Tag Archives: The Broken Spoke

My LIVE interview with Dear Texas Radio

23 Oct

DMMiller book cover for launch 4-22-2017Please listen to the recording of my LIVE interview by Dear Texas Radio host Roxanne Burkey at 7 p.m. (Central Time Zone) Tuesday Oct. 24, 2017.  

I discussed my book, The Broken Spoke: Austin’s Legendary Honky-Tonk, published by Texas A&M University Press. (John and Robin Dickson Series in Texas Music, sponsored by the Center for Texas)

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.”

LINK: http://www.blogtalkradio.com/deartexas/2017/10/25/dear-texas-radio-show-176-with-donna-marie-miller

 

My book launch party April 22, 2017

10 Feb

Texas A&M Un3rdcoverrevisionmiller_jkt5-2iversity Press and I launched my book, The Broken Spoke: Austin’s Legendary Honky-Tonk, Saturday April 22 at the Broken Spoke, 3201 South Lamar Blvd.  Book signings were provided by James and Annetta White and myself.

Ben Rogers played for tips in the dining room from 6 to 8 p.m. Terri White offered dance lessons in the dance hall at 8 p.m. for $8 per person. Afterwards, Alvin Crow and the Pleasant Valley Boys performed in the dance hall  for an additional $12 per person cover charge. 

Order books at: http://www.tamupress.com/product/Broken-Spoke,8735.aspx

 

My review of Dale Watson’s new CD posts to Elmore

6 Dec

Dale Watson – Elmore MagazineHonky-tonk singer, songwriter, guitarist and Lone Star beer aficionado Dale Watson provides a stout and tasty remix of 12 country music classics with his newest CD, Under the Influence. Watson covers his favorite artists’ songs that span more than 50 years – from Bob Wills’ 1939, “That’s What I Like About the South,” to Merle Haggard’s last top 40 hit of 1989, “If You Want to be My Woman.” Watson intoxicates listeners with Mel Tillis’ (Wine) Pretty Red Wine and Ronnie Milsap’s 1974 hit, “Pure Love.” The silver-haired crooner with an Elvis pompadour charms with dizzy abandon on Conway Twitty’s 1960 hit, “Lonely Blue Boy.” With earnest, he performs Lefty Frizzell’s 1958, “You’re Humbuggin’ Me,” and Little Richard’s “Lucille,” last recorded by Waylon Jennings in 1977.

The Lone Stars – Don Pawlak on pedal steel, Mike Bernal on drums and percussion and Chris Crepps on upright bass and background vocals – join him on the album, along with Earl Poole Ball on piano and T. Jarod Bonta on piano. Watson rose to international fame with his 2013 appearance on The Late Show with David Letterman and breakout hit single, “I Lie When I Drink.” The founder of Ameripolitan music tours 300 days per year, and often plays Austin’s Broken Spoke or the Big T Roadhouse near San Antonio.

Also please see my review posted on Elmore magazine’s website at:

http://www.elmoremagazine.com/2016/12/reviews/albums/dale-watson-3

My Dolly Parton feature about her tour posts to Elmore

14 Nov

dp_puresimple_0Dolly Parton, with 25 certified gold, platinum and multi-platinum Recording Industry Association of America awards, has sold more than 100 million albums, but prefers her life “Pure & Simple”… which happens to be the title of her latest album and a 60-city tour — her first in 25 years — that ends December 10th in Thackerville, OK.

Parton plans to sing many of her number one hits from Billboard’s Hot Country chart – including “Applejack,” “9 to 5,” “Here You Come Again,” “I Will Always Love You,” “Islands in the Stream,” “Jolene” and “Coat of Many Colors.”

Her concerts often draw lots of “Dollies,” cross-dressers, “who look more like me than I do,” she said during her November 3rd virtual press conference, which Elmore Magazine took part in.

The singer/songwriter/screenwriter/movie producer and business leader performs December 6th in Austin, a place she fondly remembers from 1991, when she wrote and starred in Wild Texas Wind, a made-for-TV movie with scenes filmed at famed venue, the Broken Spoke. Gary Busey co-starred, with cameos by James White, Ray Benson and Willie Nelson. Her friendship with Nelson spans more than 50 years, and Parton described him as “one of the sweetest, most generous people I know.” She received the Willie Nelson Lifetime Achievement Award 
on November 2nd at the 50th Country Music Awards.

