Storyville Jazz Band still go marching in more than 3 decades later

NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - There's quite a story behind the Storyville Jazz Band.

"It was hard to find musicians. I was 59 when we started," says Bruce Hirstius. "I don't read music and I don't play worth a damn."

Chris Bonura and Gregg Paretti were both in high school when he joined the band.

"They needed a tuba player so I came in not knowing anything about dixieland jazz music," Bonura says.

Paretti, a saxophonist, says, "Really a lot of us didn't know how to read music, so we just picked it up as we went."

They are like a band of brothers.

Gary Gueldner plays the trumpet. He says, "We fight with each other but at the end of the day, we love each other, we're like family."

They've been a fixture in the Superdome for 31 years now. You can catch their pre-game kickoff at Gate A. Their enthusiasm is infectious, for the young and the old. Part of the reason for that is the front man for the band, Bruce Hirstius.

He jokes, "I hope they like us. I always tell them, are you applauding because you like us or because we stopped playing? Haha."

Hirstius has been called the Drew Brees of Dixieland, with his pocket trumpet and dance moves. He and the band score points from friends and foes alike.

"Opposing fans come up to us, they love us," says Bonura. "They want us to play songs for them. One reason we're here is we're like ambassadors for New Orleans with music."

Paretti agrees, "Ultimately we want people to have fun with us, maybe not Falcons fans, but everybody else."

They scramble from section to section, starting at the top and working their way down the Dome. These musicians are die hard Who Dats who actually watch very little of the games. They remember when the game was hardly watchable. They were there for the bags.

"Yeah we sure were. We'd go to play in the terrace and there was nobody there. It was kinda like a practice session for us," says Gueldner.

Trombonist Alex Holmes remembers it well. "There were times when we were the only good thing going on in the Superdome," Holmes says. "They were 1 and 15. They were horrible."

Some big names have come through the band over the years. One of them is trombonist Mark Mullins, who went on to front Bonerama.

Over the years, Storyville has traveled to Tokyo and London with the team. They used to accompany Tom Benson on the field for the "Benson Boogie" after a Saints win. Today, fans love the rhythm of Storyville and the Saints.

"This year we have three Saintsations who tag along with us, so the fans love us a little more," says Holmes laughing.

As for Hirstius, it's his love of song and dance that keeps him going.

"I dance better than I play, but they don't pay me to dance," he says.

And at the age of 89, there's no sign of him slowing down.

"Because it's attitude," says Hirstius. "If you think you're old, you are old. And I don't believe that. You'll know when you're old. I know I will."

His nephew plays the drums and admits Hirstius puts on his own show.

Stacey Hirstius says "The best part is when Bruce sees someone tapping their foot and he runs up and dances with them."

His fellow band members call him crazy legs. His brother Donald says it started way back when.

"He's got his own style. He's had it since I was young, and that's a long time ago," says Donald.

Bonura says, "He's like the energizer bunny, yep. This is what he gets up for every day. He's worked every game, every season. It's what he wants to do. He's not just the band leader."

"He's the heart and soul of the band. The band is him," Holmes says

Every year, Hirstius says this will be his last.

"I've been saying that for the last 10 years. This is my last year fellows. They say yeah we know. They don't believe it. I'm not gonna stop til I can't play anymore," Hirstius says.

All these years, he's never missed a game. And whether he likes it or not, Bruce Hirstius remains the star attraction as Storyville continues to pump up the crowd in the dome on game day.

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