Saturday, December 19, 2009

Taste of Louisiana, Chef John Folse's Christmas Memories with Pete Fountain

Taste of Louisiana Show on PBS, 1995 Christmas Memories Show. Pete shares a couple of his family recipes and toots Jingle Bells with Louisiana Chef John Folse. 10 minutes duration. Courtesy of

Monday, October 12, 2009

The Basin Street Six - River Boat - Mercury Records

The Basin Street Six
River Boat

featuring Pete Fountain

1951 Mercury Records EP-1-3238 Mono 7" EP

Side A:
1. Lazy River
2. I Can't Give You Anything But Love

Side B:
1. Sunday
2. Panama

Liner Notes:

George Girard (trumpet,vocals)
Joe Rotis (trombone)
Pete Fountain (clarinet)
Roy Zimmerman (piano)
Bunny Franks (bass)
Charlie Duke (drums)

Recording Date: Chicago September 19, 1951

In this Extended Playing album Mercury presents a genuine treat for jazz lovers in a sampling of the Dixieland which has brought quick fame to the Basin Street Six, a group of young musicians which Mercury believes is destined to become a legend in the jazz field. Jazz connoisseurs of long standing aver that this brand of music has not been heard since the days of the fabulous New Orleans Rhythm Kings. who remain, after many years, the criterion for excellence.

It is not by accident that the Basin Street Six has been compared to the New
Orleans Rhythm Kings. Like their great predecessors, the Basin Street Six came from New Orleans to Chicago and immediately created a sensation at such spots as Jazz Ltd. and the Blue Note. Their youth, vigor and obvious joy and talent in the music they play has brought them a fanatical following. In 21 year old George Girard on trumpet they have one of the most promising jass musicians to come along since the immortal Biz. The others, Pete Fountain on clarinet, Joe Rotis on trombone, Roy Zimmerman on piano, Charlie Duke on drums and Bunny Frank on bass, form a combination with Gerard that is the talk of the jazz world.

The four selections offered here are among the choicest in the Basin Street Six's rapidly expanding repertoire. You'll enjoy "Lazy River," played as we doubt you've ever heard it played before. Then there's "I Can't Give You Anything But Love," played tenderly yet with amazing variations which will leave you breathless with awe at their musicianship. "Sunday" is a gay romp, played with all the buoyancy and bounce this jazz standard calls for. "Panama" is a delight to anyone who appreciates authentic Dixieland.

Here, then. is the Basin Street Six, a young but musically mature group which has been called "the reincarnation of one of the first great jazz bands, the New Orleans Rhythm Kings."

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Pete Fountain Performing at Hollywood Casino Bay St Louis

Disappointing Visit to see Pete at
Hollywood Casino Bay St. Louis

As usual, I make my yearly visit to see Pete play at the tiny Hollywood Casino in Bay St. Louis MS. Since he only plays once a month, I checked their website and it stated he now plays Tues and Wed. of the first FULL week of each month. So I checked the calender, then called them to Sunday before (9/6/09), spoke with a lady who assured me he was playing this Tues. (9/8 and 9/9). I even asked since the week before wasn't the first FULL week (a phrase that seems to escape understanding at this casino). When I got down there from Massachusetts, I was surprised to find out he played the previous Tues and Wed. (not the first FULL week of the month and apparently unknown to casino personnel who answer these sort of questions to people planning on travelling to their little casino) The best they could do is offer me a free buffet. That certainly is the poorest effort I've ever seen. Maybe I'm spoiled since I leave near the casinos Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun, the two largest casinos in the world. These class acts would be embarrassed to offer a free buffet when they provided inaccurate information to a guest. Below are some excerpts from their website (which they now have changed the wording to cover themselves) and emails from the public relations person (who merely restated that Pete plays on Tues and Wed, ingnoring my concerns or their liablity).