Now, at 70 years old, Parton still has dreams of creating a new line of makeup, clothing lines, more movies and lots more music. “I am just now gettin’ started good,” she says.

Parton has written 3,000 songs, including “Only Dreaming,” her personal favorite a cappella track off her 43rd studio CD, Pure & Simple. The fourth of 12 children created Dollywood, a $300 million theme park located in the Knoxville-Smokey Mountains of Tennessee, as a place for her family and friends. She also founded the Dolly Parton Imagination Library, with 100 million free books donated to children across America and Canada.

Parton grew up singing gospel music and admiring the great Kitty Wells and Rose Maddox; at just 10 years old, she first performed at the Grand Ole Opry. Parton’s career truly began on The Porter Wagoner Show in 1967. “It makes me feel proud that I’ve done something to inspire and to influence other people,” she said. Today, Parton refers to herself as “the goodwill ambassador of country music.”

Please also see my article posted on Elmore magazine’s website at: http://www.elmoremagazine.com/2016/11/music-news/hello-dolly

Also See Dolly Parton’s tour schedule:

http://dollyparton.com/tour-schedule-upcoming-events

 

Elmore posts my story about the Feb. 4 private Willie Nelson concert

12 Feb

Elmore Magazine | Willie Nelson and Asleep At The WheelAbout 200 very lucky country music fans were treated to a private concert by Willie Nelson, Ray Benson and Asleep at the Wheel February 4th at the famed Broken Spoke; Thursday nights in February will never feel so hot again in Austin, Texas. The founder of Girling Home Health Care Inc. sponsored the city’s biggest private event of the year at its oldest and most beloved honky tonk. Unable to attend her own birthday party due to the onset of sudden illness, Bettie Girling, the widow of the late Robert Girling, watched the party via Skype from her bed at home across town. Nevertheless, Nelson and Benson sang “Happy Birthday” to Bettie together with all of her invited guests who also enjoyed a barbecue feast and spirited drinks. For about an hour and a half and just inches away from his audience, Nelson sang a hit parade of songs that marked more than 50 years of his professional music career, beginning with the 1961 number one hit, “Hello Walls,” followed by “Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain” (1975) and “On The Road Again” (1980).

The 82-year-old Red Headed Stranger closed the night with an intimate crowd sing-along on “The Party’s Over,” a song Nelson wrote and Claude Gray first recorded in 1959. All evening Benson accompanied Willie on guitar and backup vocals together with keyboard player Emily Gimble, the daughter of the late Texas Playboy Johnny Gimble. Other Asleep at the Wheel members included fiddler Katie Shore, steel player Eddie Rivers, mandolin and fiddle player Dennis Ludicker and David Sanger on drums. Texas Governor Greg Abbott and his wife, Cecilia, also made a brief appearance together at the celebration, flanked by several Travis County deputies. Dozens of other local celebrities, including writer/actor/filmmaker Turk Pipkin sat on the dance floor to take photos up close and personal. Closing time came early – 10 o’clock– at the red, rustic and barn-like Broken Spoke, a 51-year-old icon that has withstood the test of time and new development along a one-mile stretch of South Lamar. Its 76-years young founders, James and Annetta White, both waved goodbye from the porch as dust settled in the Broken Spoke’s dirt parking lot and Nelson’s tour bus left for a Feb. 9 appearance in Charlotte, N.C. a.

Please also see my article as it appears on Elmore magazine’s website by following this link:

http://www.elmoremagazine.com/2016/02/reviews/shows/willie-nelson-and-asleep-at-the-wheel

My Mike & the Moonpies review posts to Elmore magazine

22 Nov

Elmore Magazine | Mike and the MoonpiesIt’s no coincidence that the original tunes on Mike and the Moonpies’ third studio album, Mockingbird, sound so familiar. Frontman Mike Harmeier, who learned to play guitar at six, and has performed in front of live audiences since he turned 10, wrote all ten of the hardcore country songs to resemble those popular in the 1980s and 1990s.

