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Charismatic Leader of Olympia BandCopyright © 2001
Milton Batiste became the driving force behind the famous Olympia Brass Band in New Orleans. His high note trumpet style and showmanship were a familiar part of the bands performances. He joined the group, which had been resurrected three years before by Harold Dejan, in 1963, and was still playing in a cut-down version at New Orleanss famous Preservation Hall until failing health caused him to quit last year.
He was brought up in a large family in the city. Attracted by the community marching bands he heard as a kid, he began to play trumpet in high school. One of his earliest gigs was with professor Longhairs band, The Shuffling Hungarians. His bold, energised playing and flamboyant style brought him regular R n B gigs, including stints with Little Richard, Clarence Frogman Henry, Big Joe Turner, and Champion Jack Dupree.
After joining the Olympia in 1963, he gradually took over the running of the band. The revival of interest in New Orleans music saw the group regularly travel to Europe (and also to Africa and China) to perform, led by Batiste, often playing his horn in one hand and a tambourine with the other.
He encouraged the development of the music not only by his own example, but also by attracting youngsters to a junior version of the band, the Young Olympians. He also launched a record label, Dubat Records, aimed at recording new bands.
He performed at Preservation Hall until diabetes and heart trouble forced him to retire. He is survived by his wife, Ruth, and two children.