Written by Carol Hurst
Bands like the Continentals, The Courts, The Big Wheels, Soul Cousins, Veltones, Impalas, as well as the famous Dale and Grace and Luther Kent played there, where teenagers first listened to “rock ‘n roll” records by the great Elvis Presley played on the jukebox, and during the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s, the Cedar Lounge was the center attraction in Pointe Coupee Parish and beyond. People from all over the state flocked there not only to socialize, drink and “jitterbug” to “rock ‘n roll” music, but also to play cards, pool, shuffle board and pinball, gamble and on the “one armed bandit” slot machines and even attend wedding receptions. Many couples actually met there, fell in love and eventually got married. In the late 1940’s, every Sunday morning after church some of the local residents would go there and dance all day and way into the night to the records of the “Big Bands” like Glenn Miller. Located on LA Hwy 1 (just outside of the city limits) in the Village Morganza, Louisiana, the Cedar Lounge was built in 1947 by Frank J. Sansone, a prominent Morganza resident, landowner and entrepreneur, whose parents passed through Ellis Island when they immigrated to America from Sicily, Italy. It’s just a mile away from Melancon’s Café (1925-1997), where the famous scene was filmed from the 1969 road trip movie “Easy Rider”. Just like the Melancon’s Café, it played an important role when 40,000 hippies congregated in the area for the “Celebration of Life” rock festival in 1971. The lounge’s bar was custom built of beautiful cedar wood, hence the name “Cedar Lounge”.
Before the laws were changed, the Cedar Club would stay open all night long and way into the wee hours of the morning, and even though you had to be 18 years old to get in, many an underaged teenager would “hang out” there to hear the bands, which played every Friday and Saturday night. You could get mixed drinks, cold beer in bottles and cans (draft beer wasn’t available until the early 1970’s) or a whiskey “set-up” for your table which also included some Coca Colas and a bucket of ice. In those days you just had to be tall enough to reach the bar and put up your money in order to get a drink!
In the 1950’s, a bandstand was added onto the far-right side of the building to provide even more room for the dancers. Not many places had air-conditioning so only three large attic fans above the wooden circle dance floor provided the dancers some relief from the hot Louisiana summers. Although the big vent on top of the building sucked out most of the cigarette smoke and heat, you’d often leave the dance floor all hot and sweaty. Air-conditioning wasn’t installed until the 1970’s. A grocery store was also added onto the rear of the building, 1950-54.
Unfortunately, during the 1960’s, “The Club” got a bad reputation as a “kick ass” kind of place. It was common for fights to break out (inside and out) to the point where some of the rowdy patrons would even get thrown out of one of the many windows, which were eventually boarded up. Sometimes, the state and parish police would raid the place, usually on a Saturday night while it was packed with partygoers, to check I.D.’s for underaged drinkers or to break up fights. Also, the police were on the lookout for participants of what was coined the “quarter mile run”, late night, daring drag car races that took place on the eleven mile stretch of Hwy 1 from New Roads to Morganza. They were evident because the next day you could ride out to the highway and see the black rubber tire “peel-out” marks left on the long, narrow paved roadway, usually made by a 1957 Chevy. All of this sure gave the small Village of Morganza something juicy to gossip about during the week while having lunch at Melancon’s Café.
Long before the Cedar Lounge was built, the “Green Gable” was the “place to go”, a country music bar which was also built by Frank J. Sansone and located on Hwy. 1 in Morganza. However, in the 1950’s, when “rock ‘n roll” and “doo wop” ruled, there was a big change over and the young teenage crowd soon migrated to the Cedar Club. IT was also around this time that the Sansone family built the Malt Shop. A small drive-in which featured soft ice cream and served po-boy sandwiches, fried chicken, hamburgers, French fries, cherry cokes and malts. It was built on the far-right side of “The Club” in order to accommodate all of the hungry out-of-towners and late night partygoers. The house to the left of the bar is actually where the local nanny used to live who babysat most of the neighborhood kids. As the years rolled on, the Cedar Lounge was leased out and run by many different people. In 1992, Donnie “Bear” Derbes, a Morganza native, leased it out and in 1994, bought the building from Robillard Enterprises, which includes members of the Sansone family, who inherited the property. To make it his own, he then changed the name of the Cedar Lounge to “The Bear’s Den”. The Bear’s Den was purchased by Mark T. Allement, a descendant of Morganza natives, and the bar finally closed in 2016. After a short closure, Allement began a renovation of the building with plans to re-open the historical dance hall in 2019 with the name the Cedar Saloon.