“One Is The Whiskey” feels like a tribute to the years Harmeier has spent in bars listening to jukebox hits by Randy Travis, George Straight and Clint Black. On the title track, Harmeier pays homage to his late grandfather, with lyrics that deserve one more round of alcohol and a toast to faded old hand-me-downs. One song, “Never Leaving Texas” (though it’s contradicted by the band’s current touring schedule of Oklahoma, Arkansas, California, Arizona and New Mexico), pays homage to the band’s Texas legacy. The Moonpies, including Kyle Ponder on drums/percussion, Preston Rhone on bass, Catlin Rutherford on guitar, Zachary Moulton on steel guitar and John Carbone on piano/organ, have been fronted by Harmeier for 20 years now, and they’ve consistently drawn, and continue to draw, diverse young crowds to some of Austin’s favorite venues like the White Horse, the Continental Club and the Broken Spoke.

My Weldon Henson CD review posted to Elmore magazine

11 May

Elmore Magazine | Weldon Henson – Honky Tonk FrontierAs Weldon Henson goes to show, anyone who has spent years performing in Texas dance halls knows a thing or two about country.

Since 2009, the country singer/songwriter has played a weekly gig at the Broken Spoke called “Two-Stepping Tuesdays,” a night he considers to be Austin’s own version of Dancing with the Stars.

He also often performs for crowds at Jenny’s Little Longhorn Saloon, Luckenbach and Coupland dancehalls.

His new album, Honky Tonk Frontier, offers ten of his original songs. Danceable songs like “I Need Wine” and “Just Believe,” effortlessly turn unique phrases for dancers with foot-tapping beats. Henson adds his edge to “Hey Bottle of Whiskey,” previously recorded by Don Singleton.

Henson joined the U.S. Air Force when he was 19 and taught himself to play guitar. Later, he earned his musical stripes as an enlisted soldier performing at private parties and officer’s clubs stationed in Utah, South Korea, and finally Abilene.

A hybrid of Dwight Yoakam and George Strait, Henson produced his fourth full-length album together with Tommy Detamore and Ricky Davis. His wife, Brooklyn Henson, also adds background vocals as slick as a honky tonk dance floor.

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Please see my review posted to Elmore magazine by following this link:

http://www.elmoremagazine.com/2015/05/reviews/albums/weldon-henson-honky-tonk-frontier

My review of Freda and the Firedogs posted to Elmore magazine

21 Apr

 

Elmore Magazine | Freda and the FiredogsRegaling in glory days as hippies performing classic country music, Freda and the Firedogs also memorialized an old friend at the Broken Spoke in Austin March 22.

The show culminated two sold-out reunion shows that began the night before at The Paramount Theatre.

   U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett emceed the Broken Spoke reunion concert that also paid tribute to San Antonio’s legendary guitarist Doug Sahm who died in 1999.

Attendees included some of Austin’s biggest movers and shakers in the music community including Waterloo Records president John Kunz and his wife, Cathy.

More than 36 years have passed since five members of Freda and the Firedogs played together on stage. They last reunited for a single performance at the Old Soap Creek Saloon in Austin in January of 1979. They performed their final concert as a band at Willie Nelson’s Fourth of July Picnic in College Station at the Texas World Speedway on July 5, 1974.

Original band members included: piano player and vocalist Marcia Ball, bass player and singer/song writer Bobby Earl Smith, guitarist John X. Reed, drummer Steve McDaniels, and steel and accordion player David Cook.

Broken Spoke founder James White also took the stage with them to sing a Buck Owens’ version of the 1955 song, “Rollin in My Sweet Baby’s Arms,” by Lester Flatt, Earl Scruggs, and the Foggy Mountain Boys.

Freda and the Firedogs performed two lively sets of fan favorites including: Merle Haggard’s 1966 “Swinging Doors,” and Rubye Blevin’s (aka: Patsy Montana’s) 1935 hit, “I Want To Be a Cowboy Sweetheart.” They also played two originals “Muleshoe” and “Dry Creek Inn,” that Smith wrote.

They played covers by George Jones and Ball sang a lot of Tammy Wynett and Loretta Lynn as well as the 1966 hit, “Don’t Come Home A Drinkin’ with Lovin’ on Your Mind.”

In 1972 Ball traveled from her hometown of Baton Rouge on her way to San Francisco when her car broke down in Austin; afterwards she never left. Soon she met bassist Smith and together they founded their band.

During the early 1970s, Freda and the Firedogs helped to bridge the cultural gap that once divided the long hairs from the traditional country music fans throughout Texas. The band often opened shows and performed with Sahm at the formerly famous Armadillo World Headquarters.

