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Trop Rocking at Tropical Isle

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Text © Cindy Bates. Photo © Pam Fortner

Trop Rocking at Tropical Isle

In mid-January, five hundred tropical music lovers will descend on New Orleans for four days of music and revelry called Pardi Gras.

Much of this long weekend party will take place at the Tropical Isle, home of the trademarked “Handgrenade.”

Back in 1984, Earl Bernhardt and Pam Fortner opened the first Tropical Isle, just thirteen days after the New Orleans’ World Fair.


Photo © Tammy Camp
Pam Fortner & Earl Bernhardt, Owners of Tropical Isle

The original bar was on Toulouse Street, but moved to 600 Bourbon Street. The “Little Tropical Isle” is down Bourbon a couple of blocks. And if you’ve been to the Bayou Club for authentic Cajun music or wandered into The Funky Pirate to listen to Big Al Carson, you’ve experienced bars also owned by Earl and Pam.

And what is a common denominator among these places, other than great drinks and fun? Terrific music!

Al Miller started playing at the first Tropical Isle and played for twenty years there. He was known locally as the “Cajun Jimmy Buffett” and his music soon caught on with local college students.

The Tropical Isle has employed over 65 musicians through the years and since they’ve hosted our favorite music since 1984, they claim to be one of, if not THE oldest Trop Rock bar in the nation.


Photo © Tammy Camp
Dustin Barber & Jimmy Parrish Trop Rock at the Top of the Trop

They opened the second story of the Tropical Isle in 1984 and turned it into a great performance venue, known as the “Top of the Trop.” If you go out on their balcony, you can see all the way to Canal Street, as it extends out further than any other balcony on Bourbon.

Earl and Pam helped host the first Meeting of the Minds before it was relocated to Key West and they play an integral part in Jerry Diaz’s Pardi Gras each year. Jerry’s PHIP Lifetime Achievement Award rests in a special case built to house it at the Tropical Isle.


Photo © Tammy Camp
Tropical Isle Sponsors 3x Winner Trop Rock Event of the Year – Pardi Gras

So if you’re planning on attending Pardi Gras this year, stop in and say hello to Earl and Pam and enjoy a Handgrenade or Shark Attack (my personal favorite!).

Tropical Isle is THE place for Trop Rock in New Orleans!


  • Cindy Bates Muir

    I live in Port Aransas, Texas and love all things Parrot Head and Trop Rock. I enjoy interviewing Trop Rock artists, attending events and always look forward to seeing Trop Rock friends from around the nation! Author of the Trop Rock lyric infused cozy mystery book "Schooled for Murder." Check out my website at

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  1. Jerry Diaz says:

    Great article Cindy! Can’t wait to get over to N’awlins in a few weeks to “pass a good time”!

  2. Keith says:

    Love this place! it’s a home away from home whenever I’m in New Orleans. Love the people, love the music, love the owners! Don’t miss out on the Hand Grenades. I’ll be there for Pardi Gras in Jan., 2013, as usual.

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