The Heavy-Metal Past of a Beloved Houston Karaoke Joint

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Photo by Alexa Crenshaw
Spotlight Karaoke is a popular Galleria-area destination that has been open for more than 15 years now. Located at Westheimer and Fountainview, it holds a large space with several rooms' worth of karaoke, and an adjacent store equipped with scads of karaoke music and machines.

A man named Charlie Chang is Spotlight's general manager, running both the Fountainview location and the newer one in Midtown, plus the karaoke shop. He's also a closet metalhead, and remembers frequenting Cardi's, the club that once stood in Spotlight Karaoke's place.

"I have to say that nothing's lasted in that spot as long as we have; we've been there as Spotlight Karaoke for 15 years," says Chang. "But Cardi's, man, that was just a huge thing. They had so many party times [laughs], and so many big names in heavy music played there."

Reminiscing, Chang attributed his rites of youth and rock and roll glory to Cardi's, which hosted an encyclopedia of '80's hard-rock and hair-metal icons: Lillian Axe, Megadeth, Pantera, Madame X, Styx, Lita Ford, Zebra, Anthrax and more, but also U2, INXS, and Joe Cocker, among others. The club came after a place called Fool's Gold, which was central to that era's growing honky-tonk trend, when disco clubs in Houston were being replaced by country-western joints. Then, in came all leather and spandex of the '80s in full force.

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"The Cardi's spot did really feel different years later when we took it over," says Chang. "There's a lot of wide-open space in this building and you could go in different rooms, which worked out for all this music and stuff happening then, and now it is what it is today."

Cardi's opened in 1981 and and lasted until 1988, or at least was registered under that name for that length of time. (Some reports have it closing around 1985.) It's said the bar was called Cardi's because the owner's wife loves Bacardi. A different, unrelated venue known as Cardi's 2000 later opened at 9301 Bissonnet, current site of The Palace Gentleman's Resort, and lasted until at least the mid-2000s.

"Some of those bands from [the original] Cardi's came back recently," notes Chang. "They were meeting and taking a lot of pictures under the direction of a man named Hank who actually used to work at Cardi's."

That would be Hank Balz, a filmmaker who is now putting together a documentary about the scene at Cardi's. Rocks Off originally told you about his film back in 2010, but he's still working on it and says he plans to finish the work, now titled The Magnificient Metal Journey, within the next few months.

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"This is a historic place...this is holy ground," says Balz. "Cardi's is what brought heavy metal to Houston, really creating and making that scene happen.

"Not only did Cardi's bring the metal explosion, they brought all the different things that came with metal during the 80's," he adds. "Cardi's brought death metal, heavy metal, and then a little punk too."

However, Balz says he wasn't blown away by punk artists like Black Flag, Dead Kennedys and Iggy Pop who performed there, and that Cardi's was really more of a heavy-metal club to him. He thought the punk scene was more happening in other local joints at the time, Balz explains, saying he was most excited about metal bands like Pantera, Motörhead and Metallica.

Balz encourages people who would like to share their Cardi's stories to contact him at spuncookieproductions@yahoo.com or visit his Facebook page at facebook.com/CardisDiaries.


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Spotlight Karaoke

5901 Westheimer Road, Houston, TX

Category: Music

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10 comments
1962dude
1962dude

Actually, Cardi's and Cardi's 2000 share a common owner and are very much connected unlike what the writer has stated. David Sandcastle Sadof , that local band you referred to was Z-lot-Z and not the Zealots. People would call them Zlot kind of "for short" ya know? I think it was back in the early 80's when myself and a carload of friends drove to Houston from Huntsville and went to Cardi's, not to see anyone particular but just to go. About an hour later the members of Dokken or somebody came in after they had opened up for a much larger act at a much larger Houston venue. We were star struck, of course and bought them shots and they gave us chewing gum laced with LSD. 


They told us ahead of time so it wasn't like they was tryin' to steal our booties or nothin'...... Anyway, we had a great time and it was the only time I went to the Westheimer location. Years later after I moved to Houston I frequented the new Cardi's 2000 at the former "Backstage" location at 9301 Bissonnet & Hwy 59 south. 


Same owner, Ted Cardi, standing behind the bar with his Jerry Garcia lookin' ass and his bartender Kellybelle Chacon. I was working within the local music scene at that time and organized a boycott of the place because they kept ripping bands off and not paying them what they agreed on or in some cases, not paying them at all. THis was pretty much the source of a love/hate relationship with Ted and Card's.


He revived the bar name once more back in 2009 or 2010 when he opened a bar called Cardi's Rocks near the corner of Preston and Spencer Hwy in Pasadena. After about 6 months the place burned down, karma's a bitch. I went there only once out of curiosity to see Pasadena Napalm Division and was amazed that it was in fact, Ted Cardi running the joint and his wife Monica remembered me and didn't want to serve me over the whole boycott deal.....that shit was going on about 8 years old already and she still remembered me for that. 


good times.....good times

Steve Gilbert
Steve Gilbert

I saw Little Steven Van Zandt at Cardi's in 1983 or 1984. Saw the Blasters there too during that time.

Nue Wayv
Nue Wayv

Original Cardis was at 5901 Westhiemer and Fountainveiw, it turned into a karaoke bar, if you didn't go to that Cardi's then you didn't go to the real Cardi's you went to Cardi's Light, i was a DJ there and it was the best place I ever worked and yes everything you've heard about the place is true, it was that badass

David Sandcastle Sadof
David Sandcastle Sadof

The article says it was Fool's Gold before Cardi's. That may be true, but I remember going to Fool's Gold in 1985 to see X, The Alarm, The Zealots (a Houston band) and others. Fool's Gold was on Westheimer between the beltway and Hwy 6.

Els RS
Els RS

Whenever there was a rock show in town, the band always came to Cardis to hang out.

Els RS
Els RS

Cardis was FUN!!!

Jon Black Y'all
Jon Black Y'all

Saw a lot of shows there. Also, when it was "backstage" before it was cardi's. Played there a few times as well.

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