About that time, Doggett began his political campaign for state senator and he asked Freda and the Firedogs to perform at his first fundraiser held at the Broken Spoke on July 9, 1973.

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Here’s the link to my story and photos posted on Elmore magazine’s website:

http://www.elmoremagazine.com/2015/04/reviews/shows/freda-and-the-firedogs

My Broken Spoke story appears in Austin Monthly this month

16 Nov

Honky-Tonk Haven: 50 years of the iconic Broke Spoke 

By Donna Marie Miller

When James White opened the Broken Spoke in 1964, it represented the last stop for civilization 1 mile south of what then served as Austin city limits. Fifty years later the dance hall, which Entertainment Weekly voted “The best country dance hall in the nation,” still stands on South Lamar Boulevard and endures as part of a legacy of a bygone time for the city that has boomed around it.

Broken Spoke proprietor James White sat in on stage with Weldon Henson on day one of the Broken Spoke's 50th anniversary party Nov. 4, 2014.

Broken Spoke proprietor James White sat in on stage with Weldon Henson on day one of the Broken Spoke’s 50th anniversary party Nov. 4, 2014.

James White at 25-years-old began construction on the Spoke Sept. 25, 1964—the same day he received his honorable discharge from the U.S. Army. “I built it to look like the ‘40s and the ‘50s,” he says. “My parents took me to honky-tonks like this, where I always had good times. That’s why I went into this business.”

James leased land from Jay Lynn Johnson Jr., the owner of a construction business, who also helped James work on the original 32-foot wide by 60-foot long building. Meanwhile, he thought about what to call his new venture. “I started thinking about the things that tie into westerns and country. My mind was always on a wagon wheel,” he says. “Then, like a light bulb that went off in my head, I remembered a Jimmy Stewart movie called Broken Arrow. I thought, I’ll just name it the Broken Spoke.” He and his wife, Annetta, officially opened the Broken Spoke a few months later on Nov. 10, 1964.

The place became popular from the day it opened. The then one-room bar and restaurant overflowed every night of the week. “I used to bartend 16 to 17 hours a day out here,” says White. “I learned to pop two beers in each hand, and I could pop beer as fast as I could sell it.”

But folks didn’t just come for the drinks; the Spoke became known as a place to hear great music and dance the night away. White paid his first band, D.G. Burrow and the Western Melodies, $32 to play. Dancers used to push back tables to shuffle, Texas Two Step, polka and Cotton-Eyed Joe. “Girls in their best dresses danced with the guys right out the front door into the dirt parking lot and then danced right back in,” says White.

In 1965, the Whites added an extension, a 90-foot dance hall with a 65-foot stage. Legendary fiddler Bob Wills performed there in 1966, 1967 and 1968 — each time filling the Spoke to capacity with 661 people. Wills wasn’t the only legend to play the Spoke. Over the years, Ernest Tubb, Ray Price, Buck Owens, Kitty Wells, Roy Acuff, Kris Kristofferson, Dolly Parton, George Strait, Willie Nelson and Jerry Jeff Walker have all graced its stage.

Hardship has not been a stranger to the Whites. Their roof leaked for 25 years until it was replaced in 1989. “Every time we had a good rain, we’d have to put out various containers to catch the water where it leaked,” says James. He began having heart trouble in 2000; Annetta survived breast cancer in 2005. Then on Oct. 2, 2005 a driver for the Geezinslaws Brothers band tour bus drove it through the back wall of the Broken Spoke; it took four days to remove it. Johnson, their landlord, died in 2001 and his children sold the land to Riverside Resources in 2010. Riverside in turn sold it in 2012 to Transwestern developers who began a two-year construction project surrounding the Broken Spoke that hurt its business. The Whites have endured, for the most part unscathed.

These days, folks still head to the Spoke for good music, good food and plenty of dancing. Ray Benson and Asleep at the Wheel, Dale Watson, Gary P. Nunn, Bruce Robison, Marsha Ball and Alvin Crow are just a few of the musicians who still perform regularly at the honky-tonk.

“It’s kind of like {Austin City Limits},” says Watson, who first sat on the stage in 1992. “It’s a place you aspire to play if you grew up in Texas and you want to play real dance halls in Austin—it’s the only one left.”

