July 3: Clarinetist, Pete Fountain is 81-years-old today.

Born Pierre Dewey LaFontaine, Jr., Pete Fountain was born in New Orleans and started playing clarinet, influenced first by Benny Goodman and then by Irving Fazola. Early on he played with the bands of Monk Hazel and Al Hirt. With his long time friend, trumpeter George Girard, Fountain founded The Basin Street Six in 1950.

After this band broke up four years later Fountain was hired to join the Lawrence Welk orchestra and became well known for his many solos on Welk's ABC television show, The Lawrence Welk Show. Welk caused a brief controversy by firing Fountain for "jazzing up" a Christmas number on the show.

Fountain returned to New Orleans, played with The Dukes of Dixieland, then began leading bands under his own name, owning his own club in the French Quarter in the 1960s and 1970s. He later acquired "Pete Fountain's Jazz Club" at the Riverside Hilton in downtown New Orleans.

The New Orleans Jazz Club presented the Pete Fountain Day on October 19, 1959, with celebrations honoring the pride of their city concluding with a packed concert that evening. His Quintett was made up of his studio recording musicians, Stan Kenton's bassist Don Bagley, vibeist Godfrey Hirch, pianist Merle Koch and the outstanding double bass drummer Jack Sperling. Fountain brought these same players together in 1963 when they played the Hollywood Bowl. Pete would make the trek to Hollywood many times appearing on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson 56 times.

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Pete Fountain's New OrleansBest Of Pete Fountain

In 2003 Fountain closed his club at the Hilton with a performance before a packed house filled with musical friends and fans. He then began performing two nights a week at Casino Magic in Bay St. Louis, Mississippi where he had a home, later destroyed by Hurricane Katrina.

After heart surgery in 2006 he performed at JazzFest, and helped reopen the Bay of St. Louis Casino which has the new name of the Hollywood Casino. He performed his last show at the Hollywood Casino on December 08, 2010.

Fountain is a founder, and is the most prominent member of The Half Fast Walking Club one of the best known marching Krewes that parade in New Orleans on Mardi Gras Day. The original name was "The Half-Assed Walking Club" and was an excuse to take a "lubricated" musical stroll down the parade route. Pete changed the name under pressure exerted by the parade organizers.

On Mardi Gras Day 2007 Pete once again joined his Half Fast Walking Club, having missed the event in 2006 due to illness.
Fountain's clarinet work is noted for his sweet fluid tone. He has recorded over 100 LPs and CDs under his own name, some in the Dixieland style, many others with only peripheral relevance to any type of jazz.

Fountain leads the Pete Fountain Quintett, a New Orleans French Quarter jazz band of Fountain and his Creole style music. Has had many musicians over the years but primarily recorded with Jack Sperling on drums, bassist Don Bagley/ Morty Corb, vibeist Godfrey Hirch and pianist Merle Kock/ Stan Wrighisman.

Loyola University New Orleans awarded Fountain an honorary degree in 2006.On March 18, 2007, Pete Fountain was inducted into the Louisiana Music Hall of Fame.
On April 5, 2008, Fountain was inducted at the seventh annual Delta Music Museum Festival in Ferriday in Concordia Parish. An exhibit was dedicated to Fountain, and he received a star on the museum "Walk of Fame" sidewalk.