New Orleans Square has changed forever. There hasn’t been a facelift to the facade and no stores have closed, but one of the icons of New Orleans Square will no longer be present. Guitarist Ernie McLean, most commonly seen strumming his guitar in the corridors of the Square has passed away. Ernie was the last employee hired by Walt Disney himself. He worked in the park nearly every day since 1966.
The first time I ever saw Ernie was on the Walk in Walt’s Footsteps Tour. As he was leaving, our tour guide pointed him out. Several months later on another trip I was fortunate enough to see him again and spoke with him for a few minutes. He was a very soft spoken and modest man who still referred to Walt Disney as “Mr. Disney”. He allowed me to take a picture with him (yes, I asked) but didn’t stop playing the guitar even as the photo was being taken.
I feel fortunate to have been able to have met him and enjoyed his music. New Orleans Square will not be the same without him and his music. Rest in peace Ernie, you will definitely be missed.