White, who just turned 75, still wears his standard uniform of Wrangler jeans, Swarovski crystal–studded Western shirts, a Gene Autry-era neckerchief, a Resistol Platinum silver belly hat and Lucchese ostrich skin boots. He greets visitors on weekends, just as he has for the past 50 years. The Whites remain in charge of all of the Broken Spoke operations, but their two daughters, Terri and Ginny, and son-in-law, Mike Peacock, help out. Terri teaches both private and group dance lessons five nights a week, while Ginny acts as the manager and her husband, Mike, tends bar and sometimes handles cover charges.

The Spoke’s iconic standing in the city has grown even more in the past few years, as two four-story, multi-use properties known as the 704 have been built around it. Now, when driving down South Lamar Boulevard, residents can literally see the juxtaposition of “new Austin” and “old Austin,” in the shadow that the buildings cast over the Spoke.

“I would have rather that everything stayed the same, but as it is I wish that I had a little more breathing room, a little more elbow room and I wish I had more parking, but I will weather the storm. We’ll teach the tenants of The 704 how to do the Texas Two Step,” he said. “We’ve already got in a lot of the people who live in The 704. They love the Broken Spoke and they come over here quite a bit already. We’ve got over 500 people to draw from, so I’m thinkin’ we’ll get a few more country music lovers and they’ll love the chicken fried steak, dancin’ the Texas Two Step and havin’ a good time.”

Still, despite the changing landscape of Austin, White says the spirit of the Broken Spoke remains the same. “We’re a place for good food, cold beer and whiskey and good lookin’ girls to dance with and that’s the way we want to keep it,” he says. “No hangin’ fern baskets, no Pierre water and no Grey Poupon. You’re gettin’ the real mustard out here, the real deal.”

Please also see Austin Monthly’s posting at: http://www.austinmonthly.com/AM/November-2014/Honky-Tonk-Haven/

The Broken Spoke celebrated its 50th anniversary with a series of special performances at the dance hall Nov. 4-8, 2014.

Please see my photo slideshow below. Thank you!

 

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Watson lies when he drinks, but not about country music

10 Nov

DaleWatsonaloneArchived story updated with video

Singer and songwriter Dale Watson admits that he lies when he drinks — and he drinks a lot of Lone Star beer, a magical elixir that he says promotes good health and a long happy life.

“It’s the best beer in the world,” he says. “It whitens your teeth, increases your brain cells, eats calories. If you drink one day every day of your life, you’ll never die – that’s a money back guarantee, though you must collect in person.”

He calls Lone Star beer “liquid Viagra; it’s good for your skin, it increases your eyesight, and it makes you prettier. Lone Star has all kinds of benefits.”

Though Watson has been performing at venues throughout Austin for more than 25 years, he recently became “an overnight sensation” with his hit single, “I Lie When I Drink,” off his El Rancho Azul album.  The lyrics to his song: “I lie when I drink and I drink a lot” drew the attention of David Letterman who invited Watson to appear June 24 on the Late Night TV show.

Since January, Watson’s signature deep baritone voice sings the catchy tune for Nyle Maxwell’s television commercials: “Maxwell’s got the trucks man, Maxwell’s got the trucks. Any Ram truck you’d ever want, Maxwell’s got the trucks…”

“I love those commercials man,” Watson says. “They help pay the bills” and for upkeep on his long luxury touring bus as well.

Watson also has become something of “a lightening rod” spokesman for recent music controversy across the Internet.  The old-timers in the music business could have spit teeth when 2012 Country Music Awards’ entertainer of the year Blake Shelton called country music “grandpa’s music” while taping an episode of Backstory in Nashville.

Shelton’s words chewed on classic country performers across the state, but it in Austin he really rubbed Watson and others the wrong way. Watson and the late Ray Price before his death in December had spoken out publically about Shelton’s misperceptions.

Over the past six months, Watson drew a following of loyal fans who supported a new genre of music that he together with Price had named “Ameripolitan music.”

Watson ended up spearheading Austin’s own inaugural “Ameripolitan Music Awards”  Feb. 19 – a 100 percent fan-funded event with 400 guests at the Wyndham Garden Hotel to honor the roots of country, western swing, rockabilly and honky-tonk music.  Honorees included Johnny Bush who received the “Founder of the Sound” award. Bush also accepted and a posthumous “master award” given to Price.

Other local performers honored included: Jesse Dayton, James Hand, Ray Benson, Rosie Flores, Dawn Sears, Wayne “the train” Hancock, Whitey Morgan, the Derailers and the Haybales band.

