Updated: Dec 29, 2019
Posted 12/27/19 - Kemberley Parks Corbitt with Carol Hurst and Myrna Tuminello
Back in the day our elders were horrified that this rock and roll culture would be doomed, especially of the dreadful music that crept into their lives. From Elvis to The Beatles even to The Boogie Kings – and that beat went on and on and on. Locally, bands like Buddy Hart & The Heartbreakers, Joe Simon, The Fabulous Falcons, The Wheels, Dale & Grace, and even up to “modern” times Funk’s Hybrid, were featured at the always packed Cedar Club in Morganza; and to think that the young folks from our sleepy towns and villages would even go to "the club."
Many of you remember spending the weekend in Morganza listening to the live bands or playing rock and roll on the jukebox. Travelers from all over came to play cards, have a drink, chew the fat, play a few rounds of bingo or dance the night away. For many of you, this is a stroll down memory lane; a place where many couples met, dated, fell in love and were married. I, in fact, am the product of one such union. It all happened right here in our little village at The Cedar Lounge, more popularly known as The Cedar Club--a legend in its own time and an icon in the 50s, 60s and 70s, The Cedar Club was a watering hole for many locals and people traveling through the village of Morganza. On December 31, 2019 the famed Cedar Club will reopen as a staple of the newly reinvigorated Morganza.
The Cedar Lounge was built in 1947 by Frank J. Sansone, one of Morganza’s prominent residents. Its location is about one mile away from Melancon’s Cafe, famous for being the setting in the 1969 movie “Easy Rider.” The Cedar Lounge also hosted thousands of "hippies" during "The Celebration of Life" rock festival in 1971.
Its name is derived from the beautiful custom cedar wood bar found in the club. In order to accommodate more dancers, a bandstand was added to the far right of the club. On hot Louisiana summer nights, patrons would dance the night away. Air conditioning was not added until the 1970s. Later on, a small grocery store was added in the back that was run by Happy Melson.
The Cedar Club quickly became a favorite bar in town. During this time, the Sansone family built "The Malt Shop" in the same parking lot. People would enjoy soft serve ice cream, malts, burgers, fries and poboys. A small house was built in the back for the nanny who babysat local children.
In the late 60s and 70s, Charlie and Rose Cashio ran The Cedar Club. This is a special time for me, as Charlie and Rose were my grandparents. I remember running in and out of the bar area and the bingo hall with my cousins. The Cedar Club changed hands many times and in 1992, Donnie “Hair Bear” Derbes took over, changing the name to The Bear’s Den. The Cedar Club/Bear’s Den was purchased by Mark T. Allement, a descendant of Morganza natives, and the bar finally closed in 2016.
Recently, Allement began a renovation of the building with plans to reopen the historical dance hall under the new name The Cedar Saloon. Allement is hoping that people from the area will come out to support the reopening. Kris Purpera, local master carpenter, has been enlisted to renovate the beloved dance hall. For Purpera, this project is an honor and a labor of love.
Mark T. Allement lives on his family farm in Batchelor, where he was raised. He spent a lot of his childhood in Morganza with his grandparents Amar & Anaise Allement and has wonderful memories in Morganza. His partner, Shane Shows (of Lakeland) will be the active manager of the saloon. Allement wants to help Morganza rebuild the town that was so special to him growing up. He said that Morganza used to have everything you could ever need. He wants future generations to have a place to come to enjoy themselves in Morganza.
Allement is also a musician that recorded an album in Nashville in 1993. He hopes to see friends, families, happy faces, entertainment, some of the finest music (country, cajun, jitterbug and old time rock and roll) being played at the saloon. He wants the place to remind people of a simpler time. The place will also have a gaming room for people to enjoy video poker, darts, pool and other games. Bingo, free food giveaways, and cajun days are all things Allement hopes to regularly have at the saloon.
Because renovations at The Cedar Saloon are not 100% complete, Allement will have a large scale grand opening in January/February 2020. But doors will officially open for good with a sneak peek and New Year’s Eve party on December 31. There will be food cooked on both New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day to serve guests and the saloon will be open from 2 pm - 2 am every day.
On New Year's Eve, Jimmy Delatte Kuntry Five Band will be playing from 8 pm - 1 am and will of course be leading everyone in Auld Lange Syne, “The New Year’s Eve song” after the countdown to 2020. More information about the new Cedar Saloon can be found online at TheCedarSaloon.com.