Hollywood Casino Bay St Louis Website:

Old web page verbiage:
Pete Fountain Jazz it up with legendary Jazz Musician Pete Fountain LIVE in the Oak Royale Room. $20 cover includes 2 FREE drinks. Tickets sold in Token's Gift Shop. Shows are held the first Tuesday and Wednesday of the first full week of every month. See Tokens Gift Shop for show schedule.

New web page verbiage as of 9/17/09:
Jazz it up with legendary Jazz Musician Pete Fountain LIVE in the Oak Royale Room. $20 cover includes 2 FREE drinks. Tickets sold in Token's Gift Shop. Shows are held on selected Tuesday and Wednesday of every month. See Tokens Gift Shop for show schedule. Hollywood Casino reserves the right to cancel or change show schedule at anytime.
From: David Mekalian
Sent: Saturday, September 12, 2009 2:12 PM
To: 'Bob Davidge'
Subject: RE: Hollywood Casino St Louis Bay, MS Contact Request

I understand he used to play every Tue and Wed and only plays the first FULL week of each month now. My point was he didn't play the first FULL week of Sept and before I made the trip from Massachusetts I called your Casino and was told when I called the Casino on Sun he was playing the Tues of my visit (the first FULL week). This was a long trip for what turned out to be a disappointment. I know Pete Fountain, I run a website dedicated to him and report on my visit to see him each year.

If Pete is still performing next year, I'll look you up next Sept or Oct 2010.


From: Bob Davidge []
Sent: Wednesday, September 09, 2009 10:55 AM
To: David MekalianSubject: FW: Hollywood Casino St Louis Bay, MS Contact Request

Mr. Mekalian,

Thank you for contacting us about your recent visit to our property. We are pleased to be the only casino on the Coast to feature the legendary Jazz musician Pete Fountain. Until recently, he performed every Tuesday and Wednesday, and now typically performs the first Tuesday and Wednesday of the first full week of the month. There have been occasions when he has been unable to do that.

Unfortunately, you’re right he played on Tuesday, Sept. 1st and Wed., Sept. 2nd and is scheduled to play again, on Oct. 6 & 7th, the first full week of October. I’m sorry that you didn’t get to seem him during your visit. I promise you that I will see that I’ll address this issue and I will change that verbiage on our website.

Please feel free to call me during your next visit.
Thank you again,
Bob Davidge
Advertising & Public Relations Manager
Hollywood Casino Bay St. Louis
711 Hollywood Blvd.
Bay St. Louis, MS 39520
(228) 466-8047

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Memorabilia - Pete Fountain's Half Fast Walking Club by Brad Thompson

Pete Fountain's Half Fast Walking Club Poster
by Brad Thompson

Poster features legendary New Orleans jazz clarinetist, Pete Fountain, a founder and one of the most prominent members of The Half Fast Walking Club, one of the best known marching Krewes that parades in New Orleans during Mardi Gras. Foutain commissioned native New Orleans artist, Brad Thompson to paint "a collage of all that encompasses his part in starting 'the carnival' each year in New Orleans."

Size: 27" x 22" Unframed
Artist-Signed and Numbered Limited Edition Print

For more information or to purchase a poster:

Memorabilia - Pete Fountain: The Duke of Dixieland - Jazz Times 2001

Pete Fountain: The Duke of Dixieland
Jazz Times Magazine, October 2001
by Geraldine Wyckoff

Pete Fountain appears a contented man as he sits in his homey office adjacent to his club in New Orleans’ Hilton Hotel. "Welcome to the inner sanctum," greets Fountain as he walks through a hall lined with photographs representing a lifetime in music.

A robust individual with shiny pink cheeks and a ready smile, Fountain, 71, glows with a sense of knowing just who he is, of being happy with his life and thankful for his many successes. He’s come a long way from the skinny asthmatic kid who, at the age of nine, took up the clarinet on the recommendation of a doctor. Because of his health problems, the physician advised Fountain’s mother to get her son a wind instrument to improve his respiratory system.

"Years ago they called it weak lungs," explains Fountain, who never again suffered with breathing difficulties. "It built up my lungs; in fact, they became over sized through the years."

