Sunday, July 29, 2007

Al Hirt's Last Interview - Cigar Smoker Magazine - Interview

Al Hirt's Last Interview - Cigar Smoker Magazine
(Some great Pete Fountain Insight!)

Al Hirt, was one of the world's greatest trumpet players. With a heart as big as his passion for music, life and cigars, Al was know to his friends as Jumbo. Jumbo joked with Cigar Smoker Magazine about Frank Sinatra, Louie Armstrong, and his musical best friend, Pete Fountain. As his last joke, he told us that Fountain keeps all of his money hidden in his freezer with the pork roast! When Al and Pete met 40 years ago they worked for an exterminator - Al worked with the roaches and Pete worked with the rats! Al played for presidents, popes and led the Mardi Gras parade many times. Jumbo is up in heaven playing with Grabriel's Big Band now and we present his very last interview to you.

Q: We're here at Charles W. Drury's Humidor Room in New Orleans, Louisiana.
A: He keeps a good store! You can't beat him. He's a good man, he and his wife are nice people. He don't drink....
Q: He was last night!
A: Well he is a Cajun!
Q: Recently I picked up a CD with you and Pete Fountain on it.
A: Oh yeah? That's old, we did that at Superbowl XII I think it was.
Q: What I enjoyed most on that CD is the Louie Armstrong tribute.
A: Oh yeah. That was the Superbowl, and guess what? I didn't get a nickel to play any of them. Bob Cochran, do you remember him?
Q: No.
A: He had a heart attack and died. I said, "You ain't gonna pay me no money?" He said, "No! This is an honor!" I said, "Up your ass, this ain't no honor to me! Give me some money, I want to get paid. When I pick up this horn, I expect money!" He said, "Well sorry, you can go talk to Pete about it." I said, "Pete who?" He was a good guy.....I think I played at it four or five times already. People like to come to New Orleans because they can swing pretty good!
Q: Oh there's music falling out of every place and girls legs kicking out of windows.......
A: Yeah, there's a place right across the street, with the leg coming out of the window, it's wild.
Q: There's all kinds of stuff, but it is a great music city.
A: It is. There's a lot of great musicians who started out here.
Q: If I say Chicago is home of the Blues, I'd pretty much say that New Orleans is home of Jazz.
A: Both New Orleans and Chicago. Shit, I burned down two joints in Chicago. I forgot the name of it, some hotel.
Q: You've got your own jazz club down here in New Orleans don't you?
A: Yeah, right across the street from the broad with her leg out the window.
Q: Are you playing this year in the Super Bowl?
A: No, not this year, but I've done it a lot of times!
Q: Can I get you to tell me a little bit about Louie Armstong?
A: I think everybody could see that he was the best there ever was. He was a stylist. He had a way of playing that nobody else duplicated. You could copy him but not well. He used to say, "Yes sir!" to everybody, what was he doing calling me sir? I ain't your pa! He'd die laughing. He's a great guy. He always had a great band. He was an inspiration to all the trumpet players. He was a nice guy. I never heard him say a bad thing about anybody. He was from New Orleans. A lot of good players from New Orleans. Everybody loved him. He was so happy! He was a good man.
Q: How would you describe your style?
A: A little bit of this, a little bit of that. I never had any specific style. I've played in a symphony orchestra. I did a little of that. I used to work with the Boston Pops. Then I got a band and we started playing jazz. I had Fountain, (Pete), as my first clarinet player.
Q: Do you still see him?
A: I saw him last night. He said, "You know I'm working one night a week now." "You're only working one night a week?" I said. He said, "Yeah man I got enough money, I said get out I know that, and I know where you keep it too!" He keeps his money in the freezer. He keeps it wrapped up like a roast! He said, "Come here I want to show you something." He said, "You see that? That ain't no roast beef, that is money!" I said, "You son of a bitch!" He opened it for me and it was full of twenty dollar bills. He had about ten packages of twenty dollar bills in the freezer.
Q: That's what they call cold cash.
A: You're right, cold cash.
Q: Charlie and I were talking earlier, you played with the Benny Goodman Band didn't you?
A: Sure. When I was younger.
Q: I'm sure you know now that the swing music is coming back, the kids are dancing to it.
A: I'm glad to see it come back. I played with Benny Goodman when I first got out of the service. Three years. Those were the most miserable three years I ever spent in my whole life, was playing with that son-of-a-bitch!He was wild, man. He was crazy. He was in his own world all the time. He was on another planet. He said to me I used to stand in the front and he'd say, "Who's that right there?" I'd say that's your brother Benny, you don't know your own brother?" He said, "Oh am I supposed to know him? He thinks he knows how to play bass, and he doesn't know how to play shit". He talked like that about his brother! Me and other trumpet players from the west coast, we come down and he wanted two players as lead players. He had two jazz players already. We were in there to split the lead book. We got there the first day, he said "Who are you guys and what are you doing here? Who the hell are you? I hope you can play jazz, 'cuz this is the band we're going to play jazz in." I said, "We're here to play. Lead; we're lead players, we don't play jazz. We wish we could play jazz better but we don't". He said, "Well you're taking the next chorus, I've got news for you." That was him he was a mean bastard.
Q: I heard some bootleg tapes of Buddy Rich, he was really berating his players.
A: Buddy was something else, I played with Buddy for awhile. He was crazy. In the club he had that big band. He was a funny guy. He used to get pissed and you didn't have to do nothing to him. So he's sitting there and he had an arrangement that was great that one of the guys in the band made on West Side Story, all different shorts from the picture. Some guy dropped a plate on the floor, and he wouldn't play. The band got all ready to play and he won't start. I went up to him and I said, " The whole place is full of people and they ain't trying to put you down, it was an accident, the guy dropped a plate. Don't get mad, you'd better play, if you don't play, I'm gonna get a cop to come in here and throw your skinny ass out of here. He's still the best goddamn drummer I ever heard, that was Buddy. He was the best, no question. He used to do what he wanted when he was with Tommy Dorsey. He'd wear different clothes, and Dorsey never said nothing. He let him get by with anything, anything he wanted. But with the way he played he could. I'm surprised he lasted as long as he did because he was very ill. But there was no way you could get him to eat at all. When Buddy played, he played all out, all the time. It was a wonder he didn't keel over and die before he did. One time we were playing in Memphis, I said, Jesus Christ man, you're gonna kill yourself the way you play drums. He said, "That's the way I play." I said, "No shit, don't ask me, I'm watching you. I can see you playing like that." It wasn't long after that, he did, he had a heart attack and he died. Boy what a player he was. HE was the best.
Q: The conversation used to be, who's better Buddy Rich or Gene Krupa.
A: Oh shit, I had Krupa play at the club too. Rich could play way better than Krupa. Krupa was a nicer guy, Buddy was a miserable fuck. When he's mad he's ready to fight all the time. And he was a little shit.If somebody would have popped him one on the jaw it would have knocked him cold. He had a fight with Sinatra when Sinatra was singing with Dorsey. They had a big bust out fight! He and Frank. Frank was raised with all them hoods like Jilly. All them guys, they knew how to fight! Buddy, he wouldn't punch a hole in a paper bag, but he used to like to think he could. I tried to get along with all the guys. It wasn't hard, as long as you do what they say.
Q: Do you do seminars for trumpet players, or do you teach at all?
A: I've done a few, as a matter of fact, that train they're bringing down here, it's coming from Chicago. The Orient Express, a duplication of the Orient Express. They run it here. New Orleans, Chicago, and they run it out West and they run it back. I used to do some talks on jazz to some of the people. But they don't want me to do it! So I told Beverly, "Shit, if that's what they want me to do, take it and shove it." I said, "I'm going to do some jazz lectures." Q:Beverly Hirt: And we hope you clean up your language!
