Old South Jamboree January 2020

Musicians play “Ramblin Man” during the Old South Jamboree’s first show of the New Year on Saturday, Jan. 4, 2020.

For the first time in more than a year, performers of the Old South Jamboree will take the stage.

But for the first time in decades, that stage will be in a different venue.

A “Classic Country Jubilee” will be held at the Serenity Event Center in Denham Springs on Saturday, May 22.

The show is scheduled for 7 p.m., with doors opening at 5:30 p.m. Tickets are $15 each.

The night of music will feature Carlton Jones and his Red Hot Country Pickers, along with other Old South regulars Kerwin LeBlanc, Tommy Raborn, Anita LeBlanc, Deb Carpenter, and June Barker.

Jones will play guitar and provide vocals, and he’ll be joined by Randy Blackwell on the pedal steel, Robert Reynolds on drums, and Eddie Warren on bass.

It’ll mark the group’s first show since March 2020, a 14-month break due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Meanwhile, the Old South Jamboree will continue to sit empty as the managing team tries to determine the next step for the historic building that has hosted some of country music’s all-time greats.

Located on Florida Boulevard in Walker, the Old South Jamboree opened in the mid-1960s and became the parish’s longest-running country music venue. In its early years, it hosted the likes of Merle Haggard, Porter Wagoner, Crystal Gayle, Ernest Tubbs, and Dolly Parton, among a long list of others.

Hanging on the walls are dozens of portraits featuring some of the most recognizable names in country music, a constant reminder of the talent that has graced the venue.

“You had every major star in country music play there, from Merle Haggard to Johnny Cash to Dolly Parton,” said Jones, who took over management of the facility when former owner Lester Hodges passed away. “The Old South was on the circuit for all those guys.”

But for now, the venue’s future is uncertain.

“Right now, it’s all kind of up in the air,” Jones said. “You kind of hate to turn and walk away from it. But on the other hand, when you’re gonna be looking at quite a bit of money to fix it up, you’re in a dilemma.”

The Old South Jamboree halted its monthly shows shortly after the COVID-19 outbreak, around the same time live music in all venues was largely banned in an attempt to slow the virus’ spread. Jones said the long layoff has only amplified the “significant” work needed on the building, and funds are limited.

Jones recently alerted fans of the venue’s status on the Old South’s website, saying the venue needs “considerable repairs and renovations” and that “it is not in condition to host a show right now.”

There are roof, structural, and parking lot issues — problems that only grew worse over the last year.

“We were already facing the need to do some renovations before COVID,” Jones said. “And if you walk away and let a building just sit there like that, it’s the worst thing you can do. So COVID just accentuated the problem that already existed.”

Neither Jones nor the owner, Hodges’ daughter Cynthia Lee, are ready to close the Old South Jamboree for good, and Jones said both are hopeful something can be done to restore the venue to its former glory.

“I don’t think we’re quite ready to say the Old South is closed for good, but it’s not gonna open anytime real soon,” Jones said.

While the Old South’s future is determined, the Old South band will return to regular performances, albeit in a different venue.

Jones said the band will hopefully play at the Serenity Event Center every “two to three months” to give their fans some country music, something that was sorely missed over the last year.

On the Old South website, he urged fans to check out their show this Saturday and the others that Reynolds has in store in the future. 

“These people were calling me almost tearful, begging us not to shut the Old South down,” Jones said. “It was their one link to the good old days for good country music. They’d ask me where else can they go to hear Merle Haggard songs without being in a smoky bar room. Their entertainment was going to these country music shows.

“It’s been over a year now, and we just want to do a little country music and see the group come back together and see what we can do,” Jones said.

Carlton Jones and his Red Hot Country Pickers presents ‘Country Classic Jubilee’

Location: Serenity Event Center (33135 LA Hwy. 16, Denham Springs, 70706)

Date: Saturday, May 22

Time: 7 p.m. (doors open at 5:30 p.m.)

Price: $15 each

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