Impeachment Public Hearings

Wein a champion of jazz and giant of our festival

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NEW ORLEANS (WGNO) - As festival founder, his resume includes the Newport Jazz Festival in Rhode Island, the Playboy Jazz Fest in L.A., and our beloved New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival.

But George Wein arrived in New Orleans in the 60s, and we were a different town back then.

George Wein, Mahaila Jacskon and former mayor Vic Schiro at first Jazz Fest in 1970

George Wein, Mahaila Jackson, and former mayor Vic Schiro at first Jazz Fest in 1970

"I came down here in '62. I couldn't bring my wife because Joyce was African-American, and they wouldn't let me do the festival when they first wanted me cause being married to an African-American woman embarrassed the mayor at that time, then they came and asked me to do it," Wein recalled.

The city leaders at the time eventually came around, but Wein thought that our city deserved more than just a fest that featured jazz.

Festival producer Quint Davis was there at the very beginning and he said that Wein had a broader vision.

"He said New Orleans has one thing no one else in the world can claim: the birthright to jazz!" Davis said. "What we should be doing here ... [is] a heritage of jazz festival. It's only New Orleans where gospel, blues, African music, and all these things came together to give birth to jazz, and that's the kind of festival we ought to do here."

Dr. John performing at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival

Dr. John performing at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival

The results of George Wein's vision of a festival saluting all of the culture of our city, our state, and our region are evident every year, from the food to the crafts and everything in between that make us special.

And while major acts of various genres from pop to country occupy the stages, make no mistake about where the festival founder's heart lies.

"Jazz music is the root of all popular music," Wein said. "Louis Armstrong was the first person to play the way he played and sung the way he sung, and they've been doing it that way ever since."

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