Reported by John Titsworth
Unlike the predicted downpour and thunderstorms, Saturday July 3rd turned out to a beautiful sunny, albeit hot and humid, summer day in New Orleans. Befitting for a man who was about to throw a big bash open to the public for his 80th birthday at a popular entertainment venue geared generally to a younger audience, Mid-City Rock ‘n Bowl.
The Fountain family spent all morning tastefully decorating the place themselves that included a 12-foot long cake in the shape of a clarinet baked at the Swiss Bakery located on St. Charles Ave., a stop for the Half-Fast Walking Club during Mardi Gras on Fat Tuesday. Tickets were sold for a raffle of certain prized items that included a lamp made out of a clarinet.
For the drawing Pete himself drew the winning tickets out of a bucket held by his granddaughter, Danielle, accompanied by Pete’s manager for the past 35 years, Benny Harrell.
Surrounded by his family on stage that included Beverly, Pete’s wife of 60 years, the music was about to begin.
Pete's daughter Darah wishing her dad all the best with a birthday kiss.
Now to the music. The concert was broken up into 3 sets.
After the break when the raffle and birthday cake festivities took place, Pete joined the band. The anticipation of the second set riveted the crowd.
Pete’s live appearances in New Orleans have become a rarity. Television cameras from the local TV stations were on hand to capture the event. The band opened with and burned up "Clarinet Marmalade".
Pete fired up the next tune on "Up the Lazy River" that included solos from members of the band: Connie Jones (cor), Tim Laughlin (cl), Mike Genevay (tb), Otis Bazoon (ts), Allyn Young (g), David Boeddinghaus (p), Kerry Lewis (b), and Bryan Barberot (dr).
The band members doing their solos
Helen Arlt still kicking in the 21st Century.
Next guitarist and vocalist Allyn Young offered humorous earthy lyrics to which Mike Genevay playfully mimicked on a blues-drenched tune based on "Tin Roof Blues".
Unannounced guest clarinetist, Greg Harrison, hailing from the Washington, DC area, joined in emoting bluesy warmth.
But Pete had one more trick up his sleeve. Granddaughter and professional dancer, Danielle Harrell Scheib, bounced up on stage and spiritedly tapped complementary rhythms to "St Louis Blues"; scores of digital cameras flashed as the TV cameras rolled.
Conclusion, no Pete Fountain concert would be complete without Pete’s soulful interpretation of "Just a Closer Walk With Thee", which is exactly what Pete rendered after which he bid everyone goodbye. He gave the packed house more than what they had come for - a soon to be not forgotten magical 80th birthday celebration that only Pete could possibly deliver. And deliver he did.
John Titsworth, a New Orleans resident, is a frequent contributor to this blog. His contributions are appreciated, we thank you!