Walter “Fats” Pichon’s Band on the S.S. Capitol

Riverboats and Jazz

The last New Orleans band to offer regular excursion services for the Streckfus Line was led by pianist, singer, and arranger Walter “Fats” Pichon, a musician who studied at the New England Conservatory and worked aboard the S.S. Island Queen with Sidney Desvigne. After time in New York with Luis Russell and Henry “Red” Allen, he returned to his hometown of New Orleans and concentrated on developing a band of his own. By the late 1930’s his S.S. Capitol orchestra was attracting some of the hottest young talents in the city. Pictured (in ties), from left to right, are Pichon, trombonist Irving Douroux, banjoist Sam Casimir, unidentified, trumpeters Clarence “Perch” Thornton and Jack Lamont, saxophonists Harry Lang, Manuel Crusto, and Willie Casimir, and trombonist Ray Brown, along with other members of the ship’s staff. Joining the band later was trumpeter Dave Bartholomew, who took over its leadership after Pichon retired from active Streckfus service in 1946. Bartholomew did not stay on the riverboats for long–within a year he left the Capitol and began a residency at the Dew Drop Inn. In 1950 he became musical director for Fats Domino and went on to a stellar career in rhythm and blues and rock and roll.