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Jim, Charlie and me

Jim, Charlie and me

Jim Swiler, an old friend from my KTIB days, died recently at age 76 on June 26.

In 1967 he left Thibodaux to become news director at WTIX FM in New Orleans where I heard him covering the trial of Clay Shaw, (ref: JFK assassination), and the Howard Johnson’s hotel shooting rampage by Mark Essex that killed seven people.

He was a Deacon in the Catholic Church and was instrumental in the creation of TV station WLAE.
Jim and I had quite an experience in the early 1960’s when he and I produced a record for his cousin Eddie Powers. I wrote two songs, hired a band, recorded at Cosimo’s studio and released it.

He thanked us with a lawsuit and a restraining order that stopped the radio stations from playing the record.

It had become an instant hit in New Orleans, but reaching legal age, Eddie had signed with another label without us knowing about it. Because he was Jim’s cousin we never signed a contract and we had major labels calling to lease it.

The record died with over 12,000 sales and consequently so did Eddie Power’s blossoming career.

Jim and I lost the chance to own a national hit, which after Joe Barry’s “I’m A Fool to Care” and Barbara Lynn’s “You’ll Lose a Good Thing”, would have been my third one.

We won our case because of the skills and efforts of our lawyer and friend Charles Leblanc, which links us to the following story:

Jenny’s Café

Jenny’s was a small café across the street from the courthouse where a good friend and I were eating on a day that, as President Franklin Roosevelt once said about Pearl Harbor, “would live in infamy”.

My friend was future Thibodaux City Judge Charles Leblanc, father of the Honorably John E. Leblanc, Lafourche Parish District Judge, Division “A”, but all that’s too formal, we were just Charlie and Lee.

Jenny, the proprietor, would sit at her counter playing pinochle with lawyers and customers until all her diners were in. She had already prepared lunch except for the main item, which she had bought that morning, either chops, hamburger steaks or whatever, and the card game went on until every diner was seated.

If she had bought 12 units and 12 customers were seated, good, everyone got a chop. If 24 diners happen to come in, everyone got half a chop. If only 6 came in, expect the same menu the next day.

Courthouse workers, lawyers and prominent business leaders were regular customers and sometimes played cards into late afternoon.

We were ready to eat and only 8 were seated so we each got a chop. Suddenly Dave Robichaux, an oil lease broker, former Assessor and active politician, entered, went in the kitchen and turned the radio on. This was not unusual because at Jenny’s people came and went all the time and diners and card players rarely noticed or raised an eyebrow.

Everyone was served and Jenny and her entourage were back at the card game. Robichaux turned up the radio volume, slammed his hand loudly on the counter and shouted: “Listen, listen … the President has just been shot in Dallas, Texas.”

It was November 22, 1963, about 12:50 p.m.

Stunned, everybody gathered around the radio and the news continued to get worse until Walter Cronkite, simulcasting, announced: “President John F. Kennedy died at 11:30 p.m. Dallas time, 12:30 Central Time.”

An eerie silence and gloom filled the room.

Charlie and I got up and started back to the courthouse. I felt a tear but Charlie was crying as he loudly said:

“Them SOB’s. They did it. They finally did it!”

Who he had in mind, I’ll never know, and the rest of the day was a blur, but it made me realize what I already knew, that my friend Charles Leblanc was a kind, gentle and caring person. I was fortunate to have had him as a friend.

Next week I’ll write about how Charlie and I tried, unsuccessfully, to become a Cajun version of Rogers and Hammerstein, but we did write a couple of political campaign songs.


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