On Aug. 26, our New Orleans Saints will host the Houston Texans in the first home game of a brand new season, and Bruce Hirstius and the Storyville Jazz Band will once again be in the number as they entertain the fans with the exuberant spirit of Dixieland Jazz.
“It’s happy music,” Hirstius said. “You have to have something lively to get the fans off their butts. We start at Gate A welcoming the fans, and then we stroll from portal to portal playing our music and rallying the crowd.”
In 1981 a friend recommended Hirstius to the Saints and the band started with a three-week tryout. “They originally wanted just three musicians, but I said they had to take the whole band,” he recalls. “If one plays, we all play. We’ve been doing it for 36 years, management must like us.”
Hirstius recruited his band members out of East Jefferson High School, and they’ve been with him ever since. Their repertoire includes such Dixieland standards as “Gin Mill Blues,” “Bourbon Street Parade” and of course “When the Saints Go Marching In.”
The self-taught musician grew up in Irish Channel and earned his living working for Paramount Pictures booking films, but he always loved music. “I don’t read music,” he said modestly. “I play by ear and I’m not a very good musician. I wouldn’t be anywhere without my band.”
The Storyville Jazz Band has traveled with the Saints to Tokyo and London, and a picture of the band hangs in the Saints Hall of Fame. “But one of the best moments was playing as the fans entered the Dome for the first time after Katrina,” he said. “That was something special.”
The band also performs outside the Dome doing wedding second lines, birthday parties and whatever comes their way. “It they pay, we play,” he said.
In fact, Hirstius may very well have started the now ubiquitous wedding second line business when years ago he and his band played for his niece’s wedding.
“It seemed like a good idea and it had never been done,” he said. “Now it’s everywhere. It’s good because you come out of the church, walk through the French Quarter for a little bit and it’s over quickly and you’re back home — easy money.”
At age 89, Hirstius shows no signs of slowing down as he continues blowing his pocket trumpet and dancing along to a bouncy Dixieland beat. “I do it because it’s fun,” he said. “If it wasn’t fun, I wouldn’t do it. Yeah, I’m gonna be doing this until I can’t walk. They’ll just keep wheeling me around the Dome. It’s been a very good ride. People always ask me when I’m going to give all of this up and I say, when I get old.”
The Storyville Jazz Band