Keenan Report on the Cajun Dance scene in Houston, TX

Where can you attend eight zydeco dances in one weekend? There's more than one right answer, of course, but if you looked at the subject of this note, you probably guessed Houston. Houston is bursting with zydeco!

I'm sorry to let yall down, but I was only able to make four of the dances -- had to squeeze some work in between driving all over hell (or in Houston, same difference: just as hot and unattractive, in my opinion) to get from one dance to another.

If you're going to Houston in the near future, Beau Jocques will be playing there the weekend of May 19, and Boozoo will be there May 28. By the way, Boozoo was voted the King of Zydeco in Texas on February 17.

Thanks to Sheridan for her Houston zydeco references. [Sheridan -- I didn't get to meet Annette, but I talked to her on the phone and she was really nice!]

It's always fascinating to experience the different dance styles and ambiances in dance halls. For me, the most interesting feature of zydeco dancing in Houston was the good representation of several races. One club seemed to be frequented by equal numbers of blacks, whites and Chicanos, and the other three I visited were a roughly equal mix of whites and blacks. The dancing itself was a mixed bag: some excellent zydeco dancers, some people who freestyled, some who danced Cajun jitterbug and some Texas two-steppers.


The Neighborhood Bar That Care Forgot and home of "House of Mixology" and "Yeah You Right Records" -- Houston's Graduate School of the Blues 5731 Kirby 713/523-9999 -Zydeco bands Sunday nights from 7:00 - 11:00 p.m. -May schedule: Pierre Stoot and the Zydeco Two-Steps; The Sam Brothers; Wilbert Thibodeaux and the Zydeco Rascals -No cover -Air conditioned -Concrete floor

A purple-painted bar run by Tom McLendon, who reported that the whole operation is a money-loser, especially the zydeco. He opened the place in an upper-class neighborhood to provide more exposure for regional blues and zydeco. "Yeah You Right Records" is not a label but a room off the bar where Tom sells tapes, CDs and gossips about blues and zydeco musicians (I still like him even though he said some bad things about Alan Toussaint). The bar has a darts corner and is decorated with Irish ale neon signs and photographs of blues and zydeco musicians.

The night I was there the Sam Brothers played (of Opelousas, LA -- nephews and other relatives of Ambrose Sam), and I enjoyed them very much. Leon Sam plays piano accordion very well, and his band features two frottoirs, bass, drums and saxophone. The sound was very reminiscent of Clifton Chenier. I'm a big fan of guitar in other music, but I didn't miss it at all in this band; the sound was very satisfying. There was a small group of dancers who seemed to know one another. Only Tom danced with me; the other men seemed pretty busy.

After the set, a man came up to me and asked me if he could borrow money! (Someday I'm going to compile a book of the strange things men have said to us women in bars -- this one was a first). Then he said he was just kidding, and introduced himself as Leonard Brown, but told me he was known as "Lowdown Brown" and that he played in an eponymous blues band.

Continental Zydeco Ballroom and Lounge

Zydeco bands on Friday and Saturday nights
-$6 cover
-Ceiling and box fans
-Plywood floor
This place is a classic funky roadhouse dance hall that is older than most of us. Low ceilings and a very small raised dance floor with a four foot in diameter box fan next to it. The night I was there, John Wilson and the Zydeco House Rockers (of New Iberia, LA) played. Technical difficulties delayed the first set, so in the meantime, the frottoir player took the opportunity to chat me up. Two other men eventually joined my table and after repeating to each of them several times that yes, I was married and my husband was bound to show up anytime, we had amiable conversation (after I assured them that my "husband" would not start a fight just because I was talking to them).

Joseph, the frottoir player, claimed to have played in Clifton Chenier's band and travelled all over the world. I congratulated him, having no idea if what he said was true. One of the men was a relative of some of the bandmembers and had spent the afternoon cooking for them, not to mention eating and drinking.

I didn't think the vocals or button accordion playing were very good but I had fun dancing with a few fellows. One of them couldn't dance at all, but he sang the words to every song as he lurched around with me.

