New Orleans History -- Lake Pontchartrain
Wednesday, July 24, 2024
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April 27, 1999 Al Hirt, Dies


Hirt's horn, face and voice are an indelible part of New Orleans history.
Born in 1922 and a product of the New Orleans public school system, Hirt
achieved his greatest fame in the late 1950s and peaked in the 60s on RCA
Records with such hits as 'Popcorn' 'Cotton Candy' and his biggest hit 'Java,'
penned by Rock and Roll Hall of Famer, Allen Toussaint. He scored 4 gold albums
and 1 platinum, a Grammy, and was voted World's Top Trumpeter by Playboy
magazine 15 times. He recorded more than 50 albums. In 1966 he had a short run
with his own television show and in 1996 he was featured on an episode of
'Touched by An Angel,' both on CBS. Hirt's health had been failing recently. He
was confined to a wheel chair, and performed only a few songs at his most recent
gigs. Our prayers go out to his family, and our thanks to Al for his wonderful
talent, love of Louisiana, and his irrepressible spirit. LMC Chairman Ellis
Marsalis was a longtime member of Hirt's band many years ago. Hirt gave young
Wynton Marsalis his first horn. The legacy of Al Hirt may not be as great as New
Orleans' most influential musician, Louis Armstrong; but, his mastery of the
instrument was such that had there ever been a cutting contest between the two,
deciding the winner would've been difficult. Hirt's jazz critics were awed by
his proficiency, but frustrated by his love of Dixieland and pop. His legacy
does not include many innovative or original songs. Rather, he was loved for his
desire to please the audience, his tremendous playing ability, and his
commanding presence. He was 76 years old.