When Pete Fountain died Aug. 6, 2016, it was not only the passing of an icon, but also the end of the era. In tribute to this legendary icon, the Louisiana State Museum’s New Orleans Jazz Museum at the Old U. S. Mint presents Pete Fountain: A Life Half-Fast, an exhibition commemorating the life of Pete Fountain and his contributions to the world of music.
As a young clarinetist, Fountain quickly rose to the top by playing with the Dukes of Dixieland and Al Hirt. By 1957 he gained fame as a regular on The Lawrence Welk Show. Known for his 1959 recording of “Just A Closer Walk with Thee,” he recorded everything from traditional New Orleans jazz to instrumental pop hits. Fountain became an even bigger celebrity after numerous appearances on Johnny Carson’s Tonight Show. All the while, he maintained his attachment to his hometown, opening a club on Bourbon Street in 1960, which lasted until 2003 after a late 1970s move to the Hilton Riverside. Always exhibiting an infectious joie de vivre, each Mardi Gras Fountain led his Half-Fast Walking Club, starting at the world-famous Commander’s Palace restaurant in the Garden District and winding its way down St. Charles Avenue to the French Quarter.
Pete Fountain: A Life Half-Fast offers a well-rounded, humorous appreciation of the legendary clarinetist. Via photos and artifacts, the exhibition traces the various aspects of Fountain’s life and career. Photos include images of his early days, interactions with other musicians and days as a star. In addition, there are doubloons from the Half-Fast Walking Club, album covers, Christmas cards, postal cachets, a New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival poster, bobble heads and the wax figure from the recently closed Musée Conti Wax Museum.