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RIP Pete Fountain


ElmerJFudd

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Clarinetist Pete Fountain, New Orleans jazz legend, dies at 86

 

Clarinetist Pete Fountain, whose Dixieland jazz virtuosity and irrepressible wit endeared him to his native New Orleans and earned him decades of national television fame, died Saturday of heart failure. He was 86. Benny Harrell, Fountains son-in-law and manager, said Fountain was in hospice care in New Orleans when he died early Saturday. With his ready wit and infectious laugh, Fountain was the epitome of the happy New Orleanian who knew how to let the good times roll. Fountain gained fame as a featured player on The Lawrence Welk Show in the 1950s and made dozens of appearances on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson. Fountain later opened his own jazz club on Bourbon Street in New Orleans and over the years performed for four presidents and a pope. Funeral arrangements were pending, with a Mass being planned for St. Louis Cathedral in the French Quarter.

Well have a big jazz funeral after his Mass.

Benny Harrell

With his ready wit and infectious laugh, Fountain was the epitome of the happy New Orleanian who knew how to let the good times roll. Even his blues had a happy note. In a city dedicated to tradition, Fountains annual trek through the French Quarter with his Half-Fast Walking Club was a raucous New Orleans ritual one he rarely missed even when he was in failing health. Fountain was born Pierre Dewey La Fountaine Jr. in New Orleans in 1930 and began playing the clarinet as a way of fighting chronic respiratory problems. By the time he was a teenager, he was already performing in the citys clubs as a professional musician. He appeared as a recording artist on more than 100 albums.

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The man who turned me on to jazz... My first instrument was the clarinet, because of him... Huge loss.

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I got to visit his club during a symposium in the mid-'80s. We were packed in the room like sardines, three or four folks around tables that were no more than 24" diameter. None of us minded a bit. At the time I thought he was doing great for someone "so old." I am older now than he was then....

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RIP Pete,

Benny Goodman was my first favorite (when I started playing clarinet), but Pete became a favorite. Not only the virtuosity, but also the attitude.

 

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Oh man, he was one of my inspirations when I first started playing jazz clarinet.

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