Sunday, August 7, 2016

Remembering Pete Fountain, nearly 49 years ago

When the great New Orleans clarinetist Pete Fountain headlined my Emporia, Kansas college Homecoming in 1967, I was a sophomore assigned to review the occasion for The Bulletin, student newspaper of Kansas State Teachers College (now Emporia State University).  It is republished here in response to Pete Fountain’s recent death at 86 on Aug. 6, 2016. I have included copies of the original story and photo as published Nov. 15, 1967.
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By Steve Crum
This guy, Pete Fountain, he started out with Lawrence Welk? Nothing against Mr. Welk, but really, Fountain really swings. 
Last Saturday night, Nov. 11, Pete Fountain and his band played in Emporia. It was an evening of polished New Orleans Jazz. The entire program was superbly performed. It did swing.
Pete Fountain, the New Orleans clarinetist who keeps making good, was backed by nine musicians, each having an extensive background in Southern jazz. As opposed to the Preservation Hall jazz group which played in Emporia over a month ago, the Fountain group can be best thought of as the current trend setters of Dixieland jazz. The entire presentation is updated: matching blue tuxedos (the first half of the show, and then matching red), polished instruments and arrangements, and a more rehearsed flavor through the entire show.
The songs, however, were very much the same. “Just a Closer Walk with Thee” and “Heartaches” are but two of the seemingly endless stockpile of songs to come out of the Southland. 
The audience turned out in a rather impressive number, especially considering that My Fair Lady (at the college theater) drew a good portion of the Homecoming crowd. Those who attended the Fountain show were no less than super enthusiastic. It was a fitting reaction to the quality of the show.
In addition to music, there was comedy. A trombonist strained a rather good Louis Armstrong impression, and throughout the entire show, the xylophonist, Godfrey Hirsch (who looks remarkably like Allen Funt), offered his frequently hilarious mannerisms which served as silent commentary.
The entire group, which Fountain fondly refers to as “The Lawrence Welk Rejects,” played very well.
The Teachers College Homecoming ’67 ended on a harmonious note, with a memorable combination of Pete Fountain Dixieland and Hornet Football victory. 
And Silent Joe rang out, “A one-uh, a two-uh….”
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Note : “Silent Joe” was (and is) the school’s bell tower located at the football stadium. After each football victory, it rings. When Emporia loses, the bell remains silent. 

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