New Orleans clarinetist Pete Fountain dies at 86

Sat Aug 6, 2016 11:55am EDT
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(Reuters) - Clarinetist Pete Fountain, one of the faces of New Orleans jazz during his six-decade career, died on Saturday at the age of 86, local media reported.

Fountain gained fame as a featured player on the musical variety TV program "The Lawrence Welk Show" in the 1950s and made dozens of appearances on "The Tonight Show" with Johnny Carson.

Fountain later opened his own jazz club on Bourbon Street in New Orleans and over the years performed for four U.S. presidents and a pope.

Up until his retirement from public performances at age 83, Fountain paraded each year for Mardi Gras with his "Half-Fast Marching Club."

Fountain was born Pierre Dewey La Fountaine Jr. in New Orleans in 1930 and began playing the clarinet as a way of fighting chronic respiratory problems. By the time he was a teenager, he was already performing in the city's clubs as a professional musician.

He appeared as a recording artist on more than 100 albums.

(Reporting by Joseph Ax; Editing by Robin Pomeroy)