Fountain And His Clarinet Ignore His Post Katrina Stress Issues - - The News for South Mississippi

Fountain And His Clarinet Ignore His Post Katrina Stress Issues

When Pete Fountain steps on stage, he should feel like he's home. He's performing in the same room where he entertained casino guests before Katrina.

His real home is a mile from the Hollywood Casino. And it was center stage when the hurricane slammed into Bay St. Louis.

"I've been there maybe three times since the storm," he admitted.

Moments after making that comment, the jazz legend wet his reed, smiled, and said, "The Hollywood Blues." He took a deep breath. Suddenly a harmony of blues notes flowed from his clarinet. And to him, it sounded as good as it did six decades ago, when a 15-year-old Fountain first performed in public.

"It's my life. I've been doing it all my life. It's the only thing I know how to do," Fountain said.

The only sour note you'll ever here from Pete Fountain comes when he leaves the Hollywood Casino's Oak Royale Room and he visits what's left of Cedar Point Plantation.

"To tell you the truth, I hate going by there," he said.

The Bay St. Louis home he moved into almost a quarter century ago is gone, one of the hundreds of properties around the city that got pummeled by the 2005 hurricane.

Fountain has musical star power. And that usually gives him a few perks that the average person may not receive. However, fame and fortune couldn't stop Katrina from stealing the jazzman's spotlight, and crushing so many of the personal and the musical treasures he collected in his Bay St. Louis home.

"You can build a house back, but can't get all of those things," Fountain said.

On Friday, a warped record sat on that rain covered slab that was the foundation of Fountain's Julia Street lot. During the hurricane, he lost 96 personal records and the eight gold albums he earned.

In another pile was a clock that no longer ticked. After the hurricane, doctors said stress caused Fountain's heart to stop ticking. Successful quadruple bypass surgery got the 76-year-old back on his feet. His clarinet, and his toetapping talent got him back on stage for Friday's Bay St. Louis premiere.

"It means I'm coming back home. I'm back home and ready to toot," he said with a smile beaming across his face.

When "The Hollywood Blues" ended, the showman stared at the camera taping his performance. Another smile pierced his face. Fountain and his clarinet were home.

"Yeah," the jazz legend said. "I'm going to beat it. And this is going to help do it, playing here every Friday and Saturday at the Hollywood Casino."

Pete Fountain said he and his wife Beverly were building a small cottage in Bay St. Louis to replace the home Katrina destroyed. He wouldn't say where. He simply said it was about six blocks off the beach.

"We're working on it in the bay here, Bay St. Louis," he said. "So I'm coming back."

by Brad Kessie

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