Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Big Time Fun in “The Big Mamou”

Fred’s Lounge
420 6th St.
Mamou, LA
Visited August 21, 2010

Beer Selection: Cans of Schlitz, baby (or 8oz. cans of “fancy” beer like Coors Light).

Food: None, other than an occasional free sample of Miss Sue’s boudin.

It’s 9:30.

Every parking spot in the tiny dot-on-the-map town of Mamou is full.

The dull thump of music is reverberating down 6th St., the main drag in this no stop light village in the middle of Louisiana’s “Big Mamou”.

It’s 9:30.

I reach for the handle on the battered door to the windowless Fred’s Lounge, hand shaking a bit as I wonder what I’ll encounter once I pull.

First sound. Then smell.

The dull thump amplifies into a roar as I swing the door toward me. A cloud of cigarette smoke bellows past me onto 6th Street.

It’s 9:30.

I step inside, blinded by the darkness and smoke, literally stumbling into the packed crowd that is shoved into every corner of the 500 square foot room.

As my eyes adjust, all 100 or so people are staring at me. At least the music doesn’t come to a screeching stop. And thankfully, I’m not wearing a suit, I think to myself.

It’s 9:30.

Dozens of fun-loving people are two-stepping and dancing to the Cajun beat pumping out of the four piece band crudely set up in the middle of the room.

Those who aren’t dancing are drinking. Mostly mini 8oz cans of Coors Light.

Desiring to blend in, I immediately elbow my way to the bar and order a 12oz can of Schlitz for $2.50.

Did I mention it is 9:30?

Did I mention it is 9:30…?


Welcome to Cajun Country.

Not some Disney version of Cajun Country.

Oh, no. It doesn’t get any more real than Saturday morning at Fred’s Lounge in Mamou, Louisiana, a town famous in Cajun lore and song, including one by Hank Williams, Jr.

And here I am. Soaking it all in. The beer, the smoke, the music, the people.

Except for a few bikers who always seem to know where to find a good time, I’m the only tourist in the place.

While Cajun music has been performed across the prairies and bayous of Southwest Louisiana since the French were forced out of their northern homeland in Acadia in the 1700s by those damn English, Fred’s claims to be the birthplace of the renaissance of Cajun culture.

Right here in this old, dirty, smoky room.

Fred’s opened in 1948. And from the looks of the place, not much has changed. Except maybe the beer prices.

Fred himself is long gone, but the tradition he started lives on thanks to his widow, Miss Sue.

Fred’s is only open six hours per week. On Saturday morning.

And get this – the entire thing is broadcast live across the Cajun prairies (or “The Big Mamou”) on a local AM radio station.

Forget the opera or the ballet.

Folks, THIS is culture.

Cajun music is always sung in French and performed with guitars, accordions, fiddles and Cajun triangles. It’s fun, upbeat and everybody gets drunk and dances.

Trust me, you’ll never hear this stuff at your local Karaoke bar.

You’ve got to come to Mamou. On Saturday morning.

Everybody knows everybody. (Except me, of course.) The band plays non-stop, occasionally alternating musicians from the dancers in the crowd – kind of like a hockey line change.

I eventually make my way to a weathered post I can lean against not far from the makeshift dance floor (the 12 square feet in front of the band).

It’s 10:15.


I’m on Schlitz can number three now and feeling a little more comfortable. The locals have stopped staring.

Just then Miss Sue comes wading through the crowd with a card board box of freshly steamed boudin she is handing out to everyone – free of charge.

There’s no better way to line your stomach for a morning of beer drinking than a few spicy links of boudin – the Cajuns’ snack food of choice.

What is boudin you ask?

It is Cajun sausage made up of ground pig parts, rice and as much or as little spice as the boudin maker desires, all stuffed into a natural pig intestine casing.

Boudin can be breakfast, lunch or a midnight snack.

At Fred’s, it’s Miss Sue’s token of hospitality on a fun-filled tradition-packed Saturday morning. And the perfect antidote to whatever the heck I’m feeling after downing three Schlitz on an empty stomach.

It’s 11:00.


I wander back out into the blinding sunshine, reeking of smoke and feeling a bit dizzy from my 36 oz. breakfast.

But I can’t help but thinking how lucky I am. I just had one of those once-in-a-lifetime experiences at a one-of-a-kind landmark deep in the heart of that place I like to call real America.

Rating: Bought the Shirt!

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1 comment:

  1. Great article. Fred's is a one-of-a-kind place, even in Louisiana. That radio broadcast comes from KVPI 1050 AM. And the Grand Derangement, or expulsion of the Acadians, started in 1755 and ran about twenty years. They were forcibly moved to the English colonies south, back to France, and to Louisiana. That's where the Cajuns came from. And are we lucky to have 'em! Thanks for the report!