According to the 2012 census the city of Mamou, Louisiana had 3,208 people and that the population had dropped 10.0% since 2000. So why the heck would anyone come here? Well because Mamou is known as the Cajun Music Capital of the World no matter how many people live there. We discovered that the place to visit there to understand why it carries this distinguished honor is Fred’s Lounge!
Upon arriving at Fred’s Lounge it looks like a place most folks would never venture into. In fact, most days of the week you couldn’t enter the place if you wanted too… You see this simple rustic brick beer joint is only open on Saturday mornings! That’s right it isn’t even open any other time of the week! So how does it remain open?
Well, it opens in the wee hours each Saturday morning (before 8:00 am) and by 9:15 a a two-hour radio tradition that has played on KVPI (1050AM) out of Ville Platte for more than 55 years holds center stage at this joint. If you love the sounds of the fiddle and accordion and you love anything Cajun this is the place to be on Saturday morning. The center of the lounge is reserved for the band to play and there is also a microphone for the radio station to broadcast commercials between songs in both English and French!
By the time the band begins playing this place is packed. And… everyone in the place has ordered up a bloody Mary (also called 'Fred's omelet') or a cold adult beverage.Yep they are drinking by 8:00 a.m. At the same time the dance floor fills with couples dancing the Cajun two step. During one of our spins on the dance floor situated in a u-shape around the band a local guy tickled the neck of the fiddle player and mimed that Sharon did it. Despite Sharon's protests and pointing at the real offender, the fiddle player laughingly played his fiddle directly to us. The gentleman that instigated the prank laughed with us afterward and even gave us pointers on our dance moves. What a casual, friendly atmosphere!
This hip little spot was founded by a fellow named Alfred "Fred" Tate in 1946. As the 50’s rolled around there was a sense that the Cajun culture was disappearing as some of the younger folks weren’t interested in carrying on the traditions. When Fred first opened his place it was open seven days a week. In 1962 late a regional author and celebrity named Revon Reed started a live radio show in Fred’s Lounge which is still broadcasted today.
As Fred’s health deteriorated he kept the lounge opened to honor his commitment to the radio show. Fred passed away in 1992 and his ex-wife Sue kept the tradition alive. Called Tante Sue (tante is aunt) it is said that she is the spirit of Fred's and even to this day you will see her there on Saturday mornings serving hot boudin out of a cardboard box (for Free!) and occasional posing for a photo while partaking in one of her favorite shots, Hot Damn! She is quite the ambassador of the Cajun culture and hospitality seen so frequently in this part of Louisiana.. Sue no longer owns the place as a couple purchased the lounge in 1996 but Tante Sue was part of the package and so she is still active in the lounge today.
Fred’s Lounge is one of those very unique places that has been written up in many big time newspapers and magazines. It was packed with happy go lucky folks enjoying some great Cajun music and some high energy dancing. And yes, it closed at noon but everyone went away looking forward to the next Saturday to do it all over again…
Yep, this is the epitome of "Laissez le bon temps rouler" or let the good times roll!