A: Della, Sarah Vaughn, I've played with all of them, and I had fun too. Enjoyed it, always enjoyed it. Ella Fitzgerald was fantastic. Terrific lady. She and I were sitting on at the bench of the halftime show. She got on her float, and I got on the other end of the float and we were making noise. She's singing, I'm playing, ridiculous. She was a sweetie.
Q: We keep going back to the Superbowl, so I have to ask you about football. Charles tells me that you have some football in your background with the New Orleans Saints.
A: Sure, I had a piece of the team. But that didn't make them win nothing. They ain't won shit! They never did! They never did get in the playoffs, they never did get nowhere. Atlanta was the same though. And all of a sudden! Well what they did was get a good coach.
Q: Well we've got a good cigar smoking friend of ours that happens to be the coach right now!
A: Oh yeah! Mike Ditka? I didn't know he smoked cigars! Did he come in here? People love him in Chicago! In time, they'll love him here. If the guy that bought the team, well he's got a lot of bread, but he don't want to spend none of it. Ditka is the kind of guy who wants players. He expected to get the guys he wanted. This cheap ass bastard wouldn't get them. So as far as I know, he's still here next year.
Q: He's a hell of a guy, you know when Mike Ditka's in the room. How can you not love a guy who comes out in favor of public hanging?
A: He's something else I tell you what! When he gets mad, get out of the way and clear out. He's the only tight end in the Hall of Fame. Split ends, not tight ends. When he hits you, your ass went backwards. You couldn't push him around, he's a tough man. But a nice man if he likes you.
Q: He likes me.
A: Well you're the kind of guy, everybody likes. You can see that, don't take know genius to see a man that everybody likes. I knew him in Chicago, when he was there. I was surprised and glad to see him come down here, but he can't make a miracle, when he ain't got no material.
Q: Remember, I'm from Chicago, I know about not having football players!
A: Well sure, but you've had some great ones!
Q: Yeah but they left.
A: Walter, (Payton), he used to walk on his hands to the top of the stands, and back down. He was like iron. He was a little mother fucker! He had muscles!
Q: Do you have a great cigar story?
A: Beverly: He's smoked illegally in every airport in the United States! One time, we had such a long wait, he went into the handicapped washroom so you could sit in there and smoke your cigar.
Q: That wasn't exactly the story I was going for!
A: I hear that baby! I always smoked cigars. I've smoked cigars with everybody in show business. George Burns, I worked with him a number of times. He used to introduce me, when I'd get to the microphone, he had enough cigar ashes to start your own bonfire. Then he told me if my piano player doesn't stop calling me "man", I'm going to punch him in the nose. He called everybody "man", and he made the mistake of going up to George and calling him "man". He smoked twenty cigars a day. That's a lot of cigars man. He loved the ladies that old fart! Right before he died he was still chasing broads and looking at their ass. I said, "George, you're too old for that." He said, "You ain't never too old for that! Drop your pants, I'll show you who's too old." He was a good man. I have no regrets about being in show business. I got to do everything I wanted to do with every band I wanted to do it with. Even The Boston Pops. And with Arthur Fiedler, who was a crazy mother fucker. You wouldn't think he was crazy. He was funny, he had that long, long white hair. Last time we were at symphony hall, we were playing a movement of one of the symphonies with the orchestra. Everybody was applauding because they knew I went to school there, I was going out to take a bow and he said to me from the wings, "Go back out there and pull me by the arm, like you're pulling me out on to the stage." I said, " Jesus you know show business better than me man, you know what you're doing." So I bring him out there, he's holding back, and I'm pulling, by the time I get him out there, he takes this big sweeping bow. The crowd went wild.
Q: Who are some of your favorite trumpet players?
A: Dizzy Gillespie of course. We did a bunch of gigs together. Maynard Ferguson. The last time I went to Detroit, they got a bunch of trumpet players together, Dizzy, Maynard Ferguson and me. Dizzy says to me, "You two mother fuckers, just because you're white, don't think you can play louder than me!" We all laughed and then he said, "No, there ain't nobody who can play louder than you Jumbo! Let it go man! Don't hold back." And I said, "I intend to let it go you four foot mother fucker!" And that's the kind of repartee we had. He was a good player, and a good guy too.
Q: Where'd you get the nickname Jumbo?
A: My brother started calling me that when we were kids. He said, "For Christ sake, you look like Jumbo, the big elephant in the circus!" He'd played the trombone. Not too good.
Q: Charles Drury: How did Jumbo Gumbo get started here in New Orleans?
A: It started with Pete Fountain in SuperBowl XII.
Q: Beverly: You did Super Jazz with Pete.
A: Beverly's got a better memory than me, you're an old woman. I love ya! She was a dancer, that's how we met, with Horace Heights, and I'm sitting there playing trumpet with Horace and his big band. Terrible band. I'm sitting there with my horn in my lap. The two other trumpet players are saying, "Ain't you gunna play Jumbo?" I said, "No, I ain't playin' 'cuz I'm watching some touch up there!" And that was Beverly.
Q: Charles Drury: What's your favorite cigar brand?
A: Cohiba, I like Cohiba's best, Monte Cristo's, I like the big cigars, I'm a big dude. You look like a fruit smokin' those small cigars.
Q: Charles Drury: Didn't you win a Grammy Award?
A: Yes, I won it for the song "Java". Want to buy it? I'll sell it to you.
Beverly: I'm really proud of these awards, Jumbo won the Charlie Parker Memorial Foundation Lifetime Achievement Award for playing his music for over 65 years. He's also in the International Jazz Hall of Fame. He's been nominated for the Kennedy Center Music Award.
Q: Tell me about Charlie Parker.
A: He was a nice dude. He was quiet. You had to get to know him. You know what he liked better than anything else? He liked Country music. Charlie Parker was different, he wasn't like anybody. That motherfucker had so much technique on the alto...I ain't never heard anybody play an alto like that. He had so much speed on that goddamn thing. He played great. He picked up that alto and played his ass off. Man, he could play! Ooooh.
Q: Did you play with Sinatra?
A: Yeah, the last gig I had in New York was with Frank at Radio City. Right before he died. Jilly was his boy. He was crazy about Jilly. Frank like to surround himself with guys like that. Frank said to me, "Jumbo, you don't know how to tie your tie!" "Frank, you and your rules, man, you're crazy, I don't wear no tuxedo! "Well you're wearing one here and I'm gonna tie your tie for you." Every night we get together and he'd say, "Come here, let me tie your tie." Man, women would piss in their pants when they met Frank. Ella came over to the joint one time, (Al's bar), and she sat down, God Bless Her, with her legs open like that, and she starts singin" and knocks everybody out. And she had her trio with her and she had Paul Smith playing piano. Paul was a great pianist about 6 foot six, looked like a basketball player. I said to him, "Paul, what's the matter with you man? You look like you're all bent over like you're gonna fall over. What ya doin? He said, "I can't get my legs underneath this piano!" I look over at Ronnie her piano player, and he says, "It was me! I had a lady cut the legs shorter on the piano for a joke.
Q: You are good friends with Jerry Lewis and play his telethon every year. Where did you first meet him?
A: I met Jerry at the end of the boardwalk in Atlantic City at Skinny LaMotta's place. That's where Jerry and Dean Martin started out.
Q: Beverly: Jumbo, tell them the story about when you were in the elevator with Sonny Liston.
A: Oh, we were working the Sullivan show and Sullivan had a stage manager who ran everything there. His name was Ed Franklin. They had a little elevator on the ground floor that went up to the stage. It was tough to fit in there because it was small. We were waiting for one guy. His head hit the top of the elevator. He says, "Sign this for me champ. Just sign Ed." What do you think he says? "How do you spell Ed?" Nobody laughed. It was like a graveyard in there. He looked like a mountain, Sonny Liston.
Copyright © 1996-99 Cigar Smoker Magazine. All rights reserved.

