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Rock Hall 15th Annual American Music Masters Conference: Herb Hardesty, Billy Diamond, Bob French, Ernest McLean & Eddie Ray Take A Trip Down Memory Lane!


By Ms. Osupa Nia

Posted November 14th 2010

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame hosted the 15th Annual American Music Masters honoring Fats Domino and Dave Bartholomew!  There have been numerous events all week culminating with the AMM Conference and Concert on Saturday, November 13, 2010.

In attending the ‘Inner Circle Discussion with Fats & Dave’s Collaborators’ I became captivated with the history that Herb Hardesty, Billy Diamond, Ernest McLean, Eddie Ray and Bob French unraveled in the hour long session. I love to hear stories of the past! To have nearly five hundred years of collective ages amongst these icons in the music industry….together in one room….I was totally elated!

As each collaborator took a trip down memory lane each story evolved around Fats Domino and Dave Bartholomew.

Rock Hall Billy DiamondBILLY DIAMOND

Bassist Billy Diamond met Fats Domino when he was twelve years old playing hooky from school. Fats became an ice boy. He never made it past the fourth grade. Dominos loyalties were to the ninth ward never desiring to venture uptown.  The Hideaway Club in the ninth ward was an intricate part of Dominos  life. ‘Fats became the richest man in the ninth ward and he took his money back there!’ Diamond also served as Road Manager.

Rock Hall Ernest McLeanERNEST MCLEAN

Guitarist Ernest McLean met Dave Bartholomew through a mutual friend. His ambition was to get in Bartholomew’s band. He finally got a break and became a band member. ‘I couldn’t believe how fast Fats fingers were flying across the keyboard.’ Reminiscing about their fist gig, McLean recalls ‘we didn’t make much money but ate as much as we could.’ McLean believed that Dave Bartholomew was always a conscientious worker. He bought Fats Domino to a new elevation. ‘Bartholomew was an inventor!’

Rock Hall Herb HardestyHERB HARDESTY

Tenor Saxophonist Herb Hardesty was constantly being referred to as a ‘Ladies Man.’ Hardesty brings to mind when he was trying to take a lady friend back to the hotel room he was sharing with Ernest McLean. Approaching McLean with the young lady he asked Mclean if he was hungry. McLean replied ‘No I’m tired I going to take a nap.’ Coyly Hardesty stated, ‘That was the end of my night!’ If you can believe this Hardesty actually went up to the Klu Klux Klan to ask for directions. ‘They were very nice and treated me like I was part of the family.’  Hardesty was proud of the fact that they were the first band to stay in major hotels throughout the United States. ‘Music has bought us together. Dave Bartholomew has contributed so much of his life to different artist. He is a genius and is loved throughout the world.’

Rock Hall Bob FrenchBOB FRENCH

Drummer Bob French is the youngest of the crew. He is seventy three. With a witty humor and satire he too wanted more than anything to play in Bartholomew’s band. At that time Earl Palmer was the drummer and subsequently left for California. He got is break. ‘A session with Fats was like a circus!’ Recollecting on his first session with the band ‘there was only one microphone and after the first take I was told I had to player louder if I wanted to be heard.’ Finally in this session after twenty takes, Bartholomew being the perfectionist said ‘Play take 2. Take 2 that’s the one!” With much gratitude for Dave Bartholomew, French asserts ‘Dave picked the right musicians to play the music he wanted to record.’

Rock Hall Eddie RayEDDIE RAY

Finally Eddie Ray was the National Director of Sales and Promotions for Imperial Records. Totally on the business end of this historic journey Ray described sales and promotion techniques he employed to market Fats Domino. He met Dave Bartholomew in 1954 when Imperial Records moved to California. ‘The music was joyous and happy music. It was very easy to sell.’ Fats Domino had double sided hits. Ray would spend time with the local record promoters and hit the radio stations for Atlantic and Chess. He also went into the suburb with the sales reps at the Indy labels to get Fats Domino on general market radio local airplay. He represented many Indy labels including Atlantic and Chess. Says Ray, ‘Every pit stop in America Had Fats Domino on the jukebox! I crossed Fats over exposing him to ninety percent of the market as opposed to ten percent.’

In all, each collaborator had much respect for Dave Bartholomew, Fats Domino and Cosimo Matassa, of J&M Recording Studios, who also attended this session.  It was Dave Bartholomew’s genius, Cosimo Matassa’s patience and generosity and Fats Dominos skills and charisma that were the nucleus for the dawn of a new music genre Rock and Roll. Bartholomew, Domino, Matassa and all of the collaborators are truly all American Music Masters!


  1. Our father, Billy Diamond, passed away last night on 10-20-2011 at the age of 95.
    He leaves not only my sister Tracie and I but two loving grandsons, Jameson Pierce Diamond and Steven Diamond (nee Steven Visser) and a wealth of people who loved him.

  2. I am so sorry to hear of your lost Ms. Diamond. I will pass this information on.

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