WYES-TV To Air ‘PETE!’ – Pay Tribute To Pete Fountain
NEW ORLEANS – As the world pays tribute to Pete Fountain, the New Orleans music legend who died Saturday, August 6, 2016, WYES will rebroadcast its 1980 documentary PETE! as its own tribute to the music great.
PETE! originally aired on WYES and PBS stations nationwide in 1980. The one-hour program was produced and directed by the late John Beyer. It is narrated by one of Fountain’s longtime friends, comedian and singer Phil Harris. Photographers for the film were Dave Landry and Paul Combel, who spent weeks traveling with Fountain and the WYES production team to film scenes and interviews for the program.
WYES-TV/Channel 12 will air PETE! on Monday, August 15, at 7:00 p.m., Saturday, August 20, at 6:00 p.m. and Sunday, August 21, at 7:00 p.m.
“We are so glad to be able to share this piece of history with our viewers,” said WYES Executive Vice- President and Chief Operating Officer Beth Arroyo Utterback. “Pete was a good friend to WYES and beloved by all of us, just as he was by so many people in the city. We think that seeing this rare footage again will bring back beautiful memories of a wonderful man and his immense talent.”
WYES reps said PETE! is an intimate portrait of a man known worldwide for his musical talents and as an ambassador for his hometown. One of the first scenes in the program offers a rare glimpse of Fountain preparing for a show, razor in hand, shaving his face (except for the familiar mustache and goatee) and baldhead in preparation for a performance.
“He may be the best jazz-based popular clarinetist in the world,” Harris says at one point in the program. In addition to interviews with Fountain, the program features interviews with jazz critic and former WDSU news director Doug Ramsey, music historian Al Rose as well as Pete Fountain band members.
It also features rare footage of Fountain in his youth, as he shares memories of his early musical career, including studies at “the conservatory of Bourbon Street,” as he liked to joke. “I was 16 when I was playing on Bourbon Street,” Fountain explains in the program, which was filmed when he was 50-years-old. He explains that his first gigs were at strip clubs. “I was 15 when I played a striptease and had just got into the union,” he said. “I had a ball.”
There is also rare film footage of Fountain and his Half-Fast Walking Club parading through the streets on Mardi Gras, as they did every year since 1960. There is even footage of a social event for club members, held during the “offseason” after Mardi Gras. “It is a sort of boys’ club for swingers and the ladies are always welcome,” Harris explains in the program. “This is Pete Fountain’s turf and it is a direct reflection of his town and his personality. It’s also a hell of a lot of fun.”
The program even features a rare clip of Pete doing something you never heard him do – sing! In his classic New Orleans accent, he sings a delightful version of “Sunday in the Country” over footage of his children and grandchildren at their weekend home on the Mississippi Gulf Coast.
Other highlights include seeing Pete and his band relaxing on the road as well as in performance at his club in the Hilton Riverside Hotel. There are also scenes of Pete enjoying fishing, as well as wonderful scenes of him and his wife Beverly and their children at home. Pete and Beverly are also seen on the dance floor, in a loving moment shared between the couple who were married 64 years.