a few memorable vocal hooks which makes it easy to sing along with and when the band is hitting on all cylinders you’re focused more on them anyway.

With Moe And Joe… Or Clarence And Salvador Actually
In his early efforts at crafting his own material Bartholomew was still trying to figure out what musical elements worked and which didn’t, which to accentuate and which to leave in the background for mere coloring.

By the time he got the producer’s title bestowed on him officially late last year when joining Imperial Records, he’d figured it out. Drop the solos from the jazzy instruments – including his own trumpet – and emphasize the rockin’ sounds emanating from the piano, saxes and rhythm section.

On Ain’t Gonna Do It all of those edicts are being followed pretty well. It starts off with Salvador Ducette’s solid work on the keys, establishing a strong rhythmic base which Chick Badie on bass and Thomas Moore on drums carry along with laser-like focus. Thus gives him enough room to let his vaunted horn section operate with nothing in the way to trip them up… other than perhaps having a bit too much going on at once.

Though he doesn’t get nearly as much acclaim as Lee Allen, Herb Hardesty or Red Tyler, the three acknowledged pillars of sax for the New Orleans rock scene for the 1950’s, Clarence Hall (2nd on left… Doucette’s in the back left, behind Dave) was a really good musician who came from Papa Celestin’s pre-rock Dixieland band who found it necessary to make the switch to rock to earn added income in the studio. Yet despite belonging to an earlier generation – and migrating from a different musical style – he contributed his fair share of stellar leads before gradually taking a back seat to the other younger musicians and here Hall delivers a really strong solo, not too deep in tone but with plenty of flair including tossing in a quote from “Yankee Doodle” to close it out.

The other horns however, especially the riff the baritone is contributing, are far too busy when Hall is playing. I know Dave wanted to have two contrasting sounds, one for the rhythm and the tenor to add the melodic touches, but again he’s leaning TOO hard on the rhythm when it’d have been better to lay back more. But if you focus on just Hall you’ll get your money’s worth.

In the end this is a groove that would work best on the bandstand where they could have more room to all take turns and showboat a little and let that natural rhythm keep the dancers moving for as long as they wanted to keep it up.

Do It
Though Dave Bartholomew’s career was taking off in ways he might not have envisioned a year ago, he had to start getting the sense that much of what would unfold in the future in rock ‘n’ roll would be out of his realm to contribute much as an artist.

That’s not to say he won’t have some really great records down the road, but his specific attributes – as a trumpeter and a singer whose voice was a tad askew – were not quite as suited to rocking as those he shepherded in the studio.

Ain’t Gonna Do It exemplifies this pretty well. A good idea carried out by a great band but which required a more streamlined arrangement as well as a more authoritarian vocalist to really drive it home.

Its best components still make it good enough to pass muster but you can’t help but get the sense that someone else would’ve carried it off a little better… even before that turned out to be the case.


(Visit the Artist page of Dave Bartholomew for the complete archive of his records reviewed to date)