The Austin Chronicle

Broken Spoke Legends

By Christopher Gray, November 12, 2004, Music

Surveying the auto-repair shops, apartment complexes, and shopping centers that surround the Broken Spoke, owner James White reflects that when he opened the South Lamar dance hall in November 1964, "there wasn't another building in sight." The city limits were about a mile back toward town, where Matt's El Rancho is today.

A list of performers who've played the Spoke reads like the Country Music Hall of Fame roster – Bob Wills, Tex Ritter, Roy Acuff, Ray Price, Ernest Tubb, Kitty Wells, Dolly Parton, Willie Nelson, a young Southwest Texas grad named George Strait – but it's White's stable of locals that has made the club a synonym for the Lone Star State. "They're the backbone of the Broken Spoke," he avers.


"He's one of my favorites. We've done so much together out here. If it hadn't been for him, I never would have gotten up and sang 'Broken Spoke Legends.' My wife, Annetta, said, 'Why don't you sing Alvin that song you wrote about the Broken Spoke?' I sang him a couple of verses and he said, 'Well hell, that's good. Write another verse and we'll record it.'"


"Right when we first opened up here, Sam and Son, they started coming in. Sammy's always been a big Broken Spoke fan, and so has Son. Sammy brought Ralph Emery here three different times. He got me on Nashville Now. I got to get up there and say a few words, and I never would have got to do that without Sammy Allred. Now Son, we go back so far