Pe-Te's Cajun Bar-B-Q House

Zydeco bands on Saturdays 2:00 - 6:00 p.m.
Motto: "Come as You Are!" -Good Cajun food
-No cover
-Ceiling fans
-Ceramic tile dance floor
This place had the bounciest personality of any dance hall I visited. The man behind the bar (really more of a booth than a bar) grasped my hand and introduced himself as Pe-Te. He said he hoped I would enjoy myself. I told him I had listened to his Cajun radio show that morning (see below) and that I'd called in a pledge for the station's fundraising drive. Then he introduced me to the man who had taken my call -- Larry Thibodeaux, who has a Cajun show on another station. Pe-Te's has been around for 16 years; they used to have Cajun dances but zydeco proved to be more popular.

The crowd at Pe-Te's ran the gamut of ages and races, and many people were very friendly to me. I danced with one guy several times, who kept proclaiming as we danced, "Yeah! Yeah! I've got a good one here!" in between shaking the hands of people sitting at the tables surrounding the dance floor.

The band I heard was Pierre Stoot and his Zydeco Two Steps, originally from Louisiana but not located in Houston. I really liked them; three generations of Stoots played, father on saxophone, son on accordion and tiny grandson on frottoir. Very danceable zydeco.

I danced a lot with Willy, a very fit Chicano man in his fifties who seemed to be known to everyone in the hall. He was an excellent dancer, had been dancing zydeco for seven years, and told me a lot about the zydeco scene in Houston, introduced me to other dancers, and referred me to other dance halls. I also met his brother Rick, who asked me if Blob's Park still existed (he went to Blob's when he was stationed at Fort Meade in the 1960s).

My favorite partner was Harrison, a black man who moved to Houston from Charleston, West Virginia, 15 years ago. He did things on the dance floor I've never seen in Washington. When I asked him his name, he replied, "Showoff." He went to the Creole Crawfish Festival and had also gone to Slim's the same night I was there. He said that he had ten girlfriends after dancing with them at Slim's, and that they all invited him home to cook for him, but he had refused because, he said, "I don't trust that voodoo cooking." Harrison introduced me to some of his friends, and then announced, "Let's show them how we do things on the east coast," and I did the best I could to follow his wild moves.

Satellite Lounge

Wasn't able to visit.

Talk of the Town

Wasn't able to visit; ask Sheridan.

KPFT 90.1 Pe'Te's Cajun Bandstand Saturdays 6:00 - 9:00 a.m. KYND 1520 AM Cajun Mix Sundays 12:00 - 2:00 p.m. Hot Czech Cajun Music Show (!) Sundays 2:00 - 5:00 p.m.

Final notes: The Zydeco Louisiana Diner, 1119 Pease or 9741 Westheimer, features Cajun food and blues music on Friday, but never zydeco. Zydeco Exploration, Inc. is not a talent agency for zydeco but an oil and gas company!


Last updated 1996 / 1997

Houston, Texas has a large Creole and Cajun population that supports numerous Louisiana restaurants and a minimum of 8-10 dances per week.

There were six dances (that I knew of) while I was in Houston, but my day job prevented me from attending all but two. Saturday night at the Continental Zodico Ballroom, a classic, 50+ year-old roadhouse, I saw Leo Thomas and his band. There was a good crowd and I got to dance with a few of the locals, but then around midnight, a shiny gang of young people looking like they'd just departed from Georgetown, arrived and changed the whole atmosphere. They took over the dance floor and a lot of its space with their freestyle dancing. A lot of the locals left and so did I.

The next night I made it out to the Talk of the Town to catch Creole Junction and J. Paul and the Zydeco New Breeds.

Once inside the club, you'd never know you weren't in Louisiana. The Talk of the Town is a large place with a slightly raised wood dance floor, nice lighting (including a mirror ball), plenty of tables and chairs, including a raised area in the back (a bit like the Vienne Bar and Grille). Creole Junction started playing at 7 p.m. I arrived around 8:30 and had no trouble finding a seat. About a dozen couples were dancing. A wedding party arrived and they all danced, including the bride in formal white gown with train. A glance around the room assured me that as in southwest Louisiana, Tommy Hilfiger is raking in the retail bucks. Another fashion note: skirts or dresses are rarely seen on the zydeco dance floors of Louisiana and Texas...

While Creole Junction was playing, the other band set up at the stage on the other side of the dance floor. By 9:30 the place was filling up, with dozens of people standing around the bar. I wondered why more people weren't dancing. I had never heard Creole Junction before, they had a bluesy sound and I liked them pretty well.

