I went to East Jefferson High School and we had our prom on the S.S. President riverboat in 1962. What can you tell me about the history of the boat and some of the bands that performed on it?
The S.S. President was built in 1924 and originally was named the S.S. Cincinnati. The last known sidewheel steamboat in the country, it carried passengers and freight from Ohio to Kentucky and made its first trips to New Orleans for Mardi Gras in the 1920s.
In 1929, the boat was acquired by Streckfus Steamers, which converted it into an excursion boat and renamed it the President.
State rooms were removed to create a two deck-high ballroom featuring a dance floor that could accommodate up to 3,000 people. The President made New Orleans her home port in 1941 and became one of the city’s most popular night spots, offering dance and concert cruises. During the 1950s and ’60s, the house band was the Crawford-Ferguson Night Owls.
In April 1970, the President hosted an evening concert featuring Pete Fountain and Clyde Kerr Sr., which was notable since it was the first event of the first-ever New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival. Jazz Fest cruises continued on the President for nearly 20 years, with headliners Fats Domino, Professor Longhair, Tina Turner, James Brown, B.B. King and more. Other entertainers to perform on the President included The Rolling Stones, U2, Jerry Garcia, Cyndi Lauper, Jerry Lee Lewis, Etta James, Roy Orbison and The Mamas and the Papas, as well as local favorites Irma Thomas, The Neville Brothers, Dr. John, Allen Toussaint and The Meters.
On Feb. 11, 1982, the New Orleans punk/new wave band RZA opened for an up-and-coming Irish rock band called U2 aboard the riverboat President.…
In 1985, the President was sold and for the next several years split time between New Orleans and St. Louis, leaving for good in 1990. After operating for several years as a riverboat casino, the President was decommissioned in 2000, dismantled in 2009 and now lies in pieces near St. Elmo, Illinois.