A Closer Walk with Pete Fountain - Interview

A Closer Walk with Pete Fountain
Interview by Nick Compagno

New Orleans, the birthplace of Dixieland jazz, has been the home of many legendary jazz clarinetists, including Irving Fazola, Alphone Picou, Big-Eye Louis Nelson, Eddie Miller, and Pee Wee Spitelera. This legacy of clarinet playing lives on today through the music and artistry of Pete Fountain.

Pete plays the music he loves for capacity crowds at his famous club in New Orleans and appears regularly on network television shows, including more than 58 performances on the "Tonight Show." Pete has had four command performances at the White House for Presidents of the United States. He appeared on the Lawrence Welk ABC-TV show from 1957 through 1959. At the New Orleans Papal Mass in September of 87, he performed for Pope John Paul II who was quoted as saying, "I have always heard about the beautiful music of New Orleans. Today I have been able to hear it and admire it personally."

Pete is one of the most recorded clarinetists in music history, having recorded more than 92 albums, three of which have "gone gold" - Pete Fountain's New Orleans, The Blues and Mr. New Orleans. His new recording titled Paradise will feature Pete playing arrangements for clarinet, four trombones and rhythm section.

Pete Fountain has been married to Beverly Lang for 41 years and has three children and five grandchildren. One of his other passions, besides playing the clarinet, is collecting automobiles. Pete says, "I'm a car junkie, a car nut. We never strapped ourselves over cars, but sometimes we came close. Through the years I've owned more than 50 cars. ...My attitude about cars is that they should be driven and enjoyed."

Pete has been influential in preserving and furthering the development of the clarinet in jazz since the early 1950s. Although his playing defies an adequate description, his music represents the essence of swing, blues and New Orleans-style jazz. He is a living legend, and it is a fitting time to reflect on Pete Fountain's impact, contributions and significance.


The Early Years
If I had grown up in any place but New Orleans, I don't think my career would have taken off. I wouldn't have heard the music that was around this town. There was so much going on when I was a kid. Movies were a big thing. I used to listen to all the jazz bands going to the movie houses. I would go to the Top Hat Dance Hall to hear Sharkey Ronano, Louis and Leon Prima, and a lot of great bands playing there. I used to listen from outside the club as a kid. That's fun music!

When I was seven and eight years old, I had weak lungs. By the time I was nine (1939), I started playing the clarinet to strengthen my lungs. That's when I really got into liking jazz more and wanting to play it. I had a good ear and that's what started it.

One teacher was "Professor Johnny Hyman." He played cornet, and he used a stage name when he wasn't teaching because he didn't want people he was teaching to know he played jazz. His stage name was "Johnny Wiggs." He was one of my first teachers who saw a little jazz in me. He was my first teacher at McDonough 28 (elementary school).

Then at Warren Easton High School, there was Anthony Valentino. There was also Rene Louape, who was the head of the public school music department and had a dance band in town for years. Rene Louape heard me at McDonough 28 and told Anthony Valentino about me. I was playing in Warren Easton High School Band two years before I graduated from elementary school. They gave me a uniform, which I thought was such a great thing. By the time I got into high school, they had already seen me around all the time, so that they didn't even initiate me when I was a freshman.

I had those two teachers and another one who taught private lessons named Emmanuel Allessandra. He played clarinet and was an oboe player in the New Orleans Symphony. He tried to pound solfege into my head, which he couldn't do, and he tried to pound musical notes into me, too. He was funny; I liked the oboe, so he said to me, "I will teach you the oboe, if you will teach me a couple of hot licks on the clarinet," I played the oboe for a while, but I could only get a couple of notes out it.

My dad, Pierre Dewey (Red) Fountain, was a drummer and played a little country fiddle. He was the type who could pick up any instrument and play it. He used to make me so mad. The first day I got the clarinet, we put it together. He put the reed on the mouthpiece and started playing something. I said, "Have you ever played the clarinet before?" He said, "No." I couldn't even get a thing out of it. He was one of those people who had the kind of talent that would scare you. He was that type of musician.

From there I was listening to Irving Fazola (Irving Prestopnick) as a kid. Fazola was just unbelievable - the sound he got. He played an Albert system clarinet which had a big, tremendous bore, but he filled it up. He was a great musician.

Fazola loved Leon Roppolo. I never did hear too much of Leon. I've heard one or two of his records in my whole lifetime. He had that good, fat sound. Faz idolized Leon Roppolo, so much of his style was passed down. Faz's mother gave me his mouthpiece, which broke later on in years. Then his mother called me and gave me his clarinet after he died, which is an old Albert system Buffet. I still have it, but every time I play it, it reeks of garlic. I swear! He loved to eat garlic! When he died, they put his clarinet in a case. I guess he didn't swab it out too much, and so the garlic just sort of "marinated" in there. After two or three years his mother gave it to me. I sent it to Leblanc to try to get the garlic smell out, but they couldn't get it out. It's in the wood. I can take it on stage and play a couple of choruses, but once the wood warms up, the garlic smell comes right out.

