Freds Lounge in Mamou
Next day, we rode to Mamou for the Saturday morning Cajun music broadcast from Fred’s Lounge. We had heard about Fred’s from Dave Peyton in Huntington, West Virginia. No way were we going to miss it, even if it meant hanging around to wait for Saturday to come again.
We made it with time to spare and walked into Fred’s as the band was warming-up and the host was setting up his mike.
At first we got the three-heads routine from the boys at the bar who were several beers to the good at 9 am. As soon as the program went on the air the announcer made a big deal about the couple who bicycled from Washington state to Fred’s Lounge. Then the looks from the bar were tinged with respect, especially when we started dancing; they appreciate enthusiastic dancing.
Fred’s is small and smoky, a tiny dance area with the band in the middle. Guitar, drums, triangle, fiddle and, most important, the accordion. Great music and an impossible beat to ignore. We wanted to dance each song, and we did until the floor got too full for us at around noon.
Mamou and Eunice, just down the road, are considered to be the heart of Acadian (Cajun) culture. All of the songs were in Cajun French. The radio show host spoke only Cajun French, except that English words that kept popping up in commercials. There would be a long string of French and then, “Winn Dixie” or “Texaco” would pop out. He introduced Claire to his radio audience in French, and continued the interview in English.
Most of the people in Fred’s were Cajun, or at least thought of themselves as Cajun, except for us and a very few other tourists. Although, after the music soaked in for a bit, and after a few dances we were feeling pretty Cajun ourselves. Our reception was so warm we soon felt like we’d been make honorary Cajuns for the day.
One of the special things about Fred’s is how close physically all the people are. They touch each other when they talk, even strangers like us. Don’t go to a Cajun dance and expect to keep your personal space in tact. In Fred’s there is no such thing as personal space. They pack tight and don’t mind pressing bodies together to get from one place to another or while dancing. There is something comforting, and warm in it, something joyous. A lot of happy people enjoying the Cajun culture and each other.
Sometimes part of the crowd spilled outside to look at Zippy and we had lots of questions to answer. When the curiosity is as genuine as it is in Cajun country, we don’t mind at all.