Since we're talking about the history of a giant clarinet, let's pause to remember a clarinet giant — one who influenced and mentored an even better-known clarinetist: Pete Fountain. Fountain calls Irving Fazola one of the musicians whose sound helped shape Fountain's early career. Born Irving Henry Prestopnik in New Orleans in 1912, he was given the nickname Fazola as a young man (a play on the notes of the Solfege scale — "Fa-So-La") and adopted it as his stage name. "Faz," as he was known, was playing professionally by the age of 15 (while a student at Warren Easton), working alongside childhood friend and fellow Italian-American Louis Prima. Fazola toured the country in the 1930s and '40s with such greats as Glenn Miller, Horace Heidt, Ben Pollack and Bob Crosby.
On March 20, 1949, Fazola was too ill to perform a gig in town, and an 18-year-old Pete Fountain stood in for him. Fazola died that night at age 36, and Fazola's mother gave Fountain her son's crystal mouthpiece and later his Albert system clarinet. In an interview with Nick Compagno, Fountain said, "I still have it, but every time I play it, it reeks of garlic. When he died, they put his clarinet in a case. I guess he didn't swab it out too much, and so the garlic just sort of marinated in there. ... It's in the wood. I can take it onstage and play a couple of choruses, but once the wood warms up, the garlic smell comes right out."