|Joe J. "Jay" Chevalier|
March 4, 1936 |
Forest Hill, Rapides Parish
Jefferson Parish, Louisiana
|Spouse(s)||Gisela Marina "Giselle" Chevalier|
"Louisiana's Official State Troubadour"
Joe J. Chevalier, known as Jay Chevalier (born March 4, 1936), is a singer and songwriter from the U.S. state of Louisiana who has achieved success in several musical genres since the late 1950s. A pioneer of rockabilly music, he is best known within Louisiana for his songs based on politics, sports, and his love for his home state. The first "Official State Troubadour," he is an inductee to the Rockabilly Hall of Fame, the Louisiana Music Hall of Fame, and the Louisiana Political Museum and Hall of Fame
Chevalier was born in Forest Hill near Lecompte and reared in the community of Midway in Rapides Parish just south of Alexandria, Louisiana. He claims to have grown up "poor and naked in the piney wood hills along the banks of Bayou Boeuf." In 1954, Chevalier enlisted in the United States Marine Corps where he formed his first band, which appeared in 1957 on Jimmy Dean's national day-time television program on CBS. Upon his discharge from the military, Chevalier recorded his first record, "Rockin [!!] Roll Angel". Gene Vincent had just recorded "Be-Bop-A-Lula", and the two became good friends and worked together in Norfolk, Virginia. Vincent died in 1971 at the age of thirty-six.
The Ballad of Earl K. Long and Billy Cannon
In 1959, three-time Louisiana Governor Earl Kemp Long, who was barred by the state constitution from succeeding himself, ran for lieutenant governor on an intra-party ticket headed by another former governor, James A. Noe of Monroe, the owner of KNOE-TV. Intrigued by the flamboyant character, Chevalier composed and recorded The Ballad of Earl K. Long which was initially banned from radio play because it was suspected to be a political ploy though Chevalier had not personally met Long. Within a short time the song found its way onto the airways and was enthusiastically received. It sold more than 100,000 copies in the state. Long lost his bid for lieutenant governor in December 1959 to Taddy Aycock, but he rebounded the next summer with a victory over Harold B. McSween for Louisiana's 8th congressional district seat. Long died before he could be seated, and McSween, the choice of the Democratic State Central Committee, took the seat after all.
That same year, Chevalier released Billy Cannon, a rollicking tribute to LSU’s only Heisman Trophy winner, Billy Cannon, who led the LSU Tigers to win the 1958 national championship. On Halloween Night, 1959, Cannon 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 attended the game with Governor Long and while he was not really a football fan, he witnessed the pandemonium of the Tiger Stadium crowd after the touchdown and wrote the song that night. A record was released within days, adding to Cannon’s already mythical reputation. Chevalier himself became a household word from Shreveport to New Orleans.
Other career highlights
By 1962, he began performing an extended engagement at the Golden Nugget in Las Vegas, Nevada. The next year he added a 19-year-old from Baton Rouge, 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 Up to You". While Dale, Grace, and Chevalier were on tour, the song reached No. 1 nationally and sold two million copies.
In 1963, a homesick Chevalier recorded another regional hit, "Come Back to Louisiana". The song was revived when it was featured in the 1996 movie Blaze, in which Paul Newman played Earl Long. Chevalier was a consultant for the movie and played the role of Senator Paul Braden. "Come Back to Louisiana" was re-recorded in 2006 to encourage victims of Hurricane Katrina to return home to rebuild. The Louisiana State Legislature adopted "Come Back to Louisiana" as the third state song. The two others are "You Are My Sunshine" by former Governor Jimmie Davis and "Give Me Louisiana". Chevalier's office was flooded, and his home suffered tree damage during Hurricane Katrina. He re-introduced "Come Back to Louisiana" and sang it A cappella to the legislature.
In the 1970s, Chevalier returned to Louisiana from appearances in Las Vegas, to manage a number of political campaigns.
In October 1991, Chevalier ran unsuccessfully for the District 29 seat in the Louisiana State Senate. Chevalier polled 2,775 votes (7.5 percent). He and fellow Democrat Charles R. Herring, a chiropractor and an outgoing state representative from Alexandria, were defeated in the primary. Victory went to the Democratic incumbent, Joe McPherson, who in a runoff election defeated the Republican candidate, Robert W. Bates of Chevalier's native Forest Hill.
In 1995, Chevalier made an unsuccessful bid for lieutenant governor to succeed Melinda Schwegmann but finished with only 27,900 votes (2.1 percent). Victory instead went to his fellow Democrat Kathleen Blanco of Lafayette, who later served a term as governor from 2004 to 2008.
Chevalier is a member of the Rockabilly Hall of Fame. He was inducted into the Louisiana Political Museum and Hall of Fame in January 2003, and on December 7, 2008, he was named to the Louisiana Music Hall of Fame. He was also designated "“Official State Troubadour” by an act of the Louisiana Legislature in 2006.
Chevalier resides in Kenner in Jefferson Parish in suburban New Orleans, Louisiana, where he and his Spanish-speaking wife, Gisela Marina "Giselle" Chevalier (born September 1954), teach driver's education and operate the J and G International Driving School.
Chevalier still performs several times a year. He appeared at two international festivals in England: the Hemsby Festival (2005) and the Americana Festival (2006).
- "Internet Movie Data Base".
- "Primary election returns, October 19, 1991". Louisiana Secretary of State. Retrieved December 29, 2014.
- "Primary election returns, October 21, 1995". Louisiana Secretary of State. Retrieved December 30, 2014.
- "Joe Chevalier, March 1936". Louisiana Secretary of State. Retrieved December 30, 2014.[permanent dead link]
- "Rockabilly Hall of Fame".
- "Louisiana Political Hall of Fame".
- "Louisiana Music Hall of Fame".
- "Louisiana State Legislature online archives".[permanent dead link]