“Some don’t like the roots of country music, so we just took that and named it something different,” Watson said.

The popularity of Ameripolitan music began in Texas with Bob Wills, Ernest Tubb, Ray Wylie Hubbard, and the likes of Hank Williams, Lefty Frizzell, Web Pearce and Faron Young, Ray Price and George Jones, and with female performers like Rose Maddox, Jean Shepard and Jean Shepard Patsy Cline, and later Loretta Lynn and Tammy Wynette. Buck Owens, and Merle Haggard, and other honky-tonk heroes like Gary Stewart, continued to produce hits well into the 1970s and ‘80s.

Watson continues to cover the great classic hits of his predecessors in live performances and has recorded his own original music on 21 albums and on Austin City Limits television show dozens of times. His latest November performance aired on KLRU-TV Feb. 8, ironically on the same night that he and his band, the LoneStars, played at the Broken Spoke. Watson shared the ACL episode with Grammy winner Kacey Musgraves. The show re-aired Feb. 13 on the same channel.

“I’m hoping some folks that watch Kacey, will discover me,” Watson says. “She has a totally different type of music. She has a new – ‘girl-bashing-guys’ sound and I’m an old standard country singer.”

He and his band have performed at the Grand Ole Opry 19 times. He plays at the Broken Spoke 3201 S. Lamar once a month and lots of Monday nights at the Continental Club 1315 S. Congress Ave.

Never one to shy away from an enterprise, Watson owns two bars: Ginny’s Little Longhorn Saloon, featuring “Chicken Sh*t Bingo,” every Sunday from 4 until 8 p.m. and Big T Roadhouse in Saint Hedwig just outside San Antonio. He manages the bars when he’s not touring or playing venues throughout Central Texas on weekends.

Ginny’s Little Longhorn Saloon’s previous owner, Ginny Kalmbach, retired amidst money troubles before Watson bought and refurbished it in November.

“It was going to turn into a used car lot,” Watson says. “Luckily the owner of the property approached me. He says ‘You’re the only one I trust to do this right and keep Ginny’s Little Longhorn the Little Longhorn. We had known each other for 20 years.”

Regardless of wherever he and his LoneStars perform, Watson pretty much sings the same song set – including his original tunes, as well as the classic cover songs of Bob Wills, George Jones, Merle Haggard, Ray Price – a lot of Price, — and Johnny Cash.

Watson’s career has spanned the whole gamut of country and western music from the 1960s to the present, with all of its dips, dives and flows. His quirkiness for flamboyant satin and sequins costumes, a fondness for personal tattoos, and his shocking head full of white hair styled in ‘50s rockabilly pompadour fashion, makes him a standout among his middle-aged peers.

“When I grew up, on the radio there used to be Merle Haggard, George Jones, Ray Price and Gary Stewart – really good music; it was country music without all the other players in there,” Watson says. “In the 1970s country music all changed once they started lettin’ in the Kenny Rogers and the pop bands from LA. It changed drastically. You had these little bands from Texas, like Rascal Flats. Nowadays we’re dealing with the most pop stuff I’ve ever heard in my life, like Taylor Swift and Kenny Chesney.”

Texas’ disco years briefly followed the 1980 dramatic western romance movie, Urban Cowboy, starring John Travolta and Deborah Winger. Most club owners hired deejays to spin records and for a time some local clubs quit hiring bands to play, but the Broken Spoke didn’t.

He first performed at the Broken Spoke in 1989, with members of The Wagoneers, before Monte Warden, Brent Wilson and Craig Allen Pettigrew broke up that band.

“It felt good to be playing in such a historical place,” Watson says. It’s (the Broken Spoke) kind of like Austin City Limits; it’s a place you aspire to play if you grew up in Texas and you want to play real dance halls in Austin – it’s the only one left.”

Not long after establishing a name in town, Watson released his first single “One Chair at a Time,” in 1990 on the Curb Records label and he followed by producing a video.

Watson started sitting in on stage with Chris Wall before finally creating The LoneStars in 1992. About that time, he landed a regular Wednesday night gig at the Broken Spoke.

“I’ve worked hard — over 33 years playing,” Watson says.

His career began in his hometown of Pasadena, Texas. Watson began performing in clubs at 14 years old, along with two of his older brothers, Jim Watson, who played guitar, and Donny Watson who at different times played either guitar or bass. The Watson brothers called their band Classic Country, named after the popular PBS television show, The Classic Country Hour.

