HOLDEN – John Schneider is back in business.
And with a little more practice, his “ah-yie” will be good enough for a visit to any Acadiana dance hall.
Schneider held at concert Friday night at his John Schneider Studios in Holden, to celebrate the return of his home/movie-making complex hit hard by the Great Flood of 2016.
Concert-goers were greeted by the General Lee – the iconic symbol of the “Dukes of Hazard” TV show – and a stage under the pines before a weather-beaten barn.
“There is the first time the public has been here since we got destroyed in the second flood of 2016,” Schneider said. “It’s much happier here with folks here.”
The two floodings gave Schneider pause but also provided the inspiration for him to return to song writing and his latest album, “Ruffled Skirts,” which refers to the skirts that hang beneath mobile homes.
The original songs, co-written with Scott Innis, Phil Redrow and Clifton Brown, include “How Do You Stop the Water?,” “The Cajun Navy” and “The FEMA Song.”
“You could hit a nine-iron and reach the Tickfaw (River),” Schneider said from the site of his home and movie studio.
“The Tickfaw was flat. As soon as the Tickfaw crested, it flowed in,” he said. “Couches and refrigerators that didn’t belong to us flowed in. We’re still missing a jacuzzi.”
“Rebuilding took time, (it) took its toll,” said Trent Soto, the Ruston native who oversaw all aspects of the concert.
“But it hasn’t stopped him. We’re rebuilding from the beginning,” he said.
A movie with Dean Cain recently wrapped up, Soto said, and Ruth Buzzi, who worked at the Holden studio in July 2016 before the flood, will be coming back.
“Ruth Buzzi will be coming back as the ‘lady under the stairs,’ ’’ Soto said.
But this night was about music,
“We did an equipment drill. We moved everything into the barn, then moved it back out,” Soto said. “I hope it doesn’t rain.”
John Schneider Studios now includes three homes elevated more than six feet off the ground and a storage shed with elevated shelves for movie-making equipment.
Surprising Schneider before the concert were three of his co-stars from the Tyler Perry TV drama “The Haves and Have Nots,” where he portrays Judge Jim Cryer, the patriarch of one of three Savannah, Ga., families the show revolves around.
“I want you three back in a play or movie here,” he told Renee Lawless, Crystal Fox and Angela Robinson.
“I am fortunate over 39 years to be part of a really terrific TV show, ‘The Dukes of Hazzard,’ and it is so wonderful that people enjoy it today.
“Now, ‘The Haves and Have Nots’ family is special,” he said, “The closer we are and get along, the meaner we are on camera.”
Clifton Brown opened the concert, saluting his hometown in “All My Exes Live in Texas” with a lyric change to “That’s why I hang my hat in Denham Springs.”
Brown also called up a Holden couple, Curtis and Sherry Greenlee, who were celebrating their 10th wedding anniversary, to serenade them with “Can I Have This Dance (for the rest of my life).”
Jo-El Sonnier – who performs on several “Ruffled Skirts” songs -- followed on his accordian with “Johnny B. Goode” in French and English.
Humor was a mainstay of Schneider’s performance.
“I’ll start this song and you just join in when you find a chord,” Schneider joked with his guitarist, Joe Hudson, before one song.
Schneider stopped to tune his guitar -- “You can’t tell a good story if a guitar is out of tune in your hands” – before launching into “How Do You Stop the Water?”
He brought the audience to its feet with the lyric “Lord, how do you stop the water when it’s there to steal your past?”
The success of any song, according to Schneider, has “always been about the story, the lyrics. It’s what you feel.”
Schneider was feeling the emotions of his songs, with a couple of "ah-yies" at the conclusions.
“The FEMA Song,” also from his new album, sparked plenty of laughs while “We’re all flying fingers for FEMA” prompting many in the audience to wave three fingers.
“Now, it’s not everybody at FEMA,” he said after the song. “I feel bad for people who work for a broken system.”
Schneider recounted how after a FEMA trailer was delivered, no place he suggested putting it won the approval of the FEMA representative, who kept telling him it was his decision.
Once a spot was approved for the trailer, Schneider said, FEMA tried to deliver another trailer four times.
“Before I lived here, I thought a flood was a little bit of water. I had no idea what it could fill up,” Schneider told his audience.
“For those of you who lived through it and didn’t leave, God bless you.”
Kevin Fambrough is a reporter at the Livingston Parish News. He can be reached at email@example.com. You can follow him on Twitter at @fambroughkevin.