The prescription, of course, not only cured the young boy but eventually led to a career spanning some six decades, over 90 albums and international acclaim. Music drew Fountain even before he ever put a clarinet to his lips. As a kid, he used to pass a club called the Top Hat on his way to the movies at the nearby Arcade Theater. He would stop to listen through the fence to bands with musicians like trumpeters Sharkey Bonano and Louis Prima.

"My sister would have to drag me along saying ‘Come on, we have to go to the show,’" remembers Fountain, who really preferred peeking through the slats and listening to the music. "I found out I really enjoyed jazz," he continues. "It was just the feeling of listening to the jazz like that, it just brings you up, even as a little kid. Something was there."

Fountain grew up in a mid-city New Orleans neighborhood. About a block and a half away was Peterson’s Music Store, a spot where Fountain would often hang out. The proprietor, Harold Peterson, encouraged the clarinetist in his endeavors and would have the boy get his horn and play for patrons of the store who he thought would enjoy hearing him.

"Mr. Peterson put together a little brass band, it was called the Broad Street Social and Pleasure Club. He would get everybody in the neighborhood who played. They’d stop by my house and pick me up. It was a school night and my mother used to scream about it. They wouldn’t walk too long. it would last as long as a barrel of beer lasted."

By the time Fountain was 14 he was already playing some dancehall jobs. "We had a little band and we’d get $5 a night," recalls Fountain. "There were four of us so we’d get $1.25. One of the guys, Jack Delaney, a great trombone player, would borrow his brother’s car to take us to the job."

Serious about music, Fountain listened to the clarinetists of the era like New Orleanians George Lewis, Raymond Burke and Irving Fazola as well as Benny Goodman. "I’m glad I did because I didn’t copy one particular clarinet player," says Fountain. "I put those four together and came up with a sound."

He developed his craft in ensembles like Phil Zito’s International Dixieland Express, The Dukes of Dixieland and the Basin Street Six. It was while with the Six, standing alongside childhood friend and music mate trumpeter George Girard, that Fountain realized his life’s work would be in music. "I went directly from high school to the Conservatory of Bourbon Street," says Fountain with a laugh.

With the Basin Street Six, Fountain played what he calls "swingin’ Dixie" and it’s a style he’s stuck with throughout his career. During the late 1940s, trumpeter Al Hirt would often sit in with the Six, and he and Fountain developed a life-long personal and musical relationship.

"From then on we got to be friends and we worked together a lot of times," says Fountain. "It was one of those things that whoever got the job wore the bow tie. If Al got the job he wore the bow tie; if I got the job I wore the bow tie. To work with Al, he was such a technician; he really helped me with my technique. Because to keep up with him, you’ve got to play because he’s not going to wait for you. He would kick off a tune and it was gone."

A glitch in Fountain and Hirt’s musical careers occurred in 1956, when the two musicians, who by then had family responsibilities, faced a scarcity of jobs. Blame it on the rise of rock ’n’ roll and rhythm ’n’ blues in their hometown; for the first time Fountain abandoned music as his main source of income. The two stuck together, however, and went to work for a pest-control company.

"He was in the roach division and I was in the termite division," says Fountain with a chuckle. "I was small and skinny at that time so I could get under a house. We didn’t last! I think we lasted about two months there. That was it."

Soon thereafter Fountain and Hirt both got the breaks that would completely change their fortunes. Hirt went with vocalist Dinah Shore and Fountain got the call from bandleader Lawrence Welk.

"She really made him and Welk really made me," says Fountain, who joined Welk’s band in 1957 and performed weekly on the bandleader’s popular television show. Fountain gained particular recognition on the program as he stepped out of the orchestra to lead a featured Dixieland combo that played classics like Muskrat Ramble.

Fountain initially went to Los Angeles to play with Welk for a couple of weeks but ended up staying two years.

"He kept me sober, and it damn near killed me," recalls Fountain, laughing. "He was pretty hard on drinking."

