100 Men Hall Celebrates Big Hometown at Booker Fest

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BAY ST. Louis, Miss. (WLOX) – Music filled the air this weekend as Bay St. Louis celebrated hometown music icon James Booker.

The famous pianist died in 1982 at the age of 43, but not before leaving his mark on music and his fellow musicians. Today, his name and spirit lives on with the third annual Booker Fest, sponsored by the 100 Men Hall.

“James Booker was the most amazing and talented pianist in New Orleans. He was born there, but he grew up here in Bay St. Louis and he learned to play the piano here,” Rachel said. Dangermond, director of 100 Men Hall “When New Orleans pianists think of the pianists they want to emulate, it’s James Booker.”

Edwin White celebrated his 65th birthday with his wife Denise on Saturday and paid tribute to a musician they knew well.

“How can you not love Booker’s music, especially if you’re from New Orleans?” says Dennis. “I’ve lived in New Orleans since 1994 and, I mean, what a legend.”

“I would go to Tipitina and after 3am when they closed I still feel like partying,” he says with a smile. “I was driving to the Maple Leaf Bar. I don’t know how I got there because I was a bit enlightened.

And there was the time when he was a volunteer taxi driver for the famous pianist.

“There’s more to this story when he brought Booker home that time,” Denise said with a smile to her husband.

“Yes yes. But we’re not going to go there,” he said.

“Why not? I’m serious. Carry on. Share it.”

“No,” Edwin said with a laugh. “It’s something I’m taking to the grave.”

Another fan, New Orleans resident Aarafa Payne visited 100 Men Hall for the first time.

“I said, ‘If they give something about James Booker, the two of them together, that must be exciting. So that’s why I’m here.

And, for her, Booker’s recognition is well deserved.

“The beautiful thing is that he had the chance to practice his craft, and we still benefit from that love he had for his craft,” Payne added. “So with that, we can share his celebration.”

“We pay tribute to Booker,” Dangermond said. “And then we do that too to then maintain and preserve this place, which is historic.”

Booker Fest continues Sunday from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. with the Booker Drag Brunch.

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