Born March 23, 1910, he began his career at Pat O’Brien’s Bar in New Orleans in 1938, just five years after the bar opened. Strangely, he just walked in and started waiting on tables. No one had officially hired him, but they knew he was special. Shortly, he was up on stage tapping his aluminum tray with coins on top to the beat of the piano players.
That was the beginning of his long 67 year musical career in the Piano Lounge at Pat O’Brien’s, where people flocked to hear him play. The tray game began in 1942 when someone paid a bill with loose change that jangled on Gabriel’s tray. He liked the sound, and eventually became part of the show in the piano bar, then the Star. Always spiffily dressed in a suit and tie, the shades became part of the outfit when a coin hit him in the eye. He used a tray with coins, thimbles and magical fingers to bring joy to millions of people. He loved to hear the infamous “EDDIE, EDDIE, EDDIE” chant from the audience and truly loved what he did. He worked every night from 8 p.m. to 3 a.m., often taking breaks on the sofas upstairs, talking one-on-one to his fans but turning down most interview requests. He never missed a day of work.
Eddie Gabriel worked as usual the weekend before Katrina. Their families tried their best to convince him and his wife to evacuate their 9th Ward home a few blocks from Fats Domino, a good friend. He wouldn’t leave, so neither did she.
Mr. Eddie Gabriel (1910-2005)