Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Meeting Ernie in New Orleans Square

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!

3 comments:

  1. So glad you were able to meet Ernie!  I've seen him several times but never had the time to chat since I always had my little one with me.

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  2. I am sorry to report that Ernie Mc Lean passed away earlier
    today. 


    Ernie had been a presence in New Orleans Square for over 30 year
    delighting our guests with his guitar playing and warm smile. 


    For the past several months Ernie has been in Colorado fighting
    cancer.  He was in good spirits up to the
    end and still strumming on the guitar. 


     


    He will be missed.


     


    Below is an article about Ernie from the Disneyland Line that you
    may enjoy reading.


     









    C a s t p r o f i l e


    If you have wandered the eclectic streets of New
    Orleans Square there’s


    a good chance you have heard the legendary Ernie Mc
    Lean strumming his


    guitar. Just past the hustle and bustle of the
    Pirates of the Caribbean queue


    and guests waiting to eat at Café Orleans and Blue
    Bayou, Ernie, 87, sits on a


    wooden stool plugged into an amp playing jazz tunes
    for those strolling by.


     


    Did you have a
    musical family?


    Ernie Mc Lean: My father taught


    me how to play the guitar. I started


    playing at the age of 11, but don’t


    ask me what I was playing back then


    because I couldn’t tell you. My father


    had a job playing in a government


    concert band in New Orleans. They


    told him the banjo player needed to


    double on guitar. When he started to


    learn the guitar he taught me too.


     


     Did you continue


    your musical
    training


    after high school?


    EM: After high school, my father


    said, ‘Look you’re not gonna be


    running around like you’re crazy,


    this is World War II.' So I joined the


    Navy. When I auditioned for their


    band, they put music in front of me to


    audition and I messed it up something


    terrible. Then they told me I did okay.


    They taught me everything I needed


    to know about music. I played for


    four-and-a-half years in the Navy.


     


    What did you do
    after


    your military
    service?


    EM: After I got out of the service,


    I decided I wanted to continue


    playing music for a living. When


    I played with Dave Bartholomew


    things really took off. We recorded


    with Fats Domino, Nancy Wilson,


    Little Richard, Sonny and Cher, and


    even did Chrysler commercials.


     


    How did you


    end up working at
    the


    Disneyland Resort?


     


    EM: I auditioned as a guitar player


    for a tour. I didn’t think I was going


    to get the job. Then they started to


    talk about rehearsals and going to


    the studio, so I stopped them and


    said, ‘You haven’t offered me the


    job,’ and they replied, ‘Why do you


    think we are telling you this if you


    didn’t get the job?’ Once the tour


    ended, Disney eventually called


    me to sub for the banjo player at


    Disneyland Park. That is when I


    became permanent at Disneyland.


     


     


     

    ReplyDelete
  3. Thank you for this update.  It saddens my heart to hear this news.  I'm writing another post about him now. :(

    ReplyDelete