This Week In Music

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Born on July 3rd in 1930, New Orleans' own Peter Dewey "Pete" Fountain had an early love for music fostered by his father, a delivery driver who could play several instruments by ear. Young Pete took advantage of the rich Dixieland jazz scene served up like a gumbo by hanging out at the Top Hat Club in his neighborhood. A sickly child, Fountain's family doctor recommended that he be given a clarinet to help strengthen his breathing. Imitating recordings of his idols Benny Goodman and Irving Fazola, 16-year-old Fountain was performing on Bourbon Street with his own band and earning union scale by the time he was a high-school senior.

But with the popularity of New Orleans jazz waning in the mid-'50s with the rise of bebop and rock, finding gigs became increasingly difficult for Fountain. Luckily in 1957, television bandleader Lawrence Welk tapped Fountain to appear on his popular show. The Welk years made Fountain a familiar face to millions and sparked a renewed interest in New Orleans jazz.

During his career, Fountain recorded 56 albums and was a featured performer on 44 others. Three of his albums went gold: "Pete Fountain's New Orleans," "The Blues," and "Mr. New Orleans." Fountain's single "Just A Closer Walk With Thee" was also awarded a gold record. Fountain performed with artists from Louis Armstrong and Harry James to Harry Connick, Jr., as well as at state dinners hosted by four U.S. presidents. Fountain received an honorary doctorate of music, was King of Bacchus at Mardi Gras, won an Emmy for Super Bowl pre-game music, and was voted the top jazz clarinetist in the Playboy readers' poll 13 years in a row.


Cab Calloway recorded this traditional jazz number several times during his career, and it was his signature tune until he replaced it with "Minnie the Moocher." The 1941 Calloway recording of "St. James Infirmary" is still available on the Classics 629 CD.

The lyrics Calloway and his orchestra used on this version are attributed to Joe Primrose, a pseudonym for music publisher Irving Mills. Mills gets credit for discovering and signing Blanche Calloway and later her brother Cab. Mills was famous for hiring black recording artists in a time when that was a brave and unusual move. He was also a central figure in popularizing jazz recordings, and was referred to by at least one leading black newspaper as the Abraham Lincoln of music.

Mills based his lyrics on an 18th century British folk song, known as "The Unfortunate Rake" and various other names. The original St. James Infirmary to which it refers was a hospital for leprosy victims closed in 1532 by King Henry VIII. The one theme that remains constant through all the versions of the song, including Calloway's, is that of youth cut down in its prime.


Week of June 20, 2011
Event: 19 Year-Old Arturo Toscanini Conducts the Rio de Janeiro Orchestra in a Performance of "Aida"

Birthday: Lalo Schifrin Born June 21, 1932

Week of June 13, 2011
Event: New York Jazz Museum Opens

Birthday: Marcus Miller Born June 14, 1959

Week of June 06, 2011
Event: Jelly Roll Morton Records "Jelly Roll Blues" As a Piano Solo

Birthday: Bill Watrous Born June 08, 1939

Week of May 30, 2011
Event: 1962 Bandleader Benny Goodman Leads The First American Jazz Band to Play In The Soviet Union

Birthday: Benny Goodman Born May 30, 1909

Week of May 23, 2011
Event: "In a Precursor to Outdoor Rock Festivals, Ray Charles and B.B. King Perform For 9,000 Fans in Atlanta

Birthday: Miles Davis Born May 26, 1926

Week of May 16, 2011
Event: "When The Saints Go Marching In" Recorded by Louis Armstrong and His Orchestra

Birthday: Woody Herman Born May 16, 1913

Week of May 2, 2011
Event: New York's Philharmonic Hall at Lincoln Center Announces Addition of Rock, Pop, and Jazz Concerts

Birthday: Maynard Ferguson Born May 4, 1928

Week of April 25, 2011
Event: At Decca Studios Charlie Parker Made His First Commercial Recording April 30, 1941

Birthday: Duke Ellington Born April 29, 1899

Week of April 18, 2011
Event: Pipeless Organ Patented by Laurens Hammond April 24, 1934

Birthday: Tito Puente Born April 20, 1923

Week of April 4, 2011
Event: Herp Alpert Born April 4, 1939

Birthday: Freddie Hubbard Born April 7, 1938

Week of March 28, 2011
Birthday: Michael Brecker Born March 29, 1949

Birthday: Herp Alpert Born March 31, 1935

Week of March 14, 2011
Event: Joseph Haydn's Surprise Symphony Is Performed for the First Time March 23, 1792

Birthday: Johann Sebastian Bach Born March 21, 1685

Week of March 7, 2011
Event: Guy Lombardo and his Royal Canadians Recorded Auld Lang Syne March 7, 1939

Birthday: Leon Bismark (Bix) Beiderbecke March 10, 1903

Week of February 28, 2011
Event: Miles Davis Records "Kind of Blue" on Columbia Records March 2, 1959
Birthday: Frédéric Chopin Marc 1, 1810

Week of February 21, 2011
Event: Duke Ellington Records "The Queen's Suite"
Birthday: Dexter Gordon February 27, 1923

Week of February 14, 2011
Event: Sonny Rollins Records his Title Track "The Bridge" February 14, 1962
Birthday: Buddy DeFranco February 17, 1923

Week of February 7, 2011
Event: Rhapsody in Blue is Performed for the First Time February 12, 1924
Birthday: Marion "Buddy" Childers February 12, 1926

Week of January 31, 2011
Event: Frank Sinatra Debuts on Radio's "Your Hit Parade" February 6, 1943
Birthday: Stanley "Stan" Getz February 2, 1927

Week of January 24, 2011
Event: Original Dixieland Jazz Band Makes the First Jazz Record January 30, 1917
Birthday: Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart January 27, 1756