I used to listen to a lot of George Lewis. Another clarinet player who also played tenor sax with me later was Eddie Miller. People didn't realize it, but he played a great subtone clarinet. He was in my band for 10 years.

I used to listen to Benny Goodman on the radio. Between Faz and Benny, I tried to come up with my own style. I loved Benny Goodman's drive and technique. What a technician! I also loved Faz's sound. I tried to combine Faz's fat mellow sound together with Goodman's drive and technique. I never did catch up to Benny, I think he was the old master for technique.

I loved Barney Bigard's style. It's real different, really "flighty." He had great technique. He got around on the clarinet and was gone.

Pete: As a kid, I used to play in a jazz band at football games with the Assunto brothers. It started like this. I went to a football game and heard their jazz band playing on the other side, so I walked over there. The Assunto brothers (Frank and Fred) played trumpet and trombone, and they also had a drummer in the group. I said, "You all need a clarinet player?" They said, "Yes." The next game I went over and played with them. It was for a school that didn't have a band, uptown in the Irish Channel of New Orleans. The band later became known as the "Junior Dixieland Band." We then won the "Horace Heidt Talent Show." From there the Assuntos formed "The Dukes of Dixieland," whom I later played with. They did some great recordings throughout the years.

I next played with the Phil Zito Band, the Basin Street Six, Pete Fountain and His Three Coins, and I also worked with Sharkey Bonano, Al Hirt and Lawrence Welk.

The Welk Years
Lawrence is the one who started me off. From Lawrence my career just took off. I didn't realize how big his show was until I left it (in 1959). Then I recorded, and my albums sold like crazy. I had the thrill of playing in Carnegie Hall on the Welk show with a jazz quartet. I remember saying during the performance that night, "Whatever I play tonight these walls have heard; I pray that they will again," I was referring to Benny Goodman. We played "China Boy" and a lot of the stuff Benny did on his concert there.

The funniest thing that ever happened to me while I was with the Welk band happened one night at the Waldorf Astoria. Mr Welk said to me, "Peter, I would like you to run the bubble machine tonight. You will be backstage anyway, waiting to come on, so just put the fluid in it and then let the machine run during the first number."

We got the usual cue that we were on the air, and the band struck up the theme. I poured in too much fluid. I didn't know any better. The bubbles were supposed to drift gracefully up from behind the band and float out across the impressive trademark of the Welk show. That night they crowded down over the band like Niagara Falls! There were bubbles everywhere. I thought that the effect was great, so I poured in some more. There were so many bubbles that the guys couldn't even read their sheet music. And in the middle of all that stood Lawrence Welk -- completely helpless. It was the most memorable opening of any live television show. (A Closer Walk: The Pete Fountain Story)

Welk taught me how to run a band and how to be strict sometimes, because for years jazz musicians didn't care - "Manana." That's why I've had the same band for so many years. I've also had my own saloon for 31 years. It's unheard of for a jazz musician to have a nightclub that long.

I left the Welk show because champagne and bourbon don't mix. Don't get me wrong, Welk was a wonderful man and his TV show did plenty for me. But I just couldn't play the kind of music I wanted.

I did three albums with Welk. The next album, "Pete Fountain's New Orleans," I did on my own. That's the one that took off and went gold. The single that made a little notice was "Just a Closer Walk."

Talking With Pete
Is "Just a Closer Walk With Thee" one of your favorite tunes?
Pete: One of my favorites? I have to play it every night whether it's my favorite or not! Once in a while, I get away without playing it.

Nick: When did you form "The Half-Fast Marching Band," the group you march with on Mardi Gras day?
Pete: You mean "The Half-Fast Walking Club." We can't march. Our club is 30 years old this year. Most of the same guys that started it with me are still with it. We've all gotten old together. Beside the parades, we have a lot of functions that we do together -- picnics and dances. So it's pretty good.

Nick: You spent a lot of years on Bourbon Street. What was it like playing on "The Street"?
Pete: Bourbon Street is my love. I went through McDonough 28. Warren Easton, and then I went through the Conservatory of Bourbon Street. Yes, Bourbon Street was my conservatory. I spent over 30 years there, and that's been a long time off and on Bourbon Street.... When people ask me about the Quarter, I tell them that it's like a roller coaster. It had its ups and downs. Some years it's really down, and then they clean it up and it goes up again....

Jumbo (Al Hirt) is still playing. He opened up a new club on Bourbon Street. I worked with Jumbo for a good while before I went with Lawrence Welk. We had four guys in the band. Whoever got the job wore the bow tie and led the band.

Playing Techniques and Tips
You have big, fat sound. How do you produce it?
Pete: I think it comes from the throat. I open the throat when I play.

Nick: You have a distinct vibrato that you use. How do you produce it?
Pete: It just comes naturally. That's something Benny Goodman liked about my style, my vibrato. One night when he came in the club, he asked me, "What are you doing?" I said, "I don't know!" Once in a while I try to catch myself to find out what I'm doing, because at times I try to get more vibrato.

Nick: I noticed during your show that you put different parts of the clarinet up to the microphone when you play, depending on the register, dynamics, vibrato, subtone and the style of music.
Pete: I learned that from Fazola. In trade talk it's called "riding the mike," which means moving closer to and farther away from the mike as you play. By doing this, I can make all the notes come over the sound system evenly. It also helps with a particular sound I'm trying to produce.

Nick: Pete, what method, if any, did you use to learn how to improvise?
Pete: I was improvising before I was reading music. I was just trying to play things on the clarinet by ear. I think my ear is one of my greatest assets. I could always hear it. I got away with a lot of stuff in high school playing first clarinet. I read, but I didn't read that great. But if they would play it once, I had it. I could cut the parts, 'cause my ear would catch it and go right along. It was my secret for playing first chair for a while.

Nick: Do you prefer to play songs in certain keys?
Pete: Yes. I'm so used to playing in the keys we do our stuff in, like F, B, E, and A. But when you start playing it in G and E, awh no. Benny didn't like those keys, but Fazola could play in them. He used to amaze me, 'cause he could play in all those keys. He just had something up there. Artie was good, he liked to play in E, but I'm not too crazy about it.

Nick: Did you listen to any classical clarinetists?
Pete: I used to listen to Reginald Kell, and I still have some of his stuff. He's a fantastic clarinetist. He was one that I thought had a big, fat sound.

Nick: What advice do you have for any aspiring jazz clarinet players?
Pete: Play trombone! No. Sometimes I wonder why you take up the clarinet when you can't find a reed. Why didn't I play the trombone? .... I get one reed that will last for a month, and then it goes out, and then it's difficult to try to get one to sing.
To me, the clarinet has always been "a love-hate instrument." You can love it when it's singing, and when it's playing it's the greatest. But when it's not working...

