The patriarch of the Simms family of Plaquemine, Chuck “Huey” Simms, missed musical stardom by a hair during his last days in the U.S. Navy.
It was during the now 80-year-old man’s final months when he was approached by the Burnett Brothers, a musical group led by brothers Dorsey and Johnny.
Simms had filled in on rhythm guitar with them on a few gigs. “They liked me and said they might have an offer for me when you get out,” he said.
A few months later, he got that call inviting him to become a permanent member of the band. “Let me think it over,” Simms said. “I didn’t have any burning desire back then to be successful with my music.”
After thinking it over, he said no to the Burnetts. “I was so homesick,” he said. “I wanted to get back to Louisiana.”
“A couple of months later, I’m driving down the highway and I hear this son on the radio, ‘Big Rock Candy Mountain,’ which became a million seller by Johnny Burnett,” Simms said.
“I pulled over on the side of the road and thought to myself, ‘I could have been in that group and who knows what could’ve happened,’” he continued.
The Simms had another close brush with musical fame after recording in J.D. Miller’s studio in Crowley. Miller already had several labels and actively marketed his client’s music to record companies in California and Nashville.
Their music got some praise from the executives at the label, even got close to a contract, but it just wasn’t in the cards.
After his return to Plaquemine, Simms and his brothers began to perform together and recorded a couple of albums of their own music. “Daddy’s been writing music for quite a long time,” his son Percy said.
“To give you a starting point, the Simms sons started off in the late 1960s with the very first Acadian Festival,” Huey Simms said.
Later, he and Percy began writing and performing together, even making a trip to Nashville in the hopes of either getting signed to a label or to have one or more of their original songs picked up for someone else to perform.
They won a contest in Nashville in which the winner would be given the ability to record a CD.
“The people in Nashville didn’t really promote us like they should have,” Huey said. “We couldn’t hardly get any airplay.”
Between the Simms Brothers and Huey and Percy, the Simms have recorded about a half a dozen albums, the best of which is “Rain on Roses,” in his opinion.
With an original song inventory of nearly 500 songs together, Huey and Percy say they are planning on going into the studio again, this time with Clifton Brown.
“As soon as I can pin him down on when he has some time, I’m going to get us in the studio and gtry to get some of these songs recorded,” Percy said.
Huey classified his music a “not straight, old-fashioned country. “I’ve always looked at my music as folk music and I have written a couple of gospel songs.”
Beginning with the tragedy of Sept. 11, the father/son songwriting duo began writing a lot of memorial songs. The song they wrote about the way they felt about the attack on America by terrorists is called, “The Day Lady Liberty Died.”
Another was written after a fellow officer died, a deputy with the West Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff’s Office like Percy. When he was killed in action, the Simms wrote a song in his memory but dedicated to all law enforcement officers, “Angels in Blue.”
They’re really intent on getting another dedication song recorded, “Scars of War.”
“We’ve got this song called ‘Scars of War’ and everybody really loves it,” Huey said. “They want to know why it hasn’t been recorded but we just haven’t had the opportunity yet to get in recorded.”
Fame and fortune are not the reasons the Simms write and perform their music.
“I get a lot of satisfaction when I write a song that I know is good and other people like it, even though I’m not making any money off of it,” Huey said. “I know I wrote it and that gives me satisfaction, it really does.