Music

Terrance Simien Shares Charlotte Love Story Before Queens Show

Zydeco musician met wife Cynthia at local gig 36 years ago

Terrance Simian stands on a bridge in cold weather with his wife smiling
Terrance and Cynthia Simien will celebrate their 34th wedding anniversary in August. (Photo courtesy of Cynthia Simien via Facebook)

As an eighth-generation Louisiana Creole and resident of Lafayette, Louisiana since marrying his wife Cynthia in 1990, Terrance Simien is under no illusions about where his home is. But the two-time Grammy Award-winning musician does carry a special place in his heart for Charlotte, where he’s scheduled to play a show with his band the Zydeco Experience on Thursday

In fact, both Terrance and Cynthia hold Charlotte dear, as the Queen City is the site of what today would be called a meet-cute; it’s where they first met and fell in love.

“Charlotte might be my favorite city in the whole world,” said Terrance. 

“When you meet your soulmate there, it flips the script and changes the game,” Cynthia added.

It was Aug. 16, 1988, and Simien was set to perform at the Double Door Inn, a legendary but since-razed music venue known for rock, blues and soul acts that was located on Charlottetowne Avenue in Elizabeth neighborhood.

The Double Door Inn opened in 1973 and had been a go-to spot to see local and touring artists perform until they were forced to close their doors in 2017 to clear the way for an expansion of Central Piedmont Community College’s Uptown campus. Terrance had played there many times in the past, but his gig on 8/16/88 was destined to be the most memorable.  

That’s when an old friend of Cynthia’s recommended that she go to the Double Door Inn to check out Terrance’s band. The friend introduced the Terrance and Cynthia later that night while the band was on a break.

“I remember it like it was yesterday,” said Terrance. “When she walked through the door, it felt like the whole club went silent. She came in with long brown hair, like she owned the place.” 

Terrance and Cynthia Simien in front of Terrance’s hotel on East Independence Boulevard in 1988.

The two remember that night fondly, with memories of the intimate venue and instant connection, ambient string lights and loud music, the occasional pop of a flash bulb on an old camera. 

“It felt like something magical was happening,” the two said. “And it was. It was the beginning of 36 years together,” he said. 

Two years later, to the date, Terrance and Cynthia tied the knot in Louisiana. They visit Charlotte together regularly, reliving their favorite memories of youth throughout the city. 

“It feels like home. So many great memories, and of course, meeting the love of my life there, it will always be our special place,” said Cynthia. “We love exploring the city when we visit, because it just keeps growing. We try new restaurants. We get lost, and we get found. When I go home to Charlotte, especially because my parents still live here, there is so much joy and happiness there for me.” 

Because of Terrance’s demanding schedule as a touring artist, the two rarely ever get to spend Valentine’s Day together, but this year, the two will get to do just that during Terrance’s two-day residency at Queens University in Cynthia’s hometown. 

Cynthia will be in the crowd at the Sarah Belk Gambrell Center on Feb. 15, just as she was at the Double Door Inn 36 years ago, while Terrance plays with the Zydeco Experience. 

Zydeco roots music is driven by African and Caribbean rhythms but has evolved musically over decades to incorporate rock, blues, jazz, funk, R&B and other influences.

Simien leads a multicultural and multigenerational Zydeco Experience band, creating a blend of New Orleans-flavored funk, brass, reggae, world, blues, American and Zydeco roots music.

Simien’s legendary live performances incorporate spoons on washboards, complex vocal harmonies and a diverse repertoire that feel more like a party than a show. While Terrance and Cynthia may be celebrating Valentine’s Day, the performance will serve as an observance of Mardi Gras as well, part of Terrance Simien and the Zydeco Experience’s two-day Mardi Gras residency at Queens.


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