What I would tell the clarinet players today is to listen to records, but don't just listen to one player. You might get three or four players and pick something you like from each one. Then you don't have a carbon copy of Pete Fountain, a carbon copy of Benny Goodman, a carbon copy of Irving Fazola, and so on.

Pete Fountain's warm personality and down-to-earth manner leave a lasting impression on those who meet him. His stage shows are a thrill for everyone in the audience. His band consists of superb musicians, all with the same inventive ideas. Recordings cannot fully capture the rapport between Pete and his audience, who actually become a part of the performance. When this sort of spontaneous combustion between Pete and his audience become a reality, one experiences authentic New Orleans jazz.

Pete's musical story spans a period of more than 50 years and has contributed more than a little to the evolution of jazz. His clarinet playing continues to soar to the forefront of jazz performance. His career is detailed in his 1972 autobiography, A Closer Walk: The Pete Fountain Story, which is out of print.

A special thanks to Jeff Fountain for his help and support in making this article possible. - Nick Compagno

About the Writer...
Nicholas A. Compagno plays clarinet in The United States Continental Army Band. He received his doctorate in music education from the University of North Texas, studying clarinet with James Gillespie and Lee Gibson.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

1978 Leblanc Promo "The Leblanc Has a Fat Sound" - Memorabilia

"The Leblanc Has a Fat Sound"
LeBlanc Duet No.4 Featuring Pete Fountain

1978 Leblanc Promo "The Leblanc Has a Fat Sound"

Liner Notes:

LeBlanc Duet No.4 Featuring Pete Fountain

It's prior to show time at Pete Fountan's new bistro in The Hilton on the River in New Orleans. We're relaxing at a table near the stage. and Pete's describing what he enjoys doing when he's not here.

Fountain: I love to fish. I have a small fishing boat and go out on it a lot. Around home, my hobby is just tinkering with my cars. I have twelve antique cars, including a '36 four-door convertible like Roosevelt's. Could be his, because it has an oversize trunk, maybe for the wheelchair. I enjoys my Rolls, too. My Rolls and my Mercedes. Those two cars I run a lot. And I started collecting trucks. Have a half dozen of them. I'm really interested in old planes. too. The biplanes. And I love race cars. Got into motorcycles for awhile too, and still have my Harley 1200cc, Big Harley. I kick it and it kicks me back. It's tough. That's one of the things I like about my clarinet too. My Leblanc

It takes more of a beating and more of a Workout than any instrument I played before. I started on a Regent then a Pensamore. and then some others. But the Leblanc's keys are harder. They'll, take more of a beating. And that's especially important in my work. It's twenty years since I began playing Leblancs. and to show you how great they are, this is only my second one. This one's two yews old, and has about five albums under its belt. The other one, which still plays, I recorded 43 albums with, I'm so proud of my intruments!

Leblanc: What Kind of sound do you Iike out of a Clarinet?
Fountain: Well. I don't like a high, screechy sound. I like it more mellow, like Irving Fazola was known for. I have his clarinet you know, but I can't play it too often. When Faz died, his mother put it away in case, and left it there for possibly six years. Well, I got it and sent it to Leblanc, and I said, "Could you just recondition this, because it's my idol's." Well after they sent it back, I started playing it, and when wood gets warm you're reminded that Faz used to like his garlic. This garlic comes out, and it grabs you by the throat, and I tell you, it fills up the whole bandstand. So we always say. "Fazola still lives every
time somebody plays his clarinet."

Anyhow, as I said, I don't like a high, screechy sound. The Leblanc has a fat sound. They say it's my sound, but it's got to come from the instrument.

Pete's instrument Is the Leblanc 1611, an 18/7 fork Bb. with articulated G#. Made of the finest selected grenadilla, with gold, plated keys. It can be your instrument, too. Ask us about it.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Pete Fountain Matchbook Covers from 1950's and 1980's - Memorabilia

Pete Fountain Matchbook Covers

Pete Fountain Matchbook Covers from 1950's and 1980's

Liner Notes:

A nice set of matchbook covers, outside and inside from the 1950's from Pete's French Quarter Inn. The second is from Pete's time at the New Orleans Hilton.

Coral Records 1960s Magazine Ad - Memorabilia

Coral Records 1964 Magazine Ad

1964 Magazine Ad for Pete Fountain's Coral Records

Liner Notes:

A favorite on college campuses. Pete Fountain's current big LP's Pete's Place and Licorice Stick. Fountain's facinatin' rhytms captivate collegiates everywhere!

DECCA Ad for Pete Fountain 1965 Coral Records

Magazine Ad for Pete Fountain 1965 Coral Records

1965 Print Ad by DECCA Records featuring
Pete Fountain's newest recordings on Coral Records

Liner Notes:

Pete Fountain...Nobody knows the music and moods of New Orleans like Pete Fountain. Listen to his big, warm sound on such favorites as Mr.. Stick Man and Licorice Stick. But the way he swings new hits like Hello Dolly!, is something also again!...Everyone's every one an album to enjoy. Decca always points to the best in music.

The Newest Hit Sound at Pete Fountain's Club! - Memorabilia

The Newest Hit Sound at Pete Fountain's Club!

Premier Drum Ad Circa 1960s

Liner Notes:

The Newest Hit Sound at Pete Fountain's Club!

The best in New Orleans has moved from Basin Street to Bourbon Street, and the very heart of the beat is Paul Edwards of Pete Fountain's outfit with his Premier Drums.

From Memphis to Mobile, from Chicago to the West Side, Premier Drums are setting the beat...crisp, clean, the result of England's finest hand craftsmanship.

Leblanc Pete Fountain Clarinets Catalog circa 1960s -70s - Memorabilia

Leblanc Pete Fountain Clarinets Catalog

Leblanc Pete Fountain Clarinets Catalog circa 1960s -70s

Original Leblanc Pete Fountain clarinets 4 page catalog from the 1960s-70s. Models in catalog: 1611, 1610, 1607, and 1606.Size: 9 by 12 inches

Liner Notes:

LeBlanc is Pete Fountain
(in the new Pete Fountain Personal Series)

Mr. Leon LeBlanc, the only instrument maker in the world who is a musician knows you'd want a clarinet as marvelously expressive, as beautiful voiced and as magnificently crafted as the LeBlanc Pete Fountain plays.

So in it image, he and the skilled artists of G. LeBlanc, Paris have created the Pete Fountain Personal Clarinet. It is made of choice, vintage, carefully seasoned rare grenadilla wood. It is musically flawless and virtually perfect in intonation. And it possesses a warmth and a cleanness and a clearness of tone that becomes part of you and expresses you as no other clarinet can.