Creole Junction ended their set at 10:15 and I talked to their leader, bass player Greg Chambers, and surprised him by unfurling some Buffalo Gap flyers. Just a few minutes later, J. Paul and his band started up. The dance floor immediately filled to capacity. J. Paul turned out to be a powerhouse on the accordion, with a tight, outstanding band. I'll go out on a limb to say that I liked him better than Keith Frank! Really!!!

J. Paul was the drummer for Step Rideau and formed his own band only 6 months ago, but they sound as good or better than most of the bands we're familiar with.

As much as the music knocked my socks off, it was the volcanic dancing that made my heart sing! Those people make us look like we're still in dance kindergarten! Some of the older couples had clearly been dancing together for years, and their moves were as smooth as silk. Several of the younger folks were doing that Joel shimmy-down-to-the-floor and back thing. Others were doing a step where they put a foot from one leg behind the knee of the other leg, like a sleeping stork. As poorly as I'm describing these steps, there are others I can't describe at all. But it was a joy to behold a scene in which EACH AND EVERY COUPLE on the dance floor were *slammin'* dancers.

I urge all of us going to the Zydeco Festival to take breaks from dancing and WATCH what the people down there are doing! There are many, many stylistic variations to learn.

It was purgatory to sit at the Talk of the Town and not dance at all (no one asked me to dance, and most of the men seemed to be "with" someone) but being able to watch the dancers almost made up for it. Louisiana dance halls are usually so dark and crowded that it's hard to see what people are doing, but because of the raised floor and lighting, I had a great view at the Talk of the Town.

Back at the Houston convention center, I had found a new zydeco acquaintance, a local guy who gave me his beeper number so I could call him to find out where the late-breaking dances were (!) I told Don how much I liked J. Paul, and the next day he produced a a tape and business card from the band. I'll loan the tape to Marc Gretschel and Ellen Wicker -- I hope one of them can book the band soon.

Here is update report from Trish Ransom of San Leandro, CA, who visited Houston more recently-

"I visited Houston and spent a great 2 hours at Pe-Te's Cajun Bar-B-Q House. Like a lot of the really fun dancehalls in Louisiana, Pe-Te's is out in the middle of nowhere, at the intersection of Galveston Road and Highway 3, near Ellington AFB. There really is a Pe-Te and he hustled over to my friend Julie and I and introduced himself and welcomed us. He was delighted and astonished to hear we were from California and Hawaii, respectively, and was tickled pink that we had come specifically to dance. He handed us his card --he has a "Cajun Bandstand" show on Saturday mornings from 6-9 on KPFT 90.1 FM -- and invited us to his induction the following weekend into a Cajun music Hall of Fame in Lake Charles.

PE-TE'S is a really fun place--BBQ place in the front and then bench/table seating and then a good size tile dance floor with booths on one side and tables on the other. There is the most amazing collection of license plates, golf course tee signs, road signs, beer signs all over the walls and and even more eclectic bunch of stuff hanging from the ceiling--even a saddle and some small blimps!!! The crowd, and there was one--bear in mind that Zydeco is there on Saturday afternoons from 2 till 6--was really diverse, to quote Linda "ran the gamut of ages and races." Lots of cowboys and cowgirls--- tight jeans and cowboy hats. Women don't wear dresses or skirts there to dance with the exception of maybe a short jeans skirt. And everybody was having a super time. Linda described the personality of PE-TE's as "bouncy" and that is right on the money.

I screwed up my courage and asked a Creole guy to dance and then was kept busy the rest of the time. I couldn't catch the name of the band but the music was upbeat, tending toward the more traditional at a speed approaching "Chubby Carrier" some of the time, and included a good number of waltzes and even a shuffle, to which a line dance was done. [Editors' note: Nooooooooo!]

"Nouveau Zydeco" has not reached this venue and it was nice to do traditional two-step zydeco with gusto and a little funk thrown in. But my brain got really exhausted, trying to tell my feet "how" to do with a totally unfamiliar bunch of dance partners! What fun!!! I had a totally super time."

Trish Ransom
San Leandro CA

Where can you attend eight zydeco dances in one weekend? There's more than one right answer, of course, but if you looked at the subject of this note, you probably guessed Houston. Houston is bursting with zydeco!