Heart of Louisiana: Music that won't stop

The music comes from the 1940's and 50's, about the time that some of these couples were dating and dancing for the first time.   And big band leader Jay Zainey was learning to play the saxophone, hearing the likes of Tommy Dorsey and Glenn Miller play their songs.

Zainey says, "I was schooled in it. Fell in love with it, and it always has been part of my life."

Zainey and his eight-piece orchestra have been playing at the Jefferson-Orleans North ballroom, every Wednesday night for the past 32 years.  And on Sunday nights, another big band, led by ballroom owner Pat Barberot, hosts a weekly dance that started nine years earlier.

Zainey says, "This type of music is only prevalent in our ballroom, in the entire southeastern quadrant of the United States, if not the entire country."

Zainey and the orchestra have been aging gracefully along with many of the regulars on the dance floor, some of whom have been here nearly every Wednesday since this started more than 30 years ago.

Jean Wood says, "Since they built Jefferson-Orleans, my husband and I would come, and that was before Jay Zainey played."

Louise Lahoste says, "I love the music and I like to dance."

And you can see the joy in the faces of these elderly couples, who find their way to the dance floor week after week, year after year.

Zainey and the orchestra cater to their fans, leading them through a catalogue of tunes - the soundtrack of a bygone era that still stirs fond memories.

Monica Lestrade says, "You come here and it just takes you away from all your worries and your troubles. For a couple of hours you're with a lot of nice people."

Shirley Fontana says, "I've been a widow for 10 years now, and I tell you what - for the last year and a half this has been the best time of my life."

And the band leader who creates the musical magic shows no sign of slowing down as he reaches his 90th birthday.

Zainey says, "It's therapy for me.  With the good Lord's help, I plan to be around for a lot of years."

Zainey believes this music will also be around for a long time - the songs are too good and they are too much a part of America for them to ever fade away.

Band leader Jay Zainey is throwing himself a 90th birthday bash, and he's expecting a packed dance floor. That's Wednesday, August 7 at the Jefferson-Orleans North in Metairie.