Pete Fountain

Instrument

Pierre Dewey LaFontaine Jr. (July 3, 1930 – August 6, 2016), known professionally as Pete Fountain, was an American jazz clarinetist.

Pierre Dewey Fountain, Jr.,[4] was born on White Street, in New Orleans, between Dumaine and St. Ann, in a small Creole cottage-style frame house, to Pierre, Sr. and Madeline. Pete was the great-grandson of a French immigrant, François Fontaine, who was born in Toulon, circa 1796, and came to the U.S. in the early 19th century, and died on the Mississippi Gulf Coast circa 1885.[2] Pete's father, a truck driver and part-time musician, changed the family name to Fountain.[3][5]

He started playing clarinet as a child at the McDonogh 28 school located on Esplanade Avenue. As a child, young Pete was very sickly, frequently battling respiratory infections due to weakened lungs. He was given expensive medication but it proved to be not very effective. During a pharmacy visit, Pete's father began a discussion with a neighborhood doctor who was also there shopping and talked with him about his son's condition. The doctor agreed to see the boy the following day. After a short exam, the doctor confirmed the weak lung condition and advised the father to try an unorthodox treatment: purchase the child a musical instrument, anything he has to blow into. The same day, they went to a local music store and, given his choice of instruments, Pete chose the clarinet (after first wanting the drums, which his father declined per the doctor's orders). At first, Pete was unable to produce a sound from the instrument, but he continued to practice and eventually not only made sounds and eventually music, but greatly improved the health of his lungs.

He took private lessons but also learned to play jazz by playing along with phonograph records of first Benny Goodman and then Irving Fazola. By the time he reached his teens, he was playing regular gigs in the nightclubs on Bourbon Street.[6] According to Fountain: