Hollywood Casino in Bay St. Louis on Dec. 8, 2010
Reported by John Titsworth
It was a chilly evening in Bay St. Louis, MS on December 8th for a performance at The Hollywood Casino that had been advertised as Pete Fountain’s final show at the casino. The band had been playing one 8:00 show the first Tuesday and Wednesday of each month for the past 9 months set up on top of a bar centrally located on the main floor of the casino. The view from the bandstand was that of a sea of slot machines and gambling tables between which chairs were squeezed in order to see Pete play.
The local Biloxi television station, WLOX, sent a camera man and anchorwoman to interview Pete and capture snippets of the show for broadcast later that evening. By 6:30 people were appearing claiming what few good spots existed with favorable views of the stage. By show time a tight knit group had assembled who were personal friends and family as well as many well wishers and loyal fans of Pete over the past 60 years. With little fanfare the show opened with Benny Harrell’s (Pete’s personal manager for the over 35 years) introduction. Pete emerged from behind a curtain to the opening bars of "Clarinet Marmalade" delighting the audience with his first solo of the show. Next up "Up the Lazy River" during which Pete’s solo was partially captured by the WLOX cameraman standing just inches away obstructing the view, but no one seemed to mind.
Virtually everyone in the band soloed; a band consisting of Tim Laughlin (clarinet), Tom Maggiore (tenor sax), Connie Jones (cornet), Mike Genevay (trombone), Allyn Young (guitar), John Royen (piano), Oliver "Sticks" Felix (bass), Bryan Barberot (drums).
The lighting scheme throughout the whole show was peculiar. The band was either lit entirely in red, or entirely in blue, and in one instance entirely in green, switching colors during a tune or in-between tunes often times without any discernible reason. The band then launched into another Fountain chestnut, "Basin Street Blues", explored by Tim Laughlin’s soulful clarinet introduction.
During a brief up tempo piano interlude, to the crowd’s amusement, Pete strutted his stuff second line style. "St. Louis Blues" arranged with rhythm changes kept the fingers popping. Guitarist and vocalist Allyn Young then poked good-natured fun at Tom Maggiore on a blues-drenched selection based on "Tin Roof Blues" with lyrics depicting Tom’s weight fluctuation and his relationship with his woman.
The crowd gasped with joy when Pete render a number best identified with his career, "Just a Closer Walk With Thee"; warmth and love poured forth from Pete’s horn. But the show did not end there. Pete brought up 2 musicians to sit-in on the final 3 numbers, a friend of many years fellow clarinetist, Bert Boe, and pianist David Boeddinghaus. Allyn Young was called upon once again to lend his vocalizes, this time to a rollicking rendition of "My Little Margie"; the pulse so infectious that Elaine Jones (Connie Jones’ wife) and Danielle Harrell Scheib (Pete’s granddaughter) bent, twisted, and hopped their dancing moves in the aisle to the groove.
Another up-tempo standard followed, "Struttin' With Some Barbecue". All good things must come to an end but not before Pete kicked off "When the Saints Go Marching In". The 3 clarinets of Tim, Bert, and Pete established the head feeding into a duet between Tim and drummer Bryan Barberot leading into Bryan’s stomping drum solo. With a head nod Bryan signaled the band back as the 10 musicians romped to a fiery climax. Before departing the stage for the last time a representative from the Casino presented Pete with a bouquet of flowers to the closing musical exit ditty by the band. Eager to meet everyone after the show, Pete accompanied by his family greeted and posed for pictures with anyone who wanted to be with Pete on this memorable closing evening.
What’s in store for Pete? Ever the optimist, Mike Genevay, trombonist with Pete since 1978, proclaimed while exiting the stage door that "don’t be surprised if we show up some place in the near future". Stay tuned.
John Titsworth, New Orleans LA is a frequent contributor to this blog, we thank him for all his hard work and contributions.
Just a Closer Walk With Thee
Tim Laughlin, Bert Boe, Pete
Elaine and Danielle dancing to My Little Margie
Tim & Bryan duet on the Saints
Bryan Signaling To Band On Saints
Bouquet Of Flowers Before Pete's Final Exit
Bryan Tearing Down Kit For Last Time
Greeting Well Wisher After Show
Greeting More Well Wishers After Show
Posing For Pictures After Show
Grandson Gregory, Beverly Fountain, And Pete After Show
We all would like to wish Pete the best, thanks for the great music all these years.
We will miss you, you deserve your retirement!