Broken Spoke Patriarch James White Passes at 81

Country lifer and family built a honky-tonk heaven here on Earth

Broken Spoke owner James White, an unwavering supporter of country music locally, nationally, and internationally, died this morning due to congestive heart failure. He was 81. Daughter and venue general manager Ginny White-Peacock confirmed the news to the Chronicle Sunday afternoon.

James White at the Broken Spoke on South Lamar, March 13, 2014 (Photo by Todd V. Wolfson)

According to White-Peacock, the honky-tonk icon was diagnosed with congestive heart failure 20 years ago, and had been in and out of the hospital with complications after having a new defibrillator put in two months ago. He passed at home this morning with his family.

“His heart just wasn’t working anymore,” explained White-Peacock. “I’m glad he’s at peace.

“My dad used to always say, ‘I wanted to build a place like no other, where people could come and listen to country music and have a good time. And when I built it, I named it the Broken Spoke.’

“I always liked that quote.”

Unbroken Circle in a straight line: (l-r) Mike Peacock, Ginny White-Peacock, James M. White, Annetta White, and Terri White at the Broken Spoke on July 27, 2013 (Photo by John Anderson)

“Hopefully people will come out and think about my dad and have a Lone Star for him,” adds White-Peacock. “That’s the best thing people can do right now – help us keep the Broken Spoke alive and keep having a good time.”

White opened the Broken Spoke in 1964, when the red building at 3201 S. Lamar sat outside city limits with few neighbors. He went on to book stars including Willie Nelson, Bob Wills, Dolly Parton, Ray Price, Ernest Tubb, and George Strait, alongside a regular roster of beloved locals, not only for Austinites but tourists from around the globe. The White family business was the subject of a 2016 documentary Honky Tonk Heaven, Donna Marie Miller’s 2017 book The Broken Spoke: Austin’s Legendary Honky-Tonk, and featured on the cover of Strait’s 2019 album Honky Tonk Time Machine.

White-Peacock says she will continue to run the business with her husband Michael Peacock, mother Annetta White, and sister Terry White. Read more about the unwavering White clan in a 2013 Chronicle feature by Margaret Moser. The South Austin dance hall and eatery is currently open Tuesdays through Saturdays.

“We’ll have Weldon Henson there on Tuesday, and hopefully people will come out and think about my dad and have a Lone Star for him,” adds White-Peacock. “That’s the best thing people can do right now – help us keep the Broken Spoke alive and keep having a good time. That’s what made him happy.”

White at the ribbon cutting for a new bus stop in front of the Broken Spoke on May 23, 2019 (Photo by Jana Birchum)

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS POST

James White, Broken Spoke, Annetta White, Terri White, Ginny White Peacock, Michael Peacock, Willie Nelson, Ernest Tubb, Ray Price, George Strait, Dolly Parton, Bob Wills, Weldon Henson, Margaret Moser, Donna Marie Miller

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