NEW ORLEANS – News of his death spread quickly across the city and beyond, but Sunday night, celebrations of Uncle Lionel Batiste's life were already underway.
After a brief battle with cancer, Batiste passed away Sunday morning at age 80.
Outside Kermit's Ruffins’ Speakeasy in Treme, a large second-line formed, as fellow musicians, family and friends honored a man who, for decades, was the backbone of similar celebrations.
Batiste was a pioneering force in New Orleans music.
"One of definitely the best of the musicians of all time and Uncle will be missed by so many who love him right here in Treme," musician James Andrews said.
The drummer and singer was known for his unique playing style. He stood out thanks to some sharp dance moves and a snappy fashion sense.
"He's a dancer. He's a singer,” said Norman Batiste, Lionel’s brother. “He's a dresser. No. 1 dresser."
Loved ones said Batiste carried on that same charisma even as his health began to deteriorate.
"His spirit has never died,” said Lionel's daughter, Karen Batiste Williams. “It's always lifted, so every time he'd see one of us, that beautiful smile came across his face.”
Alongside some of her sisters Sunday afternoon, Batiste Williams talked about the legacy her father leaves behind.
"I'm pretty sure every second line band that's going around here will remember Uncle Lionel and say something about him as well, because of the leadership he's shown within the musicians, and the huge following that he had,” she said. “He was everybody's uncle, but he was our daddy."
And for many, like Nina Buck, Lionel Batiste was a great friend.
"I miss him, especially today," Buck said.
So do countless others, many of whom joined in Sunday's second-line, one with deeper-than-usual emotions and extra pep in its step.
"(When I was) 10 years old he gave me my first trumpet, which sparked my interest in music of following the second lines in New Orleans with the brass bands and our rich Treme culture," Andrews said. "And I say, 'We will miss him,' from the bottom of my heart."
Wednesday night, Treme Brass Band members plan to pay tribute to Batiste during their regular performance at Candlelight Bar on North Robertson Street.
Funeral arrangements have not been announced.