Uncle Lionel graces the poster for Treme’s bicentennial celebration.
10 days ago, New Orleans lost one of its best ambassadors: Uncle Lionel Batiste, longtime drummer of the Treme Brass Band and generally the sharpest-dressed gent in the city. It had been a while since we’d run into Uncle Lionel on Frenchmen Street or in the Quarter, but when we first moved here, Paul and I used to see him all the time. We’d be in the Spotted Cat and he’d saunter in, dancing breezily with his cane, or we’d find him nodding his head at the Apple Barrel. Once on Paul’s birthday, Uncle Lionel and Jack Fine were our tablemates for the evening, and Uncle Lionel led a rousing “Happy Birthday” for Paul while Jack played along (sitting at the table, of course). Every time I got up from the table, Uncle Lionel watched my purse so I could dance unencumbered. Once we even ran into him at the Ritz, drinking a High Life at Jeremy Davenport’s show. He could show up anywhere, and he leant a sense of playfulness anywhere he went. I think that’s why he’s so beloved by people here and such an appropriate figure for things like the Treme poster: Uncle Lionel always had a good time, and it was a classy good time.
There have already been several second lines and musical tributes to Uncle Lionel, and this week the love continues: a bass drummers tribute tonight at St. Bernard and St. Claude, and the viewing, funeral, and jazz funeral procession this Friday at the Mahalia Jackson theater (funeral at 11:00 a.m.). The Mahalia Jackson theater is a huge place, and I expect it to be filled. Paul and I can’t wait to be in another second line for Uncle Lionel; he loved New Orleans, music, and beautiful ladies–I think in that order–and a second line is full of all of them. Here’s a video and some photos from last Friday’s second line. We caught it at Frenchmen Street and finished it out to the Candlelight.
Everybody say hello to PAUL!!
If you wish to donate to Uncle Lionel’s memorial fund, go HERE.