While Fountain was getting only union scale with Welk, he was gaining a strong following of fans and a reputation for his Dixieland style. He recorded an album with Welk and then debuted as leader on Pete Fountain’s New Orleans on the Coral label. (Re-released by MCA, Fountain says the album is still selling.) Now a household name and recording artist, Fountain felt his career was flourishing enough that he and his family could return home.

"I wanted my kids to grow up in New Orleans like I did," says Fountain. "Los Angeles didn’t have the heart and the warmth that you have down here. Even though my wife could cook red beans and rice, you miss the seasonings, you miss the crawfish and all of that."

Fountain, who has now been in the club business over 40 years, bought his first nightspot at 800 Bourbon Street. Playing three shows a night, five days a week wasn’t easy work, but was necessary because of the club’s limited capacity. Several years later, the clarinetist moved the action up the street to a larger spot at 231 Bourbon. Now Fountain had the luxury of having to play only two sets a night. In 1977, the clarinetist finally moved Pete Fountain’s to its present location on the third floor of the Hilton Hotel. Seating 400 patrons and designed by Fountain to resemble the Blue Room club in Las Vegas’ Tropicana hotel, the clarinetist and his band began packing them in for a single show a night.

It’s a long way from Bourbon Street, and its heavy foot traffic, to the third floor of a downtown hotel. Realizing the problem from the onset, Fountain knew he had to let his fans across the country know where to find him when they came to New Orleans. He got in contact with The Tonight Show, then hosted by Johnny Carson, and asked to be a guest. The resulting performance served its initial purpose of advertising Fountain’s new locale and also became the first of 58 appearances on the popular late night television show.

With the release of 2001’s Big Band Blues (Ranwood), two of the most influential aspects of Fountain’s career appearances on Welk’s and Carson’s television shows came together. On the album, Fountain performs with the New Lawrence Welk Orchestra on arrangements by former Tonight Show guitarist Bob Bain. Through the years, Bain wrote these charts specifically for the clarinetist’s many appearances with the Tonight Show band, then led by Doc Severinsen.

In New Orleans, Fountain is renowned not only as a clarinetist and club owner, but also for his annual Mardi Gras appearances with his Half-Fast Marching Club. Since childhood, Fountain enjoyed watching and listening to Carnival organizations the Jefferson City Buzzards and the Corner Club. So in 1961, he and a group of friends formed their own marching club. The group of costumed revelers makes an annual trek from uptown New Orleans to the French Quarter, heading out on Carnival morning to walk in front of the famous Zulu parade. In Half-Fast’s early years, the Onward Brass Band accompanied it, led by drummer Paul Barbarin and later by clarinetist Louis Cottrell. For Carnival 2001, almost 200 people marched with the Half-Fast, which boasted two bands and, of course, Fountain’s clarinet.

"It’s New Orleans," says Fountain of this Mardi Gras experience. "It’s part of me; it’s part of my life."

As Fountain sits comfortably in his office, the walls full of photographs tell his story. Autographed pictures of stars like Frank Sinatra and Johnny Carson hang next to those of Fountain and his father costumed as Indians during one of the Half-Fast’s notorious marches. Fountain is at once the famed musician who played with trumpet legend Louis Armstrong and at the White House, and the guy who can’t resist hitting the streets for a second-line parade.

"I’m still here tootin’," says Fountain with a smile. "What you see is what you get."

About Geraldine Wyckoff

Geraldine Wyckoff has been a freelance music journalist in New Orleans for more than 22 years. She writes regularly for Louisiana Weekly and New Orleans Magazine. Geraldine has been contributing to JT since 1986.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

The recordings of Pete Fountain

Mr. New Orleans!

Soon to come, the recordings of Pete Fountain. Stay Tuned!

Monday, August 3, 2009

Review: The Roosevelt's Blue Room July 31, 2009 Show

The Roosevelt's reborn Blue Room
swings with Pete Fountain and Tim Laughlin

by Keith Spera, Music writer, The Times-Picayune
Saturday August 01, 2009, 2:33 PM

Reprint Courtesy of © 2009 New Orleans Net LLC.

