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KING 4482; OCTOBER 1951



If you’re looking for a great unheralded record by a big name in rock history, chances are this review is not going to fulfill that wish.

However if you’re looking for great storylines involving multiple big names in rock history then this is definitely going to meet your expectations and then some.

In fact, through the first four full years of rock ‘n’ roll now spanning 1,600 songs, it’s possible that no review has brought together such a wide array of talent that no one ever imagined might work together… and looking back from the present too few know how and why it came about, that is if they even know they worked together at all.


Don’t Care Where You May Roam
There’s not really much of a mystery as to how Dave Bartholomew came to this point in his career… goodness knows we’ve been over the same ground often enough in the past ten months.

Rightly pissed that Imperial Records, the company he put on the map when it came to rock ‘n’ roll, had bestowed more “unofficial” credit on a talent-less interloper named Al Young, a local New Orleans white record store owner who somehow convinced Imperial’s owner Lew Chudd that he had more to do with their success in the Crescent City than the man who wrote, produced, arranged and scouted all of the talent the label had, Dave left the company last January and immediately landed at Decca Records.

But rock-averse Decca wasn’t the best long term fit for Bartholomew so after just one session he went to King Records, the top rock company in the country who had to be delighted to have someone of Bartholomew’s talents on board.

The thing was however, they already HAD someone comparable under contract in Henry Glover. Like Bartholomew, Glover was a trumpet player with first rate musical training and experience who was an accomplished songwriter, producer and arranger, the only difference being that while Glover rarely picked up his horn any more on record, Bartholomew was still actively playing behind others, not to mention releasing his own singles on which he sang and played.

In other words, the very thing that made Bartholomew SO valuable was already being done for King by someone arguably just as talented in all of those areas making him somewhat superfluous.

Furthermore, Bartholomew’s band stayed behind in New Orleans where they could make more money gigging around town now that they no longer were going to be touring with Dave behind the big names on Imperial as they’d been doing over the previous year.

So in one of the more unlikely pairings you could think of, King decided to put Bartholomew in front of Todd Rhodes’s band in the studio for his first session at the company which resulted in Sweet Home Blues.

Dave though wouldn’t be producing the records, arranging the material or leading the band, which is kind of like a movie studio in 1951 signing Marlon Brando and sticking him in a supporting role.


Dine And Dance With The Best
Though Dave Bartholomew is credited with writing this song it’s something of a rock interpretation of an old standard… by old I mean one from another century.

That’s not to say he didn’t substantially re-craft it, both lyrically and its melodic structure, but when you take something as familiar as Home Sweet Home (which Freddie Mitchell already adapted as a rock instrumental last year) and basically keep the same verbal hook known to generations it’s going to conjure up that source no matter how closely related to it the rest of the song actually is.

That’s a shame too, not because the idea of doing so isn’t creative enough, but rather that for his first release on King – and first time working with a band not of his choosing – we don’t get to see Bartholomew’s musical concepts in full flower to learn whether those quirky New Orleans-rooted ideas were transferable to a Detroit bred band setting up camp in Cincinnati, Ohio.

That’s really the thing that is of the most interest on Sweet Home Blues, trying to figure out which figure is exerting the most influence on the record’s outcome. Is it Todd Rhodes who got singled out in the session paperwork as the director of the production, and whose long-standing band were in full allegiance to him, or is it Bartholomew who was used to taking that role himself.

With a more original composition I’d say Bartholomew’s vision would almost have to take precedence, especially since he was no shrinking violet when it came to asserting himself in the studio, but here there’s definitely a sense that he deferred to Rhodes based on how this is arranged.

A typical Bartholomew production has overlapping, interlocking parts whereas here they’re playing in a much more traditional straightforward manner – all of it tight and well judged, with some really strong sax work by Hallie Dismukes alongside Willy Gaddy’s deft guitar fills – but it’s so simplistic that it leaves Bartholomew’s always quirky vocal tone out to dry for much of the song.

Toss in the fact there’s really no story here, nor very many good lines, let alone original ones, and what you’re left with is a top notch band and an idiosyncratic singer delivering a workmanlike job on a fairly meaningless song, something that hardly lives up to expectations.

Or does it?

Going Back To The Only One
All great figures in rock history naturally excel at something that sets them apart from the pack and with Dave Bartholomew it was the way in which he oversaw the studio process better than anyone in his era.

He was a really good songwriter, but usually with a collaborator… an “interesting” singer, but hardly a great vocalist in a technical sense… a good trumpeter in a style that didn’t really call for that talent… but where he made his bones was in bringing all of the pieces of a record together and giving depth to the material via his choices in how to present the songs.

On Sweet Home Blues he’s not allowed to do that and as a result it’s a record with Bartholomew’s own distinctive stamp on it. because of that if you’d known he was going to take a back seat to others, even those as talented in their own way as Rhodes, this probably does meet your expectations.

In other words it’s a serviceable offering from everybody involved, but we came here looking for a Dave Bartholomew record and got one where he’s but a mere guest vocalist with someone else’s band… quite the turnaround from his usual position.

If nothing else it gets Bartholomew’s King tenure off to a curious start.


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