The Broken Spoke: Austin's Legendary Honky-Tonk

The Broken Spoke: Austin's Legendary Honky-Tonk

by Donna Marie Miller
The Broken Spoke: Austin's Legendary Honky-Tonk

The Broken Spoke: Austin's Legendary Honky-Tonk

by Donna Marie Miller


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James and Annetta White opened the Broken Spoke in 1964, then a mile south of the Austin city limits, under a massive live oak, and beside what would eventually become South Lamar Boulevard. White built the place himself, beginning construction on the day he received his honorable discharge from the US Army. And for more than fifty years, the Broken Spoke has served up, in the words of White’s well-worn opening speech, “. . . cold beer, good whiskey, the best chicken fried steak in town . . . and good country music.”

White paid thirty-two dollars to his first opening act, D. G. Burrow and the Western Melodies, back in 1964. Since then, the stage at the Spoke has hosted the likes of Bob Wills, Dolly Parton, Ernest Tubb, Ray Price, Marcia Ball, Pauline Reese, Roy Acuff, Kris Kristofferson, George Strait, Willie Nelson, Jerry Jeff Walker, Asleep at the Wheel, and the late, great Kitty Wells. But it hasn’t always been easy; through the years, the Whites and the Spoke have withstood their share of hardship—a breast cancer diagnosis, heart trouble, the building’s leaky roof, and a tour bus driven through its back wall.

Today the original rustic, barn-style building, surrounded by sleek, high-rise apartment buildings, still sits on South Lamar, a tribute and remembrance to an Austin that has almost vanished. Housing fifty years of country music memorabilia and about a thousand lifetimes of memories at the Broken Spoke, the Whites still honor a promise made to Ernest Tubb years ago: they’re “keepin’ it country.”

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781623495190
Publisher: Texas A&M University Press
Publication date: 04/24/2017
Series: John and Robin Dickson Series in Texas Music, sponsored by the Center for Texas Music History, Texas State University
Pages: 256
Sales rank: 1,141,579
Product dimensions: 6.30(w) x 9.50(h) x 0.90(d)

About the Author

DONNA MARIE MILLER is a freelance writer, photographer, and videographer living in Austin. Her work has appeared in Alternate Root, Americana Rhythm, Austin Food, Austin Fusion, Austin Monthly, Creative Screenwriting, Elmore, Fiddler, and Texas Highways magazines.

Table of Contents

Foreword Charles Townsend vii

Acknowledgments ix

Introduction 1

Part I The 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s 13

Chapter 1 Dance Hall Tradition 15

Chapter 2 James White Receives His Honky-Tonk Education 18

Chapter 3 Dance Hall Influences on James White 22

Part II The 1960s 27

Chapter 4 Origins of Country Music 29

Chapter 5 The Broken Spoke Opens 31

Chapter 6 First Performers Booked for Dancing at the Spoke 43

Part III The 1970s 63

Chapter 7 The Progressive Country Movement 65

Chapter 8 The White Family Expands 67

Chapter 9 George Strait, Alvin Crow, Jerry Jeff Walker, and the Wheel 72

Part IV The 1980s 103

Chapter 10 Urban Cowboy, Dallas, and South by Southwest 105

Chapter 11 "The Broken Spoke Legend" Song 107

Chapter 12 Mixed Drinks and Loyal Customers 111

Part V The 1990s 129

Chapter 13 Austin Becomes the "Live Music Capital of the World" 131

Chapter 14 "If There's a Willie, There's a Way" Fund-Raiser and the "Broken Spoke Series" 132

Chapter 15 Making Movies and Introducing New Talent 142

Part VI The 2000s 157

Chapter 16 Movie and Music Mecca 159

Chapter 17 Sale of the Land and a Rash of Health Issues 160

Chapter 18 The Dixie Chicks, Kinky Friedman, Ray Price, and a Bus Crash 166

Part VII The 2010s 179

Chapter 19 The Whites' Small Family Business Thrives 181

Chapter 20 New Neighbors, Dance Lessons, and Celebrations 182

Chapter 21 Documenting the Broken Spoke 198

Notes 207

Bibliography 213

Index 229

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