NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - Thousands turned out Wednesday to say final good-byes to legendary clarinetist Pete Fountain, whose talents took him to national television and put his musical genius on display before U.S. presidents and a Pope.
Pews were packed inside St. Louis Cathedral and crowds spilled outside for the funeral.
"As we commend our brother Pete into your kingdom, we thank you for his life, and for his love and for his gifts," said Archbishop Gregory Aymond, during the funeral Mass.
Local songstress Irma Thompson sang "Precious Lord, Take My Hand" as family, friends and fans of Fountain looked on.
Fountain himself was known for using his clarinet to passionately play the song "Just A Closer Walk With Thee."
"Where is the greater pinnacle in your life than to play that for the Holy Father in New Orleans, on New Orleans soil when the rest of the world is watching?" said Mayor Mitch Landrieu during the service.
On Aug. 6, Fountain died, costing the city not only a giant of a musician, but also a relentless ambassador for the city and its jazz music.
"His performance at state dinners for four U.S. presidents, his performance for Pope John Paul II at the New Orleans Papal Mass, but Pete's greatness was defined by his humility," said Benny Harrell, Fountain's son-in-law and manager.
"He was a perfect New Orleanian. I mean in every way, this was a guy who was born and raised in the neighborhoods, his talent was so incredible that he took New Orleans to the world and played for the Lawrence Welk Show and Johnny Carson, the Superbowl," Landrieu said.
Landrieu noted how Fountain was in the city's corner all of his life and never said no when asked to help the city's efforts, even as he got older.
"He just did more. Every time you asked him for help, he was always there and any time he could be available he was until the day he took his last breath. He was New Orleans 100 percent of the time," the mayor said.
Fountain's Half-Fast Marching Club was a favorite early on Fat Tuesday.
"I remember Pete from childhood, I remember listening to him on the Lawrence Welk Show years ago with the entire family and I've loved him since childhood, and I think for the city he starts Mardi Gras and his memory will continue," said Toni Ellington, a fan who attended the funeral.
"Loved the city, loved his music and felt like that everyone should enjoy his music with him," said Andy Moore, a member of the Half-Fast Marching Club.
Musician Conrad "Connie" Jones and his wife called Fountain a very close friend. He was best-man in their wedding.
"We used to talk everyday and just like check up on each other," said Mr. Jones.
"Connie's been in his Half-Fast Walking Club for years. He's worked with him on Bourbon Street, again, in the sixties and seventies, and then after Katrina he asked Connie to work with his band again, " Mrs. Jones said of the long-lasting relationship between her husband and Fountain.
He is also remembered as a family man to his core.
"The world saw his musical career, they saw Pete the musician, they enjoyed his records, they enjoyed the performances, but only his close family and his friends were allowed in his personal life," said his son-in-law.
A spirited second-line parade was held after the funeral with Fountain's body riding in a black carriage followed by family through parts of the historic French Quarter.
Fountain is survived by his wife of 64 years, children and grandchildren.