Pete Fountain's French Quarter Inn - 4 Part Advertising Folder - Memorabilia

Pete Fountain's French Quarter Inn
4 Part Advertising Folder

4 Part Advertising Folder Circa 1960s

Pete Fountain's Place New Orleans - Memorabilia

Pete Fountain's Place Postcard

Pete Fountain's Place New Orleans LA circa 1966 Postcard

Liner Notes:

Pete Fountain's French Quarter Inn
800 Bourbon Street
New Orleans, Louisiana

Where many of the world-famous Pete Fountain Clarinet recordings originate.

Pete Fountain's Jazz Club Postcard - Memorabilia

Pete Fountain's Jazz Club Postcard

Postcard Liner Notes:
Card is 3 1/2 inch x 5 1/2

New Orleans is the home of jazz great Pete Fountain. The world-famous clarinetist plays it to the hilt. Tuesday thru Saturday in his club located on the Third Level of the hotel. Visit Pete's Club for the sweetest sounds in the Southland.

Pete Fountain At Piper's Opera House - Jazzology Records

Pete Fountain At Piper's Opera House

Full 12 Page Booklet Below

1993 Jazzology Records JCD-217

CD Listing
1. Dialogue Intro
2. Jazz Me Blues
3. Closer Walk With Thee
4. St. James' Infirmary
5. Shine
6. Sophisticated Lady
7. Lover
8. Wolverine Blues
9. Do You Know What It Means To Miss New Orleans
10. My Blue Heaven
11. South Rampart Street Parade

Liner Notes:

Pete Fountain Clarinet
John Thomas Cornet
Eddie Miller Tenor Saxaphone
Bob Havens Trombone
Merle Koch Piano
Bunky Jones String Bass
Nick Fatool Drums

Recorded: Virginia City, Nevada 6-26-83 by Smokey Lawrence

Pete Fountain At Piper's Opera House

This is the spirited music that was heard on June 26 and 27, 1983 in Virginia City, Nevada during the celebration of the 100th Anniversary of Piper's Opera House.

To commemorate the occasion, jazz was played for the only time in the historic edifice where Richard Jose, Lillian Russell, Enrico Caruso, Cornelia Otis Skinner, Harry Houdini, and John Barrymore performed.

With such stellar jazzmen as Pete Fountain, Eddie Miller, Bob Havens, and Nick Fatool together in one band, we have the basic elements from which musicians' fantasies are constructed. In short, this was a dream line-up. Happily, engineer Smokey Lawrence had the astute foresight to record these wonderful moments.

The title and texture of the opener, "Jazz Me Blues," vividly sets the scene for this program of vibrant jazz. It accurately exemplifies the true New Orleans attitude and doctrine, "Laissez les bon temps rouller" - let the good times roll!

Pete Fountain, weaving his way through several expressive choruses, provides a swinging response to the query, "Do You Know What It Means to Miss New Orleans?" This, rightfully, is Pete signature song. His nimble exploration of the delicate melody's every possible nuance aurally defines the articulate fluency of New Orleans style clarinet playing. John Thomas' impassioned vocal and tender cornet solo compatibly reflect Fountain's tasteful approach.

"Just a Closer Walk With Thee," with Pete out in front with rhythm backing, gradually soars from the tune's reverent hymnal roots to a lofty swinging romp. He concludes with a haunting echo note that probably does not exist on the horn.

With every graceful gliss, Bob Havens reveals his unabashed devotion to the great Jack Teagarden. "Lover," and "St. James Infirmary" are reverent salutes to his mentor's inventiveness. Trombonists will deny that some of these lip-trill figures are possible! Throughout the program, Havens' flowing solos and stirring tailgate slurs create an impetus that propels the band and arouses the audience.

Eddie Miller - the name epitomizes Jazz Saxophone. When he died in 1991, Eddie left a vast musical void that seemingly will never be filled. His beautifully developed solos are always logical extensions of a tune's roots. They bloom seamlessly with majestic splendor and substantiate his pantheonic status on "Wolverine Blues." Miller's "Sophisticated Lady," clothed in his warm buttery tone, is probably the definitive version of Ellington's perfect ballad. When Eddie digs in on two choruses of "My Blue Heaven," the 66 year old tune is enhanced with youthful vigor.

Pianist Merle Koch's very impressive talents, coupled with a reclusive life style, have created the legendary aura that accompanieshis name. Eschewing appearances at major venues, he was content to play the piano in his Silver Stope Saloon in Silver City, a small Nevada mining town, where Pete Fountain recorded another highly acclaimed CD with Koch - GHB-BCD-300.

On the frolicking epic, "Wolverine Blues" he explores a facet of Morton's skills with a pile-driving solo. Merle's rompin' and stompin' on "Shine" are rhythmically enhanced by Richard "Bunky" Jones' exhilarating walking beat that authenticates the bassist's musical credentials.

Jones is among the legion of unsung jazz heroes. He worked with Merle Koch for a dozen years in Silver City until Merle died in 1987. During that stint, "Bunky" backed-up many leading jazzmen who eagerly accepted Koch's frequent invitations to play at the unique venue.

Cornetist-vocalist John Thomas is another member of the unsung clan. He also appeared with Koch for three years in Silver City. Thomas can be heard on several recordings made at the Silver Stope Saloon and on some sessions taped during the Manassas Jazz Festivals. Thomas plays a lyrical horn and adds brilliance to the ensembles. His brash vocal and the very moving cornet cadenza on "St. James Infirmary" are indications of his vast talents. He now lives in Jacksonville, Florida.

Nick Fatool's presence is felt throughout the program. With every well placed cymbal crash, with every appropriate press roll, he constantly underscores, yet never overshadows the music. His savory entire auditorium, and in some areas reached nearly twenty feet in depth. Two walls, the west and north sides, were rebuilt, and the stage floor, which had buckled badly, was repaired. Canvas was stretched and hung on the ceiling and all the walls of the auditorium, replacing the torn and tattered original muslin. The beautiful proscenium was repainted in the original design and colors and the curtains were restored.

In 1973, a grand reopening of the theatre was held as Mrs. Driggs, from then until 1985, brought the first chamber music to Piper's and the Comstock. Concerts were held on Sunday afternoons throughout the summer, and such internationally-known musicians as Aaron Rosand, John DeLancie, Kathleen Lenski, and Vladimir Sokoloff brought the finest in chamber music and solo concerts to the theatre. In addition, world premiers of several of Efrem Zimbalist Sr.'s last works were performed, Hal Holbrook appeared in his world-renowned Mark Twain Tonight in 1981, and a three-day Piper's Jazz Festival, produced by Merle Koch was staged, with such greats as Pete Fountain in performance.

Louise Zimmer Driggs is still the current owner of Piper's and in the spring of 1986 her eldest daughter, Carol Piper Marshall, assumed the mantle of Managing Director. Conceived and executed in the summer of 1986 was the idea of daily shows for the first time ever in Piper's history. The half-hour shows, twice daily, were original in nature, and incorporated dramatic and musical material actually performed at Piper's one hundred years ago. One of these was The Show Girl.

