BY LOGAN MCCOURTNEY –
Everyone has their favorite kind of music. Their music may help pass the time as they run, help them relax from the demands of life, and for many, music has a way of putting a smile on their face. Writing and singing music is an art form and music is an art that goes in the ears straight to the heart. Jay ‘Gator’ Gisclair has played music all over America, all for one purpose: putting a smile on the face of those listening.
Jay was born in Golden Meadow, Louisiana in 1949 to Mr. Ebdon and Elize Gisclair. From the very beginning of his life, all Jay knew was music. His love of music was developed by his dad who was sang in local dance halls. “As long as I can remember I have loved music. My dad bought an old tv set, a black and white tv set that came in the big box. It broke and the repairman came and took everything out except the box and the glass, and then I would get behind there at three years old with my Roy Rogers guitar and sing to my family like I was on television,” recalls Jay chuckling. As Jay got a little older he continued playing music, and when he was 15, he and his cousins started a rock and roll band. A couple of years later Jay would start up another group, the Country Blue Boys, and this time they would travel all over Louisiana playing country music.
Over the next several years, Jay would enjoy a plethora of music success. “In the 70’s I had the opportunity to record several songs. I recorded on Gypsie Label and then I recorded four songs with Sun Down Records in Nashville. I actually moved to Nashville and stayed there for a couple of years while I recorded,” explains Jay. After returning to Louisiana, Jay formed Cajun Pride, a six piece band that played country and Cajun music. In addition to travelling all over Louisiana, the band had several opportunities to play on big stages including serving as the house band for the LA Cruise Ship and they also opened for Doug Kershaw for the Harry Lee Inauguration on the River Boat President. “It was quite a time. We got several opportunities to play in venues that were a lot of fun,” says Jay. In 1995 Jay made a transition for a season of time and started singing and playing a lot more Gospel music. “I had a recording studio in Louisiana that I recorded Gospel music. One year I recorded 66 songs and we produced six cd’s.
In 2001, Jay and his wife of 32 years, Barbara, moved to Hatfield Arkansas to slow down and enjoy life in the mountains. Since moving, Jay formed his current band, Gator and Friends, a talented five piece group playing country, Cajun, and Gospel music in a variety of settings. “In August we are making our second tour in West Virginia. We will play at county fairs, festivals, and sing Gospel music in churches,” explains Jay. Just as in the past, music is keeping Jay busy as he plays and sings in a variety of settings, “We are currently booked until January. We are staying busy and loving it.” One of Jay’s favorite places to play is the senior centers in Polk County. For the last two years, every Thursday, Gator and Friends can be found at the Mena Senior Center playing music and singing to those in attendance. “I love being there at the center with everybody. I like seeing those people happy and honestly it has rejuvenated me. It reminds me of why I started playing music in the first place, I love seeing a smile on people’s faces.”
Along with playing music, Jay is seeking to be a voice for the community in Hatfield as he serves on the Hatfield City Council. “I love every moment of what we are doing. We are trying to improve our community and make it better for everyone involved.” Jay came on the council in 2006 and ever since has been helping to positively affect the Hatfield community. “Through the council and our mayor, we have received different grants that allow us to improve our community. Not only have we added exercise equipment at the park, we are in the process of trying to install bathrooms there as well.
After decades of singing and playing music, Jay is going to be recognized for his talents. Jay received word that he will be inducted in June 2018 into the Louisiana Music Hall of Fame, an honor that is a pleasant surprise to Jay. “I had an old friend that I used to play with call one day and tell me that he thought I deserved to be in the Hall of Fame and so he entered my name for consideration. After a while, I received a call telling me they had reviewed my music and work and they were extending the invitation to me. I was honored.” Anyone who has heard Jay sing or play will know that he deserves such an accolade. “I am really blessed. I never did any of this for an award. I play music because I love it and it brings joy to people,” says Jay.