BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - As the world remembers the life of legendary jazz musician Pete Fountain, so are his family members on the Coast.
Fountain died Saturday morning at the age of 86 and will be remembered not just for his musical talent, but also for his dedication to family.
He may have had a home in Bay St. Louis for a time, but his roots are in Biloxi.
"Pete was very family oriented," said Walter Blessey. "I do recall the Fountain family reunions. We used to have them at the Magnolia State Park in Ocean Springs. I do distinctly remember Pete coming to several of those reunions and he had the uncanny ability to remember everybody's name, even the young people."
Blessey is one of Fountain's many cousins. His mother, Gerry Blessey, is a Fountain. A musician himself, Blessey once had a chance to see him work without the glare of television lights or a big audience.
"Word got out that Pete was coming to Biloxi for the weekend and he wanted to have a jam session," Blessey said. "So about 3 o'clock in the morning when the Fiesta Club had shut down, various local musicians started filtering in and there was a jam session, as my memory tells me, lasted until noon on Sunday."
Blessey says the session was an example of how Fountain was a catalyst who brought musicians together.
"It was only for musicians," Blessey said. "There wasn't any other audience, it was closed to the public. It was a shame that we didn't have a video or taping of that with 40 or 50 musicians of that era."
While Blessey was into rock 'n' roll, Fountain's music transcended genre.
"The music that came out of his horn gave everybody happy feet," he said. "They wanted to jump up and start dancing. And I thought if anyone could even imitate or come close to imitating Pete's ability to get people feeling happy, that would be a goal for me."