Old song has meaning for today
'Come Back to Louisiana' could be new State theme song

By James Ronald Skains
Journal Correspondent

When I wrote and recorded, `Come Back' to Louisiana many years ago, I had no idea that the song might one day help give a little spark to the people of Louisiana after a disaster," Jay Chevalier, longtime national and international recording artist told the Piney Woods Journal. "It's a fast paced tune with a lot of guitar runs and the words are simple so that people can clap and sing along which always happens when I do the song."

The first verse of the song reads like this with the up-tempo tune:
"I ain't lying, I ain't faking
It's my heart you're breaking.
Come Back, Come Back to Louisiana."

"We definitely need to get away from looking at what has happened to us as so much doom and gloom," Chevalier said. "Sure, Katrina and Rita slammed us hard, especially St. Bernard, Plaquemine, and Cameron parishes but it is now time to pick up the pieces and move forward."

"I've been singing and playing at several special events in Jefferson parish and New Orleans such as at the Ogden Museum of Southern Art and the Ponderosa Stomp, just to try and bolster people's spirits," Chevalier said. "Some of the Legislators heard the song and said, maybe we need to give it some recognition. Representative Danny Martingy of Kenner is preparing the bill for the legislature."

Chevalier, a native of Forest Hill also told the Journal, "I was personally impacted by Katrina. Our office in Kenner got two feet of water and our house was damaged with fallen trees."

"The very first day that we could get back into Jefferson Parish after Katrina hit, my brother-in-law, Ray Proctor and my sister Judi and my wife Gisela and I carried by trailer some 7,500 bottles of water to Kenner," said Chevalier, a member of the Louisiana Political Hall of Fame in Winnfield. "We knew that things were really bad in Kenner and that drinking water was a premium. However, since that day, the people of Kenner, including the Mayor Phil Capitania have rapidly picked up the pieces and things are almost back to normal."

Chevalier, whose first big hit song was the "Ballad of Earl K. Long'' admits that he had other things on his mind when he wrote "Come Back To Louisiana" some 30 years ago other than a disaster in the New Orleans area. However, as noted by the lyrics that it does seem to fit today's situation:
"Nothing seems right, no days, just nights.
Don't you know I'm lonely and I want you only.
My Pirogue don't pole the same,
Sometime I don't know my name.
Come back, Come back to Louisiana.''

"As you travel around the New Orleans area, you see people who have picked up the pieces and moved forward, others who are beginning to try and put the pieces back together and others who are stuck in the doom and gloom quagmire," Chevalier, a member of the National Rock-A-Billy singers Hall of Fame pointed out. "What people tend to forget rapidly is the history of an area. A lot more people over a wider area were dramatically impacted by the great flood of 1927."

"But people quickly picked up the pieces, put them back together and moved forward," Chevalier emphasized. "During those days, there was no FEMA or disaster insurance, only the Red Cross to help people. Two dozen or more states were impacted by flood of 1927 in which the Mississippi River levees broke in two places and was dynamited in another location."

"Many of the old timers who I personally talked with back in the 1950's and '60's who had experienced the flood, told me that the flood of '27 helped elect Huey Long, Governor in Louisiana and Hebert Hoover, President," Chevalier recalled. "I don't think anything will happen like that after Katrina, but a lot of politicians may be voted out of office. People all around the state now perceive after Katrina and Rita a lack of leadership in our elected officials."

"I think what we will see happen in the near future in the New Orleans area is that Jefferson parish will become the engine that will drive the economy in southeast Louisiana,'' Chevalier whose second big record, "Billy Cannon" hit the charts in 1959 stated. "At the same time, this disaster should give other parts of the state an opportunity to flourish. One thing that people all over the state are complaining about is the loss of tourism."

"I tell people that all the interstate highways that cross Louisiana still have a traffic volume equal to pre-Katrina days," said Chevalier. He ran for Lt. Governor in 1995 in the race resulted in Kathleen B. Blanco becoming the Lt. Governor and in charge of tourist development in the state. "We could rapidly make up tax revenue losses by getting an appreciable number of people off the interstates highways and get them spending money in the Louisiana towns along the interstates."