“Grandpa” Elliott Small, a well-known New Orleans musician who could regularly be seen in his blue overalls, red shirt and floppy hat performing on the streets of the French Quarter, has died at age 77, his son announced on Tuesday. on Facebook.
Small had been admitted to hospital more than a month ago with a skin infection that spread to the bloodstream, Jay Small said in his post. Elliott Small died of the infection early Tuesday morning.
“I know my dad would want me to reach out to the people he loved so much, I thank you all on behalf of the one and only grandfather Elliott Small,” Jay Small said.
“Grandpa” Elliott – as he was affectionately known to residents and regulars of the French Quarter – was born in New Orleans and spent most of his life here, except for a very brief period. in New York as a child, according to a 2010 Times-Picayune article.
Small learned the harmonica when he was young and played and sang in the French Quarter for nearly 70 years, occupying a regular spot at the corner of Toulouse and Royal streets.
In 2008, Small sang on a rendition of “Stand By Me”, which featured street musicians from around the world. The video for the song has gone viral.
The recording of “Stand By Me” was part of producer Mark Johnson’s Playing For Change, a global multimedia project promoting music education. After “Stand By Me”, Small joined the group Playing For Change and toured internationally, including dates with Robert Plant and appeared on “The Tonight Show” and “The Colbert Report”. Upon returning home, Small was also invited to play at the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival.
More than ten years ago, Small’s eyesight began to decline and he became blind. He continued to perform on the streets of the French Quarter before the pandemic put music on hold.
“People spot me from Canal Street with my red shirt on,” Small told The Times-Picayune, “and they started shouting, ‘There’s Grandpa! There’s grandpa!”
For over a hundred years, musicians from across the country and around the world have made their living on the streets of New Orleans.