Thursday, July 8, 2010

Pete Fountain's 80th Birthday Bash - News

Pete Fountain's 80th Birthday Bash
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.

Slated to begin at 3:00 and end at 6:00, the party began instead when the doors opened at 2:00. Within just a few minutes the Rock ‘n Bowl became standing room only. A long line of well wishers assembled to sign the sizable guess book, a line that never diminished for the next 4 hours.

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.

A birthday party would not be complete without a birthday cake and candle blowing ceremony. Pete blew out all the candles on his first attempt on a cake held by his son Jeffrey.

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.

For the first set the band sans Pete opened up with "Fidgety Feet" followed by traditional jazz standards including "Together".

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

Tim soulfully caressed the nuances on the following tune "Basin Street Blues" as Pete second-lined hand-in-hand on stage with New Orleans jazz entrepreneur since the 1940s.

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!


James S Mattson said...

Thank you for your coverage of Pete Fountain's "retirement party." I have been a fan of his since my high school years, 1959-63, when I played clarinet and alto sax in a 17-piece dance band we students had formed in 1960. Fifty years later, I still have some of the Coral records that I bought back in those days. I've also listened to Mr. Fountain on my visits to New Orleans, over the years, and I cannot imagine him retiring at such an early age.

One thing that has nagged me recently is the inability to obtain CDs of those Coral record releases. Like the youngsters of today, I am often importing my records and CDs into iTunes, so I can listen to the music on my computers and while traveling.

I occasionally check and for CDs to upload (since one cannot upload vinyl recordings), and I never see CDs for Mr. Fountain's Coral records. I have software to convert vinyl records to digital format (i.e., CDs), but the process is tedious, and requires a fair amount of time removing "pops" and scratches from the record input.

Any light you can shed on this issue with Coral recordings would be appreciated. Now that Pete Fountain has decided to retire, maybe whoever owns the Coral masters will give in and allow them to be converted to digital.

Tina said...

Respectfully Mr. Fountain I have so enjoyed reading about your life and success. I now have a question for you that has plagued our family for years and I read a spot of the answer on the Circus History Message Board. I am the granddaughter of Princess White Cloud and my question (that noone seems to know the answer too) is what in Gods' name was her real name? You must have known since she sang with your band. I am 50 years of age now and no one in our family knows her real name. My mother passed in 1977 and took it to her grave. I hope and pray that you can answer this for me. Thank You, Tina Nowak