The Broken Spoke: Austin's Legendary Honky-Tonk

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Texas A&M University Press, Apr 24, 2017 - Music - 256 pages
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.”
 

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Contents

Introduction
1
The 1930s1940s 1950s
13
Dance Hall Tradition
15
James White Receives His HonkyTonk Education
18
Dance Hall Influences on James White
22
The 1960s
27
Origins of Country Music
29
The Broken Spoke Opens
31
The 1990s
129
Austin Becomes the Live Music Capital of the World
131
If Theres a Willie Theres a Way FundRaiser and the Broken Spoke Series
132
Making Movies and Introducing New Talent
142
The 2000s
157
Movie and Music Mecca
159
Sale of the Land
160
The Dixie Chicks Kinky Friedman Ray Price and a Bus Crash
166

First Performers Booked for Dancing at the Spoke
43
The 1970s
63
The Progressive Country Movement
65
The White Family Expands
67
George Strait Alvin Crow Jerry Jeff Walker and the Wheel
72
The 1980s
103
Urban Cowboy Dallas and South by Southwest
105
The Broken Spoke Legend Song
107
Mixed Drinks and Loyal Customers
111
The 2010s
179
The Whites Small Family Business Thrives
181
New Neighbors Dance Lessons and Celebrations
182
Documenting the Broken Spoke
198
Notes
207
Bibliography
213
Index
229
Copyright

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About the author (2017)

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.