Watson’s musical passion has always been classic country music, but he says some of his early performances wandered far from his roots. During the late 1970s and early 1980s, in order to find steady work, he played whatever his audiences demanded — the radio hits of the late ‘70s and ‘80s in country music.

“Then music started getting polluted,” he says. “I remember playing some stuff that I didn’t really want to play.”

During the disco era, Watson continued to perform cover songs by George Jones, Gary Stewart and Ray Price. Stewart died in 2003 and Price passed away last December.

Watson says that fans come out to hear him specifically, but the Broken Spoke’s loyal following of dancers will show up regardless of whoever performs on any given night.

Lots of celebrities have shared the stage with Watson over the years at the Broken Spoke: every one from Johnny Knoxville to Amy LaVere, Johnny Rodriguez and Johnny Bush used to sit in regularly too, but not so much recently, Watson says.

As a youngster, Watson says he never intended to become a musician, singer, or songwriter. As a boy he dreamed of joining the military or becoming a doctor, but childhood poverty and an eye injury instead decided his fate.

“It was a blow to me because I really wanted to be a pilot. My folks couldn’t afford college and I was interested in aviation, but I knew my eye wouldn’t let me do that,” Watson says. “So my next interest was to go into medicine. I was going to go as a corps man in the Navy; the military would have allowed me to go to college, but that didn’t work out.”

Watson supported himself by performing gigs in bars every chance he had, week nights and weekends.

“Man, I got lucky. I count my blessings all the time,” Watson says. “My kids are going into acting. I’ve done a lot of acting too – those (Maxwell) commercials play every hour, so much that people are getting sick of them, but I like those commercials.”

His two daughters, Raquel Cain Watson and Dalynn Grace Watson, both work as actresses, even though Watson wishes they wouldn’t, he says.  The music business may be tough, but life for an actor can be even tougher.

“I moved to Austin, then I got job offer at a publishing company in Nashville. I worked there about 10 months and then I said ‘screw this.’ Then I got an offer to be in some movies with River Phoenix, who was going to direct them. Just as I was moving out to LA, he died,” Watson says. “Then I moved straight back to Austin.”

Watson signed with Hightone Records in 1994 and produced his first album, Cheating Heart, in 1995. He recorded two records in Nashville in 2002 and 2008, but since then all of his other albums have been recorded locally at Willie Nelson’s Pedernales studio or Ray Benson’s Austin studio.

Currently, he spends most Tuesdays and Wednesdays working on a new album that will become Volume 3 of the trilogy series, The Trucking Sessions.

Watson’s steel player Don Pollock, has performed with him for the past 11 years.

Watson says in his 50s now, he’s working harder now than he did half a lifetime ago.

“It’s weird being 51 years old, having this stuff happen so late in life,” Watson says. “It wasn’t supposed to be this way, but that’s ok – I’d rather be busy than not. Once the Ameripolitan awards show is over I’ll be able to breathe again.”

Watson says he feels grateful to the Broken Spoke’s owners, James and Annetta White. The Broken Spoke received “the best venue” trophy at the Ameripolitan Awards for helping to support the roots of country, swing, rockabilly and honky-tonk music across the United States. The nearly 75-year-old James White, spontaneously broke into the song, “Sam’s Place,” when accepting the award on stage and nearly stole the show at the Ameripolitan Music Awards.

“Nobody gets where I am alone,” Watson says. “Having this place as a bi-monthly or monthly gig — whether I’m touring or whatnot — has helped through the years, for me to support my family.  It’s helped me to meet other people through here that have furthered my career. I’ve gotten movie deals, commercials, and record deals through playing here. James is modest about what he brings to the place, but playing at the Broken Spoke gives you some modest stature.”

Watson performs at:  The Broken Spoke, The Little Longhorn Saloon, The Continental Club,  Sengelmann Hall in Schulenburg, TX, The Saxon Pub, 11th Street Cowboy Bar in Bandera, Tomball Honky-Tonk Fest in Tomball, Big T Roadhouse in Saint Hedwig, and Luckenbach Dance Hall in Luckenbach.

Published in Austin Fusion magazine 2/26/14 http://austinfusionmagazine.com/2014/02/25/dale-watson-lies-when-he-drinks/

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