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Wednesday, July 17, 2019

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Golden Meadow native serenades patrons at iconic French Quarter bar

Golden Meadow native serenades patrons at iconic French Quarter bar

Golden Meadow native Joel Jambon at the piano at a popular Bourbon Street bar Pat O Briens.

In 2001, Golden Meadow native Joel Jambon left his office job as a computer programmer to be a musician in New Orleans.

As a piano player who works seven-hour shifts at the popular Bourbon Street bar Pat O'Brien's four or five days a week, Jambon said he's anything but a starving musician.

“I just love playing music, and I'm tickled to death I can actually make a good living at it,” Jambon said. “If I had known that, I never would've gone into computer programming in the first place.”

Jambon, who graduated from South Lafourche High School and Nicholls State University and played the organ at Our Lady of Prompt Succor in Golden Meadow as a teen, said he loves his job and never plans to leave.

He has played musical instruments since he was a child, and music has always been one of his great loves, he said.

“I always had a good ear, and I play mostly by ear. I was able to play songs I heard on the radio, which is the perfect skill for this job, where you're asked to play any song they can think of,” Jambon said.

The pianist has 2,000 songs he can sing and play in his working repertoire from playing at Pat O'Brien's, and he said he can play far more than that.

“We got Wi-Fi in the club recently,” he said. “If a request comes up, and you've never played it before, you can find the lyrics online and kind of fake your way through it.”

The pianists at the bar work in groups of four. Two are up on stage at a time, alternating songs, while the other two take a break. They trade off every hour. Jambon said he typically works from 8 p.m. to 3 a.m. Fridays and Saturdays, and from 6 p.m. to 1 a.m. Mondays and Tuesdays.

“What's great is that at Pat O'Brien's we have a huge reputation,” he said. “We have a lot of faithful regulars who will come in. In every crowd, there's always a built-in little subset, and those people kind of get the party started.

“Then the alcohol takes care of the rest — they're much more receptive to singing at the top of their lungs,” he said with a laugh.

Jambon said of two of his favorite songs to play lately, one is an old standard — “Let's Get Lost” by Chet Baker — and the other a new hit — “We Are Young” by fun.

But what's the most commonly requested song?

“Piano Man,” by Billy Joel, of course.

“We've probably played it more times than Billy Joel has,” said Ben McGehee, one of Jambon's piano partners on stage.