Water glasses reflected blue stage lights. A massive chandelier sparkled. Elegantly attired guests dined on lobster and filet mignon and danced to a jazz big band fronted by the clarinets of Pete Fountain and Tim Laughlin.

Take away the iPhones deployed by some and Friday could have passed for a scene from the Blue Room's heyday as one of the South's premier supper clubs.

Instead, Friday marked the rebirth of the Blue Room in The Roosevelt New Orleans, the sumptuously restored former Fairmont hotel on Baronne Street.

Photo right: Fountain "toots" at the opening of the reborn Blue Room on Friday, July 31, 2009. Kevin Zansler / The Times-Picayune

Back in the day, the Blue Room hosted all manner of marquee entertainers: Louis Armstrong. Frank Sinatra. Sonny & Cher. Tony Bennett. Ella Fitzgerald. Marlene Dietrich. Jimmy Durante. Bette Midler. For decades, until supper clubs fell out of favor, it was the place to see and be seen. Many New Orleanians harbor fond memories of special occasions spent there.

In its new incarnation, the room's layout is altered only slightly. Tables are set on two tiers, per tradition. But the low stage on which performers once ventured out among tables has been replaced by a herringbone-patterned dance floor. Musicians now occupy a raised stage set into the room's back wall.

On the Blue Room's opening night, guests dined on lobster, caviar, filet mignon and baked Alaska. Kevin Zansler / The Times-Picayune

But the elegance of the old days is in evidence. Many in attendance Friday could have frequented the Blue Room in the 1960s or earlier. With a $195 ticket, they passed through massive gold doors gift-wrapped with blue ribbons. Inside awaited memories and executive chef Stefan Kauth's menu of lobster and choupique caviar symphony, petit filet mignon, Louisiana crab cakes, truffle mashed potatoes and baked Alaska flambe.

Photo right: Tim Laughlin joined his friend and mentor Pete Fountain on stage for the reopening of the Blue Room. Kevin Zansler / The Times-Picayune

Laughlin and an expanded version of his band eased into a program of jazz standards and original material. The latter included "For Pete's Sake," a song Laughlin wrote in honor of Fountain, his friend, mentor and the night's special guest.

All musicians but Fountain wore tuxedos; he opted for a dark suit and tie. Bassist Matt Perrine, his long hair pulled back in a discrete ponytail, worked an upright bass furiously as he soloed in "When the Saints Go Marching In."

Men in suits and women in cocktail dresses crowded the dance floor. They kept dancing through the spiritual "Just a Closer Walk With Thee." "It's done in a tempo where you can get away with it," Laughlin said later.

After a final "Struttin' With Some Barbecue," fans pressed against the stage to shake Fountain's hand or collect an autograph on the blue souvenir menus. "The whole city loves you," one man said to Fountain.

Laughlin and Fountain return on Saturday, Aug. 1, for a second sold-out show. For the next few weeks at least, the Blue Room will open only for weddings and other private events. Starting in October, the room will feature a Sunday brunch, the restoration of another tradition.

The 504-room Roosevelt, now part of the Hilton Hotel Corp.'s upscale Waldorf-Astoria portfolio, welcomed its first guests since Hurricane Katrina in early July. Laughlin has performed frequently in the hotel's refurbished Sazerac Bar. When a regular schedule of entertainment will return to the Blue Room itself is uncertain.

Fans new and old will likely embrace it.

Fountain first played the room in the 1940s, and appeared dozens of times over the years. Laughlin attended a handful of shows at the old Blue Room, including the Mills Brothers and Mel Torme. But Friday was the first time he ever graced the stage himself.

"It was almost spiritual in a way," Laughlin said soon after the show's conclusion. "One of the biggest honors I've ever had. And to do it with Pete is a notch above that."

The Blue Room's new herringbone-patterned dance floor, sparsely populated early on, filled up by the end of Friday's show. Kevin Zansler / The Times-Picayune


Reprint and content courtesy of © 2009 New Orleans Net LLC.