Careers have begun and ended at Richard’s Club, a zydeco roadhouse built in 1947 in the St. Landry parish hamlet of Lawtell. Grammy winners Clifton Chenier, Rockin’ Sidney, Terrance Simien and Chubby Carrier all cut their musical teeth at Richard’s. Early blues and R&B stars, such as B. B. King and John Lee Hooker, played at the club on their jaunts between New Orleans and Houston.
In 1994, zydeco legend John Delafose played his last dance on Richard’s, where he suffered a fatal heart attack on stage.
After longtime owner Kermon Richard died in 2004, the club closed, was sold and reopened, and closed again over the next seven years.
The zydeco landmark was born again as Miller’s Zydeco Hall of Fame. Capacity crowds attended three nights of dances that featured Brian Jack and the Zydeco Gamblers, Leon Chavis and the Zydeco Flames, Lil Nate and the Zydeco Big Timers and J. Paul and the Zydeco Nubreeds.
Dustin and Nichole Miller, a young couple expecting their first baby in August, are the dancehall’s new owners. Both work as registered nurses at Opelousas General Health System and jumped at the chance to own a piece of history.
“We’ve been coming to this club since high school,” said Dustin, 25. “We weren’t legally supposed to be in here, but this was the place to be.”
“People in here knew your mama and daddy,” said Nichole, 24. “You knew you couldn’t cut up.”
The couple now own a wooden dancehall that has retained its rustic look—a low ceiling, mismatched furniture, bouncing dance floor and no air conditioning. Large attic fans, and box fans in the club’s screened windows, keep the air circulating. The Zydeco Hall of Fame is big gamble for the Millers. Dancehalls like the Hall of Fame were once plentiful in South Louisiana, but casinos, festivals, trail rides and other entertainment choices have reduced their numbers to a mere handful.
Nevertheless both say zydeco music is in their blood and they want to make the club a family affair. “This is something I’ve always wanted to do,” said Dustin. “I just saw the opportunity with this legendary place and I jumped on it.”