Monday, July 2, 2012

Pete Fountain's 82nd Birthday - News

Happy 82nd Birthday Pete!

Pete Fountain, Jazz Clarinetist, was born on July 3, 1930 in New Orleans. He has entertained us for decades and we all wish him the best.

We wish Pete a happy 82nd birthday, and may he continue to "toot" and make music for many more years.

Pete's Baby Photo

Friday, June 15, 2012

Pete Fountain at New Orleans Jazz Fest - News

Jazz Legend Pete Fountain Pleases Fans with the Standards
By Katie Van Syckle

Pete Fountain took the stage at New Orleans Jazz Fest on Sunday afternoon as any legend should - supported by a bevy of talented musicians, there to let the 81-year-old shine. Fountain, a.k.a "Mr. New Orleans," is considered by many to be the ambassador of Dixieland Jazz. Also a fixture during Carnival season, Fountain's "Half-Fast Walking Club" has been leading the downtown parade route on Mardi Gras since 1960.

Photo By Katie Van Syckle

Pete Fountain plays during New Orleans Jazz Fest accompanied
by his great-granddaughter Isabella singing, "What a Wonderful World."

Fans were pouring out the sides of the tent as the crowd chanted, "Let's go, Pete!" to greet the artist with a standing ovation. Smart phones lined the stage to snap his image.

"Mr. Music, Mr. Pete Fountain," his emcee said.

"Yeah Pete!" The crowd responded. In the middle of "Lazy River" the legend leaned on a stool to his right for support, but his smile did not fade. He enraptured the crowd during "Basin Street Blues." The air smelled like the recognizable Jazz Fest triumvirate of trampled grass, sweat and beer. A seated patron shushed chatter in the back row.

To the left of the stage, couples embraced in dance on a wooden surface reserved for the purpose. Fountain invited his great-granddaughter, Isabella, to the stage for an adorable rendition of "It's a Wonderful World." After a rousing response from fans, and a kiss for her great-grandfather, like any good diva, Isabella was wisked off stage and into the crowd.

The second line, led by three enthusiastic umbrella carriers, picked up steam. A man with a thick white beard, high socks and a tag that read "free hugs" did a robot dance across the tent. As Fountain served his trademark "A Walk with Thee," the second line still was in full swing, but the majority of the crowd sat calmly and respectfully.

For a moment, the reserved tent seemed like the polar opposite of any Springsteen-rock induced mayhem transpiring across the Fair Grounds at the Acura Stage. Then, a breeze of smoke blew by, and it was clear that although vibes may be diverse, some Fest fans are on the same party page.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

News: Al Hirt and Pete Fountain

Al Hirt and Pete Fountain
The Times-Picayune Covers 175 Years of New Orleans History

Trumpeter Al Hirt and clarinetist Pete Fountain, one bearded, the other bald, personified good-time New Orleans jazz for decades. Friends and frequent collaborators, they released popular recordings, appeared on national TV and presided over Bourbon Street nightclubs bearing their names.

Nicknamed "Jumbo," Hirt embodied the city’s rollicking spirit in his performances and voracious appetites. From 1962 to 1983, he operated the Al Hirt Club on Bourbon. He recorded more than 50 albums. He won a Grammy Award in 1964 for his recording of the Allen Toussaint-penned instrumental "Java," which ascended to No. 4 on the pop charts. Other hits included "Sugar Lips" and "Cotton Candy."

He briefly hosted his own TV show on CBS. He performed for six presidents, for Princess Grace in Monaco, and for Pope John Paul II at the University of New Orleans in 1987.

His artistic success contrasted with turbulence in other areas of his life. Three of his four marriages failed, and unsuccessful business deals in the 1970s and ’80s led to lawsuits. He died of liver failure in 1999 at age 76.

The son of a Dixie beer truck driver, Fountain emerged as the most famous ambassador of traditional Dixieland jazz. In the late 1950s, two years as the featured soloist on "The Lawrence Welk Show" made him a star. The 1959 album "Pete Fountain’s New Orleans" contains what is arguably the definitive "A Closer Walk," marked by his impeccably rich clarinet tone. His 59 appearances on "The Tonight Show" during the Johnny Carson era fueled six-figure sales of his albums.

Indicative of his unofficial status as "Mr. New Orleans," Fountain has navigated the downtown parade route at the head of his Half-Fast Walking Club on nearly every Mardi Gras morning since 1960.

Also in 1960, he opened his first Bourbon Street nightclub. From 1977 to 2003, he was the featured act at another club in the Hilton Riverside. After closing it, he accepted a regular gig at a casino near his 10,000-square-foot weekend home in Bay St. Louis, Miss.

Hurricane Katrina’s tidal surge obliterated that home and its collection of memorabilia. Two strokes suffered since the storm have made speaking difficult for him. But Fountain can still "toot" on the clarinet, and, at 81, plans to continue as long as he is able.

By Keith Spera, The Times-Picayune The Times-Picayune