Ford's Theatre in Washington, D.C. and Piper's Opera House in Virginia City, Nevada, are the richest archives of Victorian music and drama, worth preserving for all history.
- Floyd Levin

Friday, July 20, 2007

The Best of Pete Fountain - Decca Records

The Best of Pete Fountain

Full 8 Page Booklet Below

1996 Decca Records GRD-665
CD Listing
1. While We Danced At The Mardi Gras
2. A Closer Walk
3. Columbus Stockade Blues
4. Do You Know What It Means To Miss New Orleans?
5. Facination Medley: Fascination/Basin Street Blues/Tin Roof Blues/Way Down Yonder In New Orleans
6. China Boy (Go Sleep)
7. Bye Bye Bill Bailey
8. Lazy River
9. Yes Indeed
10. High Society
11. Stranger On The Shore
12. Over The Waves
13. Oh, Lady Be Good
14. You're Nobody 'Till Somebody Loves You
15. My Blue Heaven
16. Put On Your Old Grey Bonnet
17. For Pete's Sake
18. When The Saints Come Marching In March
19. St. Louis Blues
20. When My Baby Smiles At Me
21. Shrimp Boats
22. Indiana (Back Home In Indiana)

Liner Notes:
Original release 1972 on Verve/Decca an MCA release

Though clarinetist Pete Fountain has long been a fixture on the New Orleans jazz scene, his greatest notoriety came from his 1957-1959 nationally televised appearances with the Lawrence Welk orchestra leading a small group playing traditional jazz. Fountain, a Benny Goodman disciple who plays the old standards with indefatigable fervor, is a fixture on Mardi Gras day in New Orleans, leading the early morning parade down St. Charles Avenue with his "Half Fast" marching club. As Fountain walks, he plays the numbers on this record that comprise his standard repertoire--"While We Danced at the Mardi Gras," "Do You Know What It Means to Miss New Orleans," "Basin Street Blues," "Way Down Yonder in New Orleans," "When the Saints Come Marching in March" and "St. Louis Blues." --John Swenson

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Pete's Beat - EMI Special Products

Pete's Beat

1992 CEMA Special Markets S21-56649

CD Listing
1. When You're Smiling
2. Oh, Lady Be Good
3. 'way Down Yonder In New Orleans
4. Someday Sweetheart
5. Avalon
6. Honeysuckle Rose
7. Rosetta
8. Shine
9. The One I Love (Belongs To Somebody Else)
10. You Can Depend On Me
11. Do You Know What It Means (To Miss New Orleans)
12. Deep Purple

Liner Notes:

A showcase for Pete's clarinet, these recordings should appeal more to fans of the mellow, softer Pete than of his driving New Orleans dixieland style music. No credits listed or liner notes here, pretty much a budget release. It's Pete with a small group of unidentified musicians on the xylophone, guitar, bass and drums. The accompaniment is swinging, crisp, and rather lean, thanks in some measure to the absence of a piano, but none of the supporting musicians measures up to the capabilities of the leader during the solos.
Except for two obvious selections , there is nothing to identify this with New Orleans but this is still a very enjoyable small group swing set.

Cheek To Cheek - Ranwood Records

Cheek To Cheek

Inside Booklet Below

1993 Ranwood Records RDS 1009

CD Listing
1. Cheek To Cheek
2. Smoke Rings
3. Girl Of My Dreams
4. Sweet And Lovely
5. You Must Have Been A Beautiful Baby
6. Unforgettable
7. Paradise
8. 'deed I Do
9. Rose Room
10. I Let A Song Go Out Of My Heart
11. I Can't Believe That You're Still In Love With Me
12. Nobody's Darlin'

Liner Notes:

Pete Fountain, clarinet
Owen Bradley, piano
Buddy Harman, drums
Jim Ferguson, bass
Gary L. Miller, trombone
Chris McDonald, trombone
Chris Dunn, trombone
Tom Lundberg, trombone
Barry Green, trombone
Ernie Collins, bass trombone

This album is dedicated "To my wife Beverly for putting up with me for 43 years" Pete

1993 Ranwood Records, A Welk Music Group Compony
Produced by Owen Bradley

The musical path Pete has chosen for Cheek To Cheek veers away from jazz and into a world of pure and perfect romance. The songs are classics. Yet Pete embraces each one as though it has never been played before. The result is as smooth and dreamy as a summer night. Set against the mellow, low end sound of five trombones, the quality of Pete's clarinet becomes enticingly beautiful. Never before has his haunting sound so elegantly explored the secret of implicity. Each rich note slides effortlessly into your heart. And into your feet. Because as Pete says, "This is music for dancing. You know, the good kind. Close dancing."

Recorded at Bradley's Barn, Mt. Juliet, TN

Saturday, July 14, 2007

New Orleans Go! Go! - Pentagon Records

New Orleans Go! Go!

1969 Pentagon Records ALS-123 Stereo / AL-123 Mono

Side One
1. Fee Fo Lay (Al Hirt)
2. Pitter Patter (Al Hirt)
3. Mama Terrebone (Al Hirt)
4. Gotta Go (Al Hirt)
5. Jazz Me Blues (Pete Fountain)
6. Bugle Call Rag (Pete Fountain)

Side Two
1. South Rampart Street Parade (Pete Fountain)
2. Sensation Ray (Pete Fountain)
3. Pizza & Beer (Louis Prima)
4. Brooklyn Boogie (Louis Prima)
5. Piccolina Lena (Louis Prima)
6. Bring Forth The Night (Louis Prima)

Liner Notes:

New Orleans, the birthplace of Dixieland jazz, has been the home of many legendary jazz musicians, including the greats Al Hirt, Pete Fountain and Louis Prima.

About Louis Prima - In his youth, Prima played trumpet with Irving Fazola, his brother's band, and the pit band of the Saenger Theater before forming his own group, Louis Prima's New Orleans Gang. It's unfortunate that while a major New Orleans musician, Louis Prima doesn't get the recognition from his beloved home town. Pete and Al both have statues. This is evident the moment one arrives in New Orleans. A colorful triptych by artist Richard Thomas in the Delta terminal of Louis Armstrong International Airport depicts a cavalcade of New Orleans music legends, including Armstrong, Mahalia Jackson, Fats Domino, Jelly Roll Morton, Pete Fountain, Al Hirt and Harry Connick Jr. Prima is nowhere to be found.

Friday, July 6, 2007

New Orleans Jass - Jazz International Records

New Orleans Jass - Al Hirt & Pete Fountain

1970 Jazz International Records JIS-1107

Side One
1. Jazz Me Blues
2. Bugle Call Rag
3. South Rampart Street Parade
4. Crawfish

Side Two
1. Mama Terre Beau
2. Sensation Rag
3. Cajun Hoot
4. Pe Bolet

Liner Notes:

A real budget deal here, back cover is almost blank! I can't imagine this effort of an LP was authorized. The songs are all low quality recordings of early works that are on many low budget CDs. I couldn't find anything about the label, but there were a slew of other releases by them, Ray Charles among them. This is for the completist!

