Meet Ernest, "Ernie", McLean.
He works in New Orleans Square at the Disneyland Resort. He has been working for Disneyland since 1966. Supposedly, he was the last cast member hired by Walt himself. Ernie grew up in New Orleans, LA and started playing guitar when he was 11 years old. He came to Los Angeles with Scatman Crothers, the voice of Scat Cat in The Aristocats. When Frank Sinatra wanted Scatman to go on tour with him, this left Ernie without a job. In steps Walt. Ernie's been playing jazz in New Orleans Square ever since.
Ernie was an original member of Cosimo Matassa's band in New Orleans. He also played with Fats Domino and is credited with recording what some think to be the first rock 'n' roll song, "The Fat Man", in 1949 with Fats. He was also a member of the Dave Bartholomew Band and has played with Lou Rawls, Sonny and Cher and was a part of the Dr. John, Gris Gris album.
Since we're both from the south and I had been to New Orleans, LA several times, we started talking about his home city. He shared some stories of growing up in the Ninth Ward. I shared my stories of visiting the Ninth Ward post Katrina. He has not been back to New Orleans since Katrina hit in 2005, but has friends and family who are still there. The stories he shared, with the memories I have of the Ninth Ward are two totally different images.
If you go to Disneyland, look for Ernie. I saw him twice. Both times he was sitting on a bar stool in the shade, playing his guitar. He wasn't singing when I saw him, just playing soft jazz on his guitar. Ernie, being a native New Orleans man, is perfect for New Orleans Square at Disneyland. For a second, I really felt like I was walking down Bourbon Street in Louisiana! That's the beauty of Disney. The incredible attention to detail.
My advice to you is to slow down. On our next trip, this is what my husband and I plan to do. After meeting Ernie and Oscar at Disneyland, we decided this trip we would spend time talking to cast members and listening to their stories. It's amazing what treasures are hiding in the walls of Walt Disney World and Disneyland if we just slow down enough to recognize them!