Treme Brass Band singer Lionel Batiste dead at 81

FILE - In this Feb. 17, 2006 file photo, Uncle Lionel Batiste, foreground with umbrella, dances during the Krew of Cork parade through New Orleans' French Quarter. Batiste, the vocalist, bass drummer and assistant band leader of the Treme Brass Band, has died. He was 81. Band leader Benny Jones Sr. says Batiste died Sunday, July 8, 2012. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster, File) Carolyn Kaster

Lionel Batiste, with umbrella, dances during the Krew of Cork parade through New Orleans' French Quarter on Feb. 17, 2006.
AP
(CBS/AP) Lionel Batiste, the vocalist, bass drummer and assistant leader of the Treme Brass Band, has died. He was 81.

Fans of the HBO series "Treme" may not have known Batiste by name, but they often saw him close up. He was the skinny guy with the big drum in the band, one of the acts regularly featured on the show.

Family and others close to Batiste were with him when he died Sunday at the Ochsner Health System's hospital just outside New Orleans, said Batiste's daughter, Karen Williams.

Batiste, known as "Uncle Lionel," had been ill for about a month, said band leader Benny Jones Sr. He said Batiste had been with the band since it was formed in 1995, but had played bass drum since childhood.

Batiste used his drum to stay afloat in the floods after Hurricane Katrina, clarinetist Michael White said.

"The water kept rising," White said. "He couldn't swim. The water was too high for him to walk out. He saved himself by floating out on top of his bass drum."

The "Treme 2012" bicentennial poster is a photograph of Batiste and his drum. Toni Rice of the Multicultural Tourism Network said the group was donating $10 from each poster sale to help with Batiste's medical and funeral costs.

According to Nola.com, funeral arrangements are still being worked out. Members of the Treme Brass Band plan to pay tribute to Batiste during their regular Wednesday night show at the Candlelight Bar in Treme.

  • CBS News Staff

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