Album Cover Design by Jack Lonshein
A Division of Leonard Lewis Productions Inc. 345 West 58th St. NY 10019

Dixieland Lawrence Welk and Pete Fountain - Ranwood Records

Dixieland Lawrence Welk and Pete Fountain

1980 - Ranwood Records 8149-2

CD Listing
1. China Boy
2. Sweethearts On Parade
3. Blue Moods
4. Should I
5. Pete's Tail-Fly
6. San Antonio Rose
7. Barnyard Blues
8. When My Sugar Walks Down The Street
9. 's Wonderful
10. Tea 'n Trumpets
11. Thou Swell
12. Strike Up The Band

Liner Notes:

It was in the Fall of 1956 that three New Orleans musicians journeyed to the West Coast for the annual Gene Norman-Frank Bull Jazz Festival. They were veteran trumpet-man Al Hirt; a fourteen-year-old phenomenon on trumpet, Warren Luning, Jr.; and another veteran from the New Orleans jazz scene, clarinetist Pete Fountain. Among those in the audience that proceeded to flip over the playing of the New Orleans visitors was young Lawrence Welk, Jr. Forthwith he goes to the old man and says, "Dad, this you've gotta hear!" (Or words of similar import.) So Larry, Sr. put down his accordion, turned off the bubble-machine, and made the trip to the auditorium where the jazz bash was being held; and that night an idea was born. To wit: why not build a dixieland contingent from the Welk Orchestra around Pete Fountain, and feature him regularly, both at the dance sessions and on the weekly television broadcasts?

Thus it was that Pete Fountain left Al Hirt's band a few months after their return to New Orleans to accept an offer from Lawrence Welk that was (in Pete's words) "too good to turn down."

Since joining the Lawrence Welk Orchestra as a featured soloist, Pete has taken advantage of the opportunity to study on the west coast - an opportunity which the mature Pete Fountain realized was a valuable one in keeping with his desire to grow musically. He is almost twenty-eight years old.

Although it is essentially the Welk Orchestra backing Pete in this album, the arrangements are not of the "Champagne Music" style. Neither is it a jazz album. Rather it is designed for dancing, with an easily identifiable beat, and tempos well-suited for dancing.

Two years later he returned to jazz and New Orleans. As he puts it, "champagne and bourbon just don't mix" - but in two years he had become one of the most familiar names in American music, so the time had been well spent, well spent indeed.

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

When The Saints Go Marching In - Camden Records

When The Saints Go Marching In
Featuring Pete Fountain, Al Hirt and Others

Below are the inside covers

1972 RCA Camden Records COS-9018(e)
(Stereo effect reprocessed from monophonic)

Side One
1. When the Saints Go Marching In
2. High Society
3. Farewell Blues
4. Darktown Strutters' Ball
5. Ballin' the Jack
Pete Fountain and Other All Star Dixielanders

Side Two
1. 'Way Down Yonder in New Orleans
2. Muskrat Ramble
3. 12th Street Rag
4. Tin Roof Blues
5. Won't You Come Home, Bill Bailey
Pete Fountain and Other All Star Dixielanders

Side Three
1. Original Dixieland One-Step *
2. Do You Know What It Means to Miss New Orleans *
3. Milenberg Joys **
4. Sweethearts on Parader *
* George Girard and His New Orleans Five
** Tony Almerico's Dixieland All-Stars

Side Four
1. Down by the Riverside
2. Jazz Me Blues
3. Cornet Chop Suey
Al Hirt and his Band
4. Just a Closer Walk with Thee
Al Hirt, Trumpet, with Orchestra Conducted by Marty Paich

Liner Notes:


Dixieland, the music that roared out of the South and became a major part of an authentic American art form called jazz, has itself always been a happy blend of a variety of musical strains. Conceived in cosmopolitan New Orleans, rendered street-wise in the notorious Storyville district, the precocious music, alternately "hot" or "blue," but always alive, was not to be contained in its birthplace. When Storyville closed forever in 1917, the new sound expanded rapidly beyond the Crescent City.

A popular music in the truest sense (it sprang from the work songs, religious "shouts" and gospel songs of emancipated slaves combined with voodoo rhythms and street music, plus elements of multi-faceted Creole sounds), Dixieland was performed and perfected at public functions - funerals, picnics, political rallies, dances, lawn parties, Mardi Gras. And because it was and still is "people's music," it encompasses the full range of human feeling. Like poetry, it is best when heard live so one can feel it.

The early poets of this music, the "giants" Charles "King" Bolden, "Bunk" Johnson and the legendary Louis Armstrong are gone, but new men have emerged who add to a growing tradition. Two of the best of the new poets are on this album. More importantly they play the music the way it is supposed to be heard - live. They perform, not in the rather antiseptic surroundings of a sound studio, but in the steaming clubs that also support the tradition.

AI Hirt and Pete Fountain are the "big" names on this album, but there are others who are considered all pro by their peers. For example, listen to George Girard and his New Orleans Five play the Original Dixieland One-Step, Sweethearts on Parade or Do You Know What It Means to Miss New Orleans.

Girard and his colleagues (who are also heard on the Pete Fountain sides) swing in the old style in their version of the One-Step. This cut features a fine series of solos, one in particular by clarinetist Harry Shields. Not once does the One-Step lag, and the live audience reaction at the end fits perfectly. On Sweethearts on Parade listen for the clear enunciation of the solos. The pleasant enough vocal serves as a bridge for the crisp play of Shields and the fluid clarity of trombonist Bob Havens.

Tony Almerico's Dixieland All-Stars contribute a rousing Milenberg Joys with audience vibrations surfacing in the background, which act as a spur to a fine group of musicians. Tune in to drummer Johnny Castaing's first solo.

Pete Fountain's group plays a string of the best known and revered numbers in the Dixieland repertoire. Pete and his men make you feel the room's excitement as they swing into such evergreens as Muskrat Ramble, High Society, 'Way Down Yonder in New Orleans, 12th Street Rag and the title song of this album, When the Saints Go Marching In.

But the big man on this album is none other than AI Hirt. Al, a big tree of a man, certainly has his roots in New Orleans. No one can see him or watch his antics on records, so his popularity can only be ascribed to professional competence and technique. Both are in abundance on this album. Hirt has described his style as "... the Nashville sound. It's a combination of pop, country western and jazz." Hirt sticks to Dixieland classics here. Listen to him handle Louis Armstrong's Cornet Chop Suey with deftness and power. Or feel the pre-funeral dirge, Just a Closer Walk with Thee. Follow him as he builds and swings in Down by the Riverside. The discipline is there, but so is the feeling.

So there you have it. The best of Dixieland played by the best and performed before live audiences in the city where it all began. All you have to do is join in.

Martin R. Miller