Category Archives: Fifth Ward

Frenchtown and the Silver Slipper

From Northwestern State University’s Louisiana Creole Heritage Center’s booklet “The Creole Chronicles – Houston Frenchtown” (2002):

“Many Creoles who were left devastated and homeless after the Great Mississippi Flood of 1927 relocated from Louisiana to Houston, Texas. Because the people who settled in an area generally bounded by Collingsworth, Russell, Liberty Road and Jensen Drive spoke Creole French and enjoyed their food, music and culture together, this community became known as Frenchtown. . . . The area is comprised primarily of ‘shotgun’ houses replicating the architectural style of New Orleans. . . . Streets were dirt roads and the nearest transportation in the vicinity was by streetcar. The people walked from their homes to Liberty Road and Jensen Drive. From there it cost five cents to ride the streetcar three miles to attend St. Nicholas Catholic Church, the only Catholic Church for people of color in Houston in 1927. . . . Meetings were held in the people’s homes and by 1929 they decided to hold house ‘La La’ dances, selling gumbo, boudin and pralines in their homes to raise money to build [Our Mother of Mercy Catholic Church]. . . . House dances no longer take place, but many Catholic churches, restaurants and clubs in the Houston area continue to hold Zydeco dances on a regular basis. Creoles along with people of various other cultures generally are in attendance at these dances. . . . When the people were not attending ‘La La’ dances at each others’ houses, they were watching movies at either the Lyons or Delux Theaters that were located nearby. One of the earliest favorite places to attend Zydeco dances was LaStrappe’s Creole Night Club that was situated where the Eastex Freeway exists today.”

St. Nicholas Catholic Church (2508 Clay) [Photo by Les Clay – St. Nicholas Center – Church Gazetteer]

St. Nicholas historical marker [Photo by Les Clay – St. Nicholas Center – Church Gazetteer]

Original Our Mother of Mercy Catholic Church building (4000 Sumpter) [Our Mother of Mercy Catholic Church website]

Texas Historical Commission marker (Corner of Highway 59 and Collingsworth) [Frenchtown Community Association website]

Continental Lounge and Zydeco Ballroom
(Collingsworth at Des Chaumes – Closed)

Silver Slipper
(3717 Crane)

History of the Silver Slipper excerpted from Roger Wood’s book (photos by James Fraher), “Down in Houston – Bayou City Blues” (2003):

“[T]he symbiotic relationship between blues and zydeco survives in Frenchtown even beyond the year 2000, just a few blocks north of the old Continental building in the sagging wood-frame structure that houses the Silver Slipper. Curley Cormier, a soft-spoken gentleman fond of three-piece suits, is the proprietor there and is much beloved by his loyal customers. . . . In 1962, after several years in the construction industry, [Curley’s father, Alfred Cormier] capitalized on his well-proven talent for throwing a house party by opening a club – a little café with live down-home music – in a shotgun shack on Crane Street in Frenchtown. Known then mainly as Alfred’s Place, it featured a mix of live blues and zydeco six nights a week, providing a steady gig for former Houston resident Clifton Chenier for over five years. . . . According to the Cormiers, the Third Ward bluesman [Lightnin’ Hopkins] often visited the club (located a few miles northeast of his home turf) whenever Chenier was there. Cousins by marriage, the musicians reportedly were good friends who enjoyed each other’s company, offstage and on. When Hopkins showed up, the two would often treat the audience to an impromptu showdown between guitar and accordion, trading licks and improvising arrangements, recycling and inventing songs on the spot – surely blurring the aesthetic line between blues and zydeco in the process. Word of such savory jam sessions enhances the popularity of the club well beyond Frenchtown, so that the clientele eventually cam to include blacks from Third Ward and other parts of the city. As business increased, the elder Cormier opted to buy the property next door and expand, building onto and remodeling the original establishment to its present relative spaciousness. . . . Following his father’s tenure as proprietor, [Curley] Cormier’s older sister managed the place for a while, rechristening it the Silver Slipper but maintaining tradition and booking both zydeco and blues performers. Then around 1973 Cormier, who was already well established as a versatile guitarist backing the likes of soul-blues singer Luvenia Lewis (b. 1940) at local clubs, assumed operation of the popular nightspot.”

See also:
The Handbook of Texas Online, “Zydeco”
“Come Go Home with Me – Tracing the Bayou City’s Blues Heritage”, Austin Chronicle, May 30, 2003.
C. Rust, “Frenchtown”, Houston Chronicle, Feb. 23, 1992.
J. Lomax, “H-Town Zydeco”, Houston Press, Sept. 21, 2006.