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The year was 1939 and PETE FOUNTAIN (he was born Peter Dewey LaFontaine, Jr.) was nine years old - a skinny kid with bad lungs who spent most of his time hanging around the Top Hat Dance Hall near his home on Broad Street. He knew he wanted to be a musician, maybe a drummer. The family doctor had something else in mind. His prescription called for a musical instrument that would strengthen those lungs: the clarinet.
By the time he was 16, he had already gained a reputation on Bourbon Street. Soon enough, Fountain was playing with one of the best known Dixieland bands on the Street, the Basin Street Six. But it wasn’t long before be-bop arrived and Fountain couldn’t make a living playing the music that he loved. Dixieland, in its own birthplace, New Orleans, was definitely asleep, so Fountain went to Chicago for an extended gig with the Dukes of Dixieland. He spent most weekends flying back and forth between Chicago and New Orleans.
When Fountain finally returned to New Orleans, he gave up music. There was no work and he had three children to consider. It was 1956 and it was a bummer. He spent a year failing miserably at several miserable jobs before returning to music. The sound was still in him - all he needed was a band, a bandstand, and a place to play.
Lawrence Welk gave him all three when a one-night television guest appearance turned into a two-year stay. But Fountain learned what every New Orleanian has to accept as a fact of life: you can leave New Orleans, but it never leaves you.
So Pete Fountain came home again. This time it really was for good. And this time, he came home to his own club - Pete Fountain’s French Quarter Inn at Bourbon and St. Ann. The need for a larger place forced Fountain to move further down the Street, where he stayed until 1977.
By then, Fountain was looking for a new location, and when the New Orleans Hilton opened in August 1977, he began another successful phase in his career. Fountain played to capacity crowds every night, and he has made repeated guest appearances on network television and several major new recordings since then.