You can now read 5 articles in a month for free on BostonGlobe.com. Read as much as you want anywhere and anytime for just 99¢.

Lionel Batiste, 81, Treme Brass Band singer

Over the years, Mr. Batiste (left) also danced and strutted with a decorated umbrella to the band’s music.

Carolyn Kaster/Associated press/file 2006

Over the years, Mr. Batiste (left) also danced and strutted with a decorated umbrella to the band’s music.

NEW ORLEANS — Lionel Batiste, the vocalist, bass drummer, and assistant leader of the Treme Brass Band, has died. He was 81.

Fans of the HBO series ‘‘Treme’’ may not have known Mr. Batiste by name, but they often saw him close up. He was the skinny guy with the big drum in the band, one of the acts regularly featured on the show.

Continue reading below

Family and others close to Mr. Batiste were with him when he died Sunday at the Ochsner Health System’s hospital just outside New Orleans, said his daughter, Karen Williams.

Mr. Batiste, known as Uncle Lionel, had been ill for about a month, said band leader Benny Jones Sr. He said Mr. Batiste had been with the band since it was formed in 1995, but had played bass drum since childhood.

Mr. Batiste used his drum to stay afloat in the floods after Hurricane Katrina, clarinetist Michael White said. ‘‘The water kept rising,’’ White said. ‘‘He couldn’t swim. The water was too high for him to walk out. He saved himself by floating out on top of his bass drum.’’

Mr. Batiste’s singing voice was ‘‘somewhere between blues and old-time gospel, kind of raspy but with a nice quality to it,’’ White said.

He recalled that in the late 1960s, Mr. Batiste wasn’t playing but ‘‘second-lining’’ — dancing and strutting with a decorated umbrella to the band’s music — and acting as grand marshal for parades and jazz funerals. ‘‘He would bring joy and just New Orleans spirit. . . . He made people feel good about themselves and about living,’’ White said.

The ‘‘Treme 2012’’ bicentennial poster is a photograph of Mr. Batiste and his drum. Toni Rice of the Multicultural Tourism Network said the group was donating $10 from each poster sale to help with Mr. Batiste’s medical and funeral costs.

Subscriber Log In

You have reached the limit of 5 free articles in a month

Stay informed with unlimited access to Boston’s trusted news source.

  • High-quality journalism from the region’s largest newsroom
  • Convenient access across all of your devices
  • Today’s Headlines daily newsletter
  • Subscriber-only access to exclusive offers, events, contests, eBooks, and more
  • Less than 25¢ a week
Marketing image of BostonGlobe.com
Marketing image of BostonGlobe.com
Already a subscriber?
Your city. Your stories. Your Globe.
Yours FREE for two weeks.
Enjoy free unlimited access to Globe.com for the next two weeks.
Limited time only - No credit card required!
BostonGlobe.com complimentary digital access has been provided to you, without a subscription, for free starting today and ending in 14 days. After the free trial period, your free BostonGlobe.com digital access will stop immediately unless you sign up for BostonGlobe.com digital subscription. Current print and digital subscribers are not eligible for the free trial.
Thanks & Welcome to Globe.com
You now have unlimited access for the next two weeks.
BostonGlobe.com complimentary digital access has been provided to you, without a subscription, for free starting today and ending in 14 days. After the free trial period, your free BostonGlobe.com digital access will stop immediately unless you sign up for BostonGlobe.com digital subscription. Current print and digital subscribers are not eligible for the free trial.