Mike Shepherd presenting Jay his Artwork at The Louisiana Music Hall Of Fame Christmas Party 12-7-2008
JAY CHEVALIER (b. Mar. 4, 1936 – ): In Louisiana there are two vocations that are driven by
deep-rooted passion: music and politics. Two men have delved into both – with different degrees of
Country and gospel singer Jimmie Davis (You Are My Sunshine, Nobody’s Darling but Mine, and
Suppertime) was twice elected governor of Louisiana and lived across Capitol Lake from the towering
Louisiana State Capitol building until his death at age 101.
The other, Jay Chevalier, traveled with three-time Gov. Earl K. Long during Long’s 1959 campaign
for lieutenant governor. Davis succeeded Long when elected to his second term (he was elected to his
first term in 1943). Long, barred by the State Constitution from succeeding himself, was running for
lieutenant governor on a ticket headed by another former governor, James A. Noe of Monroe.
Chevalier composed and recorded The Ballad of Earl K. Long in 1959 and followed that with Come
Back to Louisiana. The latter song, first recorded in 1963, was featured in Blaze, the Paul Newman movie
about Earl Long. Chevalier served as a consultant for the movie and played the role of Sen. Paul Braden.
It was re-recorded in 2006 to encourage victims of Hurricane Katrina to return home and to rebuild. The
Louisiana Legislature adopted it as the official state song in 2006, giving Louisiana, already the only state
with two state songs – You Are My Sunshine by former Gov. Davis and Give Me Louisiana – three official ballads.
Chevalier, never content to simply be a friend of high-level politicians, took matters into his own hands in
1995 when he launched his own run for lieutenant governor. He lost.
Born on March 4, 1936, Chevalier enlisted in the Marine Corps in 1954 where he formed his first band,
which appeared on Jimmy Dean’s national TV show in 1957. Upon his discharge, he recorded his first record.
Gene Vincent had just recorded Be-Bop-A-Lula, and the two became good friends, working together in Norfolk,
Now, almost a half-century later, Chevalier acts like anything but a seventy-year-old. He can – and does –
still rock with the best of them, often opening his shows with his best-known song, Billy Cannon, a rollicking tribute to
LSU’s only Heisman Trophy winner (1959). Cannon carried the team on his strong legs to the 1958 national
championship and on Halloween Night, 1959, electrified a partisan LSU crowd and stunned the Ole Miss Rebels with a
fourth-quarter, 89-yard punt return to give the Tigers a 7-3 victory.
Chevalier, not really a football fan, was attending the game with Gov. Long. Caught up in the pandemonium of
the Tiger Stadium crowd after the touchdown, he wrote the song that night. Chevalier’s Pel Records release,
b/w High School Days Are Almost Over, was out within days, adding to Cannon’s already mythical appeal, and
making Jay Chevalier’s name a household word from Shreveport to Lake Charles to New Orleans. The song opens
with a drum roll, followed by a cymbal crash and then Chevalier’s opening lines: Down in the South/Where they say
you-all/There’s a man known/As Mr. Football/Billy Cannon. Other songs he recorded and continues to perform
include Castro Rock, Khrushchev and the Devil, and Rock & Roll Angel. The Castro and Khrushchev songs were
reflections of the prevailing anti-communist sentiment in the U.S. at the time.
Content with his career, Chevalier has kept his life in perspective. Born in Lecompte, LA, reared in the small town of
Midway, LA and schooled in Forest Hill south of Alexandria, he says he grew up “poor and naked in the piney
wood hills along the banks of Bayou Boeuf.” By 1962, he was performing at the Golden Nugget in Las Vegas. In 1963,
he added a nineteen-year-old Baton Rouge girl, Grace Broussard, to his show that already included Dale Houston.
Dale & Grace had just recorded an old Don and Dewey Squires song, I’m Leaving It All up to You. It was while the
three were on tour that the song took off, eventually rising to number 1 in the nation.
Chevalier, who now lives in the New Orleans suburb of Kenner, knows first-hand the importance of coming
home after the disastrous hurricanes. His office was flooded and his home suffered tree damage during Hurricane Katrina.
Ignoring his own loss, he hauled bottled water to victims worse off than he. Somehow, it seems only natural that he would
remake Come Back to Louisiana and end up singing it a cappella to the Louisiana Legislature.
He told New Orleans Magazine reporter Jason Berry that 1959 was the last great year in Louisiana. “Billy
Cannon won the Heisman, LSU was number 1 in the nation [actually, LSU won its first national championship in
Cannon’s junior year, 1958, Uncle Earl [Earl K. Long] was the last Long who held the governorship, and it was the last great
year for the Louisiana Hayride.” Chevalier was inducted into the Louisiana Political Hall of Fame in January of 2003. He is
also a member of the Rockabilly Hall of Fame.
On December 7, 2008, at the LMHOF Christmas Party 2008, Jay Chevalier was inducted into The Louisiana Music Hall Of Fame.
To learn and experience more, please visit Jay Chevalier's Inductees (Photo & Memorabalia) Gallery and his
Inductees Video Gallery under "GALLERIES" on this site.
Bio courtesy of Tom Aswell - author of "Louisiana Rocks - The True Genesis Of Rock And Roll"
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