New Orleans icon Pete Fountain laid to rest

PHOTOS: JOSEPH CRACHIOLA PHOTOGRAPHY  | Jazz legend and New Orleans icon Pete Fountain was laid to rest today in a private funeral. On Wednesday, the city of New Orleans and its wide and varied musical community both mourned and celebrated the life of one of the most famous clarinet players in the world with a mass at St. Louis Cathedral and a massive second line parade through the heart of his beloved French Quarter.

The mass was not an all star musical celebration befitting a celebrity of his stature although Irma Thomas did sing the beautiful gospel song “Precious Lord” and Fountain’s protégé Tim Laughlin (pictured below) played his signature tune, “Just A Closer Walk With Thee.” Fittingly for a man’s whose career highlight was performing for Pope John Paul II, it was a traditional Catholic ritual presided over by Archbishop Gregory Aymond.

But once the doors of the church swung open and the casket was escorted to a horse-drawn hearse for the second line parade up Royal Street to the Hotel Monteleone, raucous music and joyousness befitting a man known for his joie de vivre were the order of the day.

Several musical ensembles were gathered outside the church, some hovered in the shade waiting to join the procession, including Fountain’s own Half Fast Walking Club band, the Storyville Stompers, the Gentilly Brass Band, and the clarinet section of Warren Easton High School—Fountain’s erstwhile alma mater had he not quit high school for the “Conservatory of Bourbon Street” at the age of 16.

The waiting crowd included surprised tourists, local music lovers, face and body-painted French Quarter characters, sign and banner bearers, and dozens of photographers. Trumpeter Kermit Ruffins (pictured above) joined in almost immediately adding high note blasts to those of James Andrews on the first number.

As the musicians exited Jackson Square, the massive band coalesced led by three grand marshals—Wesley J. Schmidt, Jane Harvey Brown, and Daryl “Dancing Man 504” Young. There were at least 50 musicians including well-known players Craig Klein on trombone, trumpeters Ken Ferdinand and Doyle “Red” Cooper, reed man Jason Mingledorff, saxophonist Jerry Embree, and drummer Kerry Brown plus the aforementioned musicians.

Sousaphonist Woody Penouilh of the Storyville Stompers was joined by at least five other tuba players amid a plethora of drummers and trombonists. Curiously, there weren’t a lot of the city’s well-known clarinet players in the mix.

As the band turned onto Royal Street they launched into a celebratory “When the Saints Go Marching In.” The crowd danced and the musicians swung out reaching for the heavens with their sound. “I’ll Fly Away” followed starting as a dirge and gradually increasing in tempo.

The second line following the band was huge. Though it’s hard to gauge numbers from the midst of a parade, it seemed like at least 500 people followed the enormous band. Umbrellas twirled as the midday sweat flowed. It was a wonderful send off for a humble man and treasured musician who once claimed, “I didn’t seek fame, fame found me.”

This entry was posted in TVD New Orleans. Bookmark the permalink. Trackbacks are closed, but you can post a comment.

  • Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text
  • Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text