Hancock County

Former Congressman Gene Taylor remembers Pete Fountain’s time in Bay St. Louis

In this Feb. 16, 2010 file photo, Pete Fountain gives a toast as he leads his Half Fast Walking Club through the streets of New Orleans. Fountain, whose recording of "Just a Closer Walk With Thee" became the unofficial anthem for traditional New Orleans jazz, has died. He was 86. Fountain's son-in-law and manager Benny Harrell said Fountain died Saturday, Aug. 6, 2016 of heart failure. He had been in hospice care in New Orleans.
In this Feb. 16, 2010 file photo, Pete Fountain gives a toast as he leads his Half Fast Walking Club through the streets of New Orleans. Fountain, whose recording of "Just a Closer Walk With Thee" became the unofficial anthem for traditional New Orleans jazz, has died. He was 86. Fountain's son-in-law and manager Benny Harrell said Fountain died Saturday, Aug. 6, 2016 of heart failure. He had been in hospice care in New Orleans. AP

New Orleans native and clarinetist Pete Fountain was known for his Dixieland jazz virtuosity and an irrepressible wit that earned him decades of national television fame.

In Bay St. Louis, where he had a home until Hurricane Katrina in 2005, he was also known for a miniature train set on his property and a collection of lamps resembling clarinets.

Fountain died Saturday of heart failure. He was 86.

His son-in-law and manager, Benny Harrell, said Fountain had been in hospice care in New Orleans.

Fountain was inducted into the Louisiana Music Hall of Fame in 2007. He was a founding member of the Half-Fast Walking Club, a popular New Orleans Mardi Gras krewe.

The musician had strong ties to Hancock County, where for many years he performed at the former Casino Magic in Bay St. Louis two nights a week. He performed his last show at the casino, renamed Hollywood Casino, in 2014.

Former U.S. Rep. Gene Taylor said Fountain was a fixture in the Bay.

“He had a house near ours on Beach Boulevard,” Taylor said Saturday. “For someone so famous, he was a very down-to-earth person.”

Taylor said he remembers the miniature train set at Fountain’s home.

“It was like something you would see at City Park in New Orleans,” he said. “He also had these very ornate stalls for his car collection that was really something to see.”

Although Taylor said he never went to see the jazz musician perform, he said his father enjoyed Fountain’s music.

“He was a good buddy of my father’s — they always had a drink together on Christmas morning,” he said. “My dad would always go to his show and Pete would acknowledge him during the show and that was very special to my father.”

One of the things Taylor said Fountain was famous for was his collection of lamps resembling clarinets.

“I don’t know where he had them made, but he gave me one that was in my old congressional office,” he said. “He was a very generous man and he was also very humble — when you would see him around town he would always be wearing a hat because he just wanted to be incognito and just blend in with the community.”

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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