Saturday, August 06, 2016

A Half-Fast closer walk

Half Fast Walking Club 55 years

In the years that we've lived near the parade route, there's scarcely been a Mardi Gras morning where we haven't greeted Pete Fountain and his Half-Fast Walking Club out on St. Charles Avenue.

Half Fast Walking Club

Pete Fountain's Half-Fast Walking Club 50 Years

It's certainly been a favorite of Menckles' since she moved in. Often I'll still be unshowered and on a first cup of coffee by the time they arrive. But she always rushes to be up and in costume to see them.

Half Fast Walking Club

I think she likes to flirt with the old men.  It's how she always ends up with the good stuff.

Pete Fountain medailion

Pete Fountain swag

I'm sure we'll rush out to see them again next year. But it won't be the same without Pete
Pete Fountain, the iconic traditional jazz clarinetist whose sweet sound and merry spirit personified New Orleans for millions of fans, died early Saturday after a decade of declining health. He was 86.

For more than half a century, Fountain loomed large over the cultural landscape of New Orleans, from music to Mardi Gras to Bourbon Street.

His lush, swinging clarinet tone was instantly identifiable with his hometown. His recordings of “Just a Closer Walk With Thee” and “Basin Street Blues” are widely considered to be among the quintessential versions. Three of his dozens of albums sold more than a half-million copies apiece.
I didn't get a picture every year. But here are some of Pete taken on recent Fat Tuesdays.


Pete Fountain


Pete Fountain


Pete Fountain


Pete Fountain


Pete Fountain

These are doubloons from this year's march.  The 2016 theme, "Orange you glad it's Mardi Gras" is just a coincidence and probably doesn't haven anything to do with Trump.

Orange you glad

Anyway, this is from that Keith Spera obit linked above.  
As a member of the Basin Street Six, his reputation as an especially hot clarinetist grew. In 1957, celebrity bandleader Lawrence Welk offered Fountain a spot in his big band. So Fountain packed up his family and moved to Los Angeles.

Every Sunday evening, ABC-TV beamed “The Lawrence Welk Show” in black-and-white to millions of living rooms. As the featured soloist, Fountain was soon one of the most famous jazz musicians in the country. Initially, he sported a receding hairline, a prominent chinstrap of a goatee, and thick-framed glasses. Welk’s people convinced him to don a toupee, ditch the glasses and tone down the goatee.

The straight-laced Welk didn’t much care for Fountain’s drinking, but couldn’t deny the mischievous young clarinetist’s talent. Even while suffering a hangover, Fountain proudly noted years later, he rose to the challenge whenever Welk called for a solo.

"He kept me sober -- damn near killed me," Fountain joked. "Every time they make rules to a guy from New Orleans, he'll break it. Instead of going to the bar and just getting a drink, I'd get a double."


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