Nathan Stubbs

Zydeco's Grand Ole Opry re-opens tonight

by Nathan Stubbs

For 59 years, Richard’s Club on Highway 190 near Lawtell was ground zero for the Creole/zydeco music scene. The legendary dance hall, built by Eddie Richard in the 1940s, originally booked touring R&B acts traveling between Houston and New Orleans, including B.B. King and John Lee Hooker. But Richard’s became best known as one of the main stops along Acadiana's “Chitlin Circuit”, billing itself as the “Grand Ole Opry of Zydeco,” propelling the fame of local legends Clifton Chenier and Buckwheat Zydeco. In the '80s, the club helped revive the career of Boozoo Chavis and was responsible for giving current standard-bearers like Geno Delafose and Chris Ardoin their start.

Richard’s has been dormant since 2006, when the dilapidating building shut its doors due to dwindling business. Two years later, new owner Michael DeClouet is re-opening the dancehall, now renamed the Zydeco Hall of Fame. DeClouet bought Richard’s soon after it shut down and has since given the building a basic and much needed face-lift. DeClouet stresses the building maintains it’s original character; he's kept the small wooden tables and old 1950s bucket chairs, and there’s still no air conditioning. The club expects to be back in full swing tonight, anticipating a packed house for its grand re-opening weekend. Chris Ardoin & NuStep kick things off tonight. Saturday features Keith Frank & the Soileau Zydeco Band. Sunday is the Old Time Jam Session, from 6-10 p.m. with special guests including Roy Carrier, Willis Prudhomme, Lawrence Blaque Ardoin, Preston Frank and Nathan Williams.

Check out the new website for the Zydeco Hall of Fame.