Pete Fountain, Clarinetist on ‘Lawrence Welk,’ ‘Johnny Carson’ Shows, Dies at 86

Pete Fountain
Courtesy: Patrick Semansky/AP

Pete Fountain, New Orleans jazz clarinetist who appeared on “The Lawrence Welk Show” and “The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson,” has died. He was 86.

Fountain died of heart failure on Saturday in New Orleans, his son-in-law and manager Benny Harrell confirmed to the AP.

In his teens, Fountain started playing clarinet on Bourbon Street in New Orleans. Before joining “The Lawrence Welk Show” as a headliner, he toured with the Dukes of Dixieland and the late trumpeter Al Hirt. He joined the “Welk Show” in 1957 and stayed there until a Christmas performance in1959 when he jazzed up an arrangement of “Silver Bells,” angering Welk.

In 1960, Fountain opened his first Bourbon Street club in New Orleans, which he eventually settled in for a long run on Canal Street. His annual “Half-Fast Walking Club” was a well-known New Orleans tradition.

Harrell told the AP that a funeral Mass was being planned for St. Louis Cathedral in the French Quarter. Fountain is survived by his wife, Beverly, three children, six grandchildren and five great grandchildren.

Watch Fountain play on episodes of Johnny Carson’s “Tonight Show” and “The Lawrence Welk Show.”


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    1. Andy says:

      I forgot how much that man could swing! “Honeysuckle Rose” was in the pocket. Wow.

    2. John1954 says:

      Pete Fountain was the only man alive that could make playing the clarinet look cool.

    3. Weasel says:

      Monsieur Fountain could play. He and Al Hirt are swinging together again.

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