Mamou, Louisiana is one of the most Cajun places in the world. And any trip to this small, one-stop-light town needs to include a Saturday morning at Fred’s Lounge, where the live music and dancing start at nine o-clock.
I first visited Fred’s Lounge in late 2009. I was doing my first Heart of Louisiana feature story for WVUE Television in New Orleans. A few regulars show up shortly after 8am and take their usual seat at the bar. After exchanging greetings with owner Steve Guillory and the bartenders, you hear the popping of a beer can. It’s Saturday morning at Fred’s. And now, twelve years later, I return to Fred’s Lounge for story number 500. As I hoped, nothing had changed!
keeping cajun alive in mamou louisiana
You can read a brief history of Fred’s on the bronze marker next to the front entrance. It says that Alfred “Fred” Tate purchased the bar in November, 1946. A few years later, the world famous Mamou Courir de Mardi Gras, was revived inside the Lounge. And by 1962, KVPI AM Radio in nearby Ville Platte, Louisiana was doing live broadcasts from Fred’s. At nine o’clock, KVPI announcer Mark Layne signals the band to start playing. Layne does the radio introductions and reads live commercials in Cajun French.
I notice the relaxed looks on the faces of the Saturday morning regulars at Fred’s Lounge as they sip beer and chat with friends. And you can spot the newbies. The Cajun experience greets them with open arms as they dance with wide-eyes and big smiles to the Cajun two-step and the waltz. And for those unsure about the dance steps, 82-year-old Rita Pierrotti is eager to help. “I love to dance and I love French music,” Pierrotti explains. “And those who want to dance, come talk to me about it.”
TV Features on Fred’s Lounge
Only open on saturday
Fred’s Lounge is only open one day a week, on Saturday mornings. The music, dancing, drinking and fun coms to an end at 1:30pm. Owner Steve Guillory told me, “Sometimes we make an exception. If it’s real good we’ll go an extra half-hour.” Guillory adds, “But as soon as that band starts breaking, pick the trash up and let’s get out of here.”
Mamou’s Courir de mardi gras
You’ve likely seen the images of masked Mardi Gras riders on horseback with colorful costumes and tall pointed hats. The Cajun tradition of the courir de Mardi Gras, or the Mardi Gras run, was revived after World War II at Fred’s Lounge in Mamou. If you enjoy Mardi Gras, but you haven’t experienced the courir de Mardi Gras, you are missing out on one of the wildest parties that Cajun Louisiana has to offer. More then one hundred riders on horseback travel down the local highway, making frequent stops to dance, chase chickens and drink. It’s an all day ride that ends back in downtown Mamou, with more music, dancing, drinking and chicken gumbo.
the wild mardi gras ride
Cajun migrates from mamou, louisiana to chicago
During my first visit to Fred’s Lounge in 2009, I met Ron and Pam Williams of Chicago. They stayed on the dance floor. They have been visiting Mamou, Louisiana and coming to Fred’s for 30 years. When I asked why they keep coming, Ron replied, “It’s the Cajun joie de vivre, the joy of life, it’s the dance, the food, it’s the music, it’s the people.” And they became such big fans of the music that they helped organize a chapter of the Cajun French Music Association in Chicago, the only chapter outside of Louisiana and Texas. A few years later on a trip to Chicago, I visited one of the Cajun events in the Windy City at the Empty Bottle Lounge. It felt like home!
TV feature on Cajun Music and dancing in chicago
Local radio station broadcasts in cajun
KVPI AM Radio in nearby Ville Platte, Louisiana, has been broadcasting live from Fred’s Lounge for nearly 60 years. Between songs, announcer Mark Layne is heard over the PA system speaking Cajun French, reading live commercials, and introducing his listeners to members of the band. Just like Fred’s, KVPI is also keeping the Cajun language, conversation and music alive on its regular weekday morning broadcasts. The station airs the news in French and features a listener call-in segment called La Tasse de Cafe, that’s “coffee cup” in French.
cajun local radio
getting to fred’s in mamou, louisiana
Fred’s Lounge is located at 420 6th Street in Mamou, Louisiana. Phone: 337-468-5411.