Sie Simon's music legacy lives on at The French Club - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

Sie Simon's music legacy lives on at The French Club

Sie Simon with his two daughters, Kay, left, and Gerrie (Photo source: WLOX) Sie Simon with his two daughters, Kay, left, and Gerrie (Photo source: WLOX)
Daughter, Kay, holds one of the family's favorite photos of Sie Simon with Hank Williams, Sr. (Photo source: WLOX) Daughter, Kay, holds one of the family's favorite photos of Sie Simon with Hank Williams, Sr. (Photo source: WLOX)
BILOXI, MS (WLOX) -

The dance floor is packed every first and third Saturday of the month at the Fleur di Lis Society's The French Club on the Point in East Biloxi.

Among these hard-core party people, many learned those steps a long time ago at a nightclub called Sie's Place, owned by Sie Simon.

Among them was the broom dance, where dancers exchanged brooms for partners. There was also the Biloxi Shuffle, or what some people called the Sie Simon Shuffle.

Even the house band at The French Club, Nick Mattina and the Checkmates, played at Sie's Place.

“It was a unique type atmosphere in Sie's Place,” Mattina said. “It was like a gathering at the French Club now, because most of these people were a part of that. It was a place to go. It was Biloxi. This is Biloxi.”

Simon's two daughters, Gerrie Weldon and Kay Bankston, still live in Biloxi. Weldon is a regular at the French Club.

“It's just a joy to go down there and feel like, feel important,” Weldon said. “They make me feel important when I'm not even anything, but my daddy was the person that made my sister and I recognizable.”

Simon was a nightclub owner in Biloxi who arguably was just as popular as his friend and competitor, Gus Stevens.

Sie's Place was located in a building at the corner of Division and Fayard until the 1970s. Then, it became Bankston's property. With her husband, she turned it into Bankston Paints. Then, after Hurricane Katrina destroyed it, when it was repaired, it then became a mission.

The club was in its heyday in the 1940s, 50s and 60s. Simon's slogan: Where Nice People Come to Have a Nice Time.

Weldon and Bankston grew up right next door. Their window, opened to let in the warm summer breeze, faced the back of the stage. They went to sleep listening to the big stars of the day.

“We could hear every single word and all those fiddles,” Weldon said. “Back then, it was all the fiddles and things. It was really Hillbilly music.”

Among the biggest of the time was Hank Williams. He became close friends with Simon. When Williams died on Jan. 1, 1953, it was a sad day in the Simon home.

“There was a sadness,” Bankston said. “It was a sadness in our home. There was a sadness in Biloxi.”

Life was not hard at the Simon household. Both girls realized that their father was a busy man. It was held together by a consistency anchored by their mother, Edna.

“My mom was a very loyal housewife,” Bankston said. “A very loyal wife who was with him no matter what he did. She had the dinner ready when he was ready to eat, and she was ready to take care of him. She supported him 100 percent in everything that he did.”

As it became harder to manage the club, Simon eventually closed in 1973, but soon began to regret the decision.

“He regretted it a lot,” Bankston added. “He told me earlier if ever I wanted to retire, don't. Because what you lose and what he lost was his connection to the people.”

Simon, who died in 1990, would be happy that the music continues and the shuffle hasn't stopped.

“His life was a celebration. A celebration of music. A celebration of life and a celebration of people,” said Bankston.

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