New Orleans History -- Lake Pontchartrain
Monday, June 17, 2024
Search this site.View the site map.

Mama Lou's

It was a wooden building erected on piles and set about 75 feet out from the shore of Lake Pontchartrain.
Jazz was played there from at least the 1940s: Herb Morand led his band in a residency that lasted for much of the decade and the trumpeter Louis "Kid Shots" Madison appeared in the mid-1940s. The club remained in operation until at least 1961, but was closed by the time that Hurricane Betsy damaged the area in 1965.

Pete Fountain performed here
In 1946 a 14 year old Frank Assunto along with his 17 year old brother Fred began playing on Saturday's at Mama Lou's Seafood restaurant and sometimes across the river at the Moonlight Inn along with other youngsters on Saturday nights. Frank Assunto recalled those days at Mama Lou's saying they were paid $3 each a night but since none of them were old enough to drive a car the cab fare to and from took most of their money. But they got what was in the "kitty" (a tip jar) and sessions lasted from 10pm until 2am with one break at midnight when the budding young musicians could go into the kitchen and eat all the seafood they could hold. Broke, but well fed was Frank's summation of those early days. A young Pete Fountain was often a member of this band. By 1947 the band was reorganized as the Basin Street Four, Five or Six depending on how many members could be rounded up. They played for the sheer pleasure after high school and where ever else they could. The weekend gigs continued at the seafood place.


As well as Richard (Rabbit) Brown
He was a regular at Mama Lou's on Lake Pontchartrain. If "business was slow and [Brown] need a ride home, he would turn in a false fire alarm." The firemen answered the call and found out it was only their friend, who sang to them as they went back to the station. "He knew all the firemen," Nash recalled, and they did not seem to mind the inconvenience.

Brown "sang to his guitar in the streets of New Orleans, and he rowed you out into Lake Pontchartrain for a fee, and sang to you as he rowed."


Mama Lou's, Carlson's, and The Ruby were among the many popular combination pier/ dance hall/restaurant camps during the 40's & 50's
From the early 1800's through the 50's the sounds of jazz and blues greats could be heard from the camps.