Pete Fountain, Legendary New Orleans Clarinetist, Passes At 86
August 8, 2016 at 12:03 PM (PT)
PETE FOUNTAIN, the native NEW ORLEANS musician whose DIXIELAND jazz clarinet playing earned his a national reputation, died of heart failure at 86. He was in hospice care in his hometown when he died early SATURDAY, according to his son-in-law and manager BENNY HARRELL.
Known for his sense of humor and a robust laugh, FOUNTAIN specialized in his native city's ability to “let the good times roll.” His TV appearances on the LAWRENCE WELK and JOHNNY CARSON shows made him a well-known national figure.
FOUNTAIN owned a club on BOURBON STREET for many years, making an annual trek through the FRENCH QUARTER with his “Half-Fast Walking Club,” a longstanding NEW ORLEANS ritual.
FOUNTAIN split time between NEW ORLEANS and the MISSISSIPPI GULF COAST, where his BAY ST. LOUIS home was destroyed by HURRICANE KATRINA in AUGUST, 2005. He eventually settled in HAMMOND, LA,
FOUNTAIN began performing on BOURBON STREET while still in his teens, calling the local circuit his "conservatory."
He toured nationally with the DUKES OF DIXIELAND and the late trumpeter AL HIRT. He achieved national recognition when he joined "The LAWRENCE WELK Show" as a headliner in 1957.
His biggest hit, a recording of "Closer Walk," sold more than a half million copies in 1959, and served as the name for his autobiography. It stuck as an unofficial theme song, and he even named his biography after the tune.
Funeral arrangements were pending, with a funeral mass planned for ST. LOUIS CATHEDRAL in the FRENCH QUARTER, and a "big jazz funeral" afterward, according to his son-in-law.