32nd Anniversary Celebration – Broken Spoke (Austin, TX)
Tradition runs deep as a wagon rut at the Broken Spoke. In fact, it’s hard to express a thought relative to “Th’ Spoke” without using the word “tradition.” Tires crunch on loose stones as cars dodge the potholes in the parking lot; Kitty Wells has heard that crunch. The handle of the front door is worn smooth from the touch of hundreds of thousands of rough hands; Hank Thompson’s hands have been among them. Bob Wills’ boot heels have clicked on that tiled floor, Ernest Tubb has leaned his elbows on that bar, Willie Nelson has used that restroom!
But aside from the inescapable tug of its considerable history, the Broken Spoke is no dusty museum. James White opened the Spoke to continue the legacy of Texas dancehalls such as the Moosehead Tavern in Oak Hill or old Dessau Hall. Most weeknights and every weekend, the Spoke’s hardwood dance floor is polished by the boots of two-steppers and swing dancers. (Those attempting to organize line dances are politely asked to stop.) The beer of choice is a Lone Star long neck, and the music is live country and Western swing — period. This is the way things are at the Spoke — and the way they’ve been since 1964.
In Austin, folks will jump at even a remote excuse to dance, play tunes and drink beer, and the 32nd birthday of the Broken Spoke was certainly more than a remote excuse. Hosted by frequent Spoke performer Alvin Crow, the evening featured music from many of the names that often appear on the Spoke’s marquee. (Well, so it’s not quite a proper marquee; more like a sign on wheels out in front of the dancehall.) Dancers at the Spoke don’t need prodding. From the first notes of Susanna Van Tassel’s “You Broke the Rules” (penned by drummer cum laude, Lisa Pankratz) through Don Walser’s always-incredible delivery of “Shotgun Boogie”, and continuing past Ted Roddy’s rendition of the country classic “Just Walk on By”, dancers scooted, twirled, and waltzed around the dance floor, then changed partners and did it some more.
Drummer John Chandler and bassist David Carroll were stage fixtures throughout the night, as was steel guitar virtuoso Scott Walls. The three formed the evening’s house band, accompanying some of the soloist, among them Patty David, Mandy Mercer, Terri Joyce, Karen Posten and Darcie Deaville. Frequent relief was provided for the house band when entire ensembles such as Chuck Barnes’ Hired Guns or Stop The Truck took the stage.
People have a good time at the Spoke. The age of the patrons ranges from the young to the young at heart. There’s no dress code. You can wear your best cowpoke duds, or your jeans and T-shirts; nobody seems to care much. The festivities, which began around 8 pm, continued till after this boy’s bedtime. The crowds’ size peaked around 10 pm, and though there have been bigger crowd at the Spoke, the numbers were enough to assure that real country music is alive and well in Austin — even after 32 years.