There were gigs in New Orleans where one would just expect to see Steve Steinberg. Many folks and musicians first starting noticing him as a denizen of Donna’s Bar & Grill, which opened in 1993, soon after Steinberg moved from his native New York to New Orleans. Steve Steinberg, who through the years could regularly be spotted at the Palm Court, Vaughan’s Lounge, Bullet’s, the Spotted Cat and the Maison, died on September 24, 2015. He was 82.
“He would go anywhere to hear a special musician or to discuss anything about early music and present-day music,” says New Orleans native Fred Hatfield, Steinberg’s longtime friend and “running partner.” “We attracted a lot of attention going up and down Frenchmen Street because at one time we decided to get these boaters and seersucker jackets. The tourists loved us. We spent a lot of time in the music clubs wearing those outfits.”
Few of those tourists and many locals alike would hardly have suspected the heft of Steinberg’s resume in broadcast journalism. He worked as a writer, producer and editor for both CBS and ABC broadcast companies and retired from his position with “Nightline” featuring Ted Koppel in 1990. Following his retirement, Steinberg did freelance work lecturing on broadcast journalism in Russia, Serbia, Poland and other eastern European countries.
During his “retirement,” Steinberg also got involved with the print media and began writing album reviews and feature stories for OffBeat. Naturally, he primarily covered traditional and swing jazz releases from artists like the Shotgun Jazz Band (trumpeter/vocalist Marla Dixon was one of his faves), banjo/guitarist Seva Venet, the New Orleans Jazz Vipers, guitarist Warren Battiste and the like. He also wrote for the United Press Service (UPS), Newsday and other publications.
Hatfield suggests that growing up he and Steinberg led “parallel lives.” They were both record collectors in their respective cities—New Orleans and New York—and when they were underage they’d sneak into clubs to check out the bands. “We spent a lot of time just talking about and listening to music,” Hatfield reminisces. “He had an extensive knowledge [on the subject] and knew a lot of historical facts.”
“He was a pretty open guy and his passion for music was so great. Every possible chance he would get, he would plan to go to a concert or an event. Most of our interests were primitive—well, it’s primitive now.”
Hatfield wore his seersucker jacket at the Nickel-A-Dance traditional jazz series in early October that featured the Shannon Powell’s Traditional All-Stars. For this show, one that Steinberg would certainly have dug, a black hatband replaced the usual striped one on his boaters. It stood in remembrance of Steve Steinberg, a true music lover.