He was a composer, bandleader, arranger, musician, songwriter and producer born in Edgard, Louisiana, who began his musical studies by learning the tuba, which was later followed by his main instrument, the trumpet.
As a teenager he was a bandleader in Bourbon Street, New Orleans, and after the onset of WWII he spent a time in the army.
He became professional after he formed a group of artists that included Earl Palmer, Alvin “Red” Tyler and Lee Allen and in 1947 he made his first recordings with Deluxe Records. This part of his career was to fall flat though as the record company went down and he was given little to no recognition for his work.
In 1949 he started to work for Imperial Records as a talent scout, bandleader and arranger and he became extremely acclaimed for arranging and producing hits by artists such as Smiley Lewis, Earl King, Lloyd Price, Shirley & Lee and Fats Domino, who he discovered, among many others. His work was such that he is now recognised as pivotal in the cross over from the big-band sound and jump blues to R&B and rock and roll.
During the 1950s his songwriting would also come to the fore when he saw over 40 co-written and solo-written hits such as “Ain’t That a Shame”, “I’m Walkin'”, “Blue Monday” and “Goin’ Home” and also wrote and recorded a song called “My Tambourine” in 1952 which would become “My Ding-a-Ling” that was Chuck Berry’s only No.1 on both sides of the Atlantic in 1972.
In the 1960s he moved to various labels and started his own Broadmoor Records, which was named after the neighbourhood he lived in, in New Orleans.
Active in the music industry right into the 2000s he was still recording and playing trumpet in New Orleans in 2007. He resided there for the rest of his life.
It is claimed he was the writer of over 4,000 songs with his works have been heard in 15 movies including several starring Elvis Presley who sings his “One Night”.
He passed away in Metairie, Louisiana, from heart failure in June 2019 when he was 100 years old.
Chuck Berry recordings
My Ding-a-Ling (Dave Bartholomew)