Lionel Batiste

Fans gather to remember 'Uncle Lionel', New Orleans music icon

Jul 20, 2012

A burial service for a New Orleans music icon known simply as "Uncle Lionel" had to be postponed when a violent thunderstorm flooded the cemetery where he will be laid to rest.

But the foul weather didn't stop hundreds of fans, friends and neighbors from packing a theater for Lionel Batiste's funeral Friday, turning a somber ceremony into a fittingly raucous celebration of his life. The audience at the Mahalia Jackson Theater danced in the aisles and gave standing ovations to musicians paying tribute to Batiste.

Many of New Orleans' best known musicians are planning to gather for a musical tribute to Lionel Batiste, the 81-year-old vocalist and bass drummer with the Tremé Brass Band who died last Sunday.

Kermit Ruffins, Deacon John, Michael Ward and Rockin' Dopsie are among the musicians expected to attend the tribute at Sweet Lorraine's Jazz Club on Friday at 7 p.m.

The organizers of the memorial say proceeds will pay Batiste's outstanding medical bills and funeral costs.

Lionel Batiste, the vocalist, bass drummer and assistant band leader of the Tremé Brass Band, has died. He was 81.

Band leader Benny Jones Sr. says Batiste died Sunday. He says funeral arrangements are incomplete for Batiste, who was known as "Uncle Lionel."

He says Batiste had been ill for about a month.

Jones says Batiste had been with the Tremé Brass Band since it was formed in 1995, but he had been a musician nearly all his life.