I was saddened to hear the news of the passing of Lionel Batiste – known to everyone in the Vieux Carre as “Uncle Lionel” – one of the most colorful and recognizable figures of the neighborhood. Always superbly dressed and with an almost regal carriage, he was a kind of ambassador of the Quarter – whether greeting folks with the tip of his hat, a warm and enthusiastic handshake, or stopping by for an impromptu “sit-in” as guest vocalist with a band at the Palm Court. Uncle Lionel was strutting on the street in front of the first band I ever jammed with down in Jackson Square when we were first introduced. It seemed almost inevitable that I would cross paths with him at some point on every subsequent visit I made to the city. In a city with a history filled with notable nicknamed characters, Lionel Batiste always offered encouragement to players and bands, surely becoming a symbolic “Uncle” to many who will never forget him. As they say, “He was a good-timer…”.
RIP Uncle Lionel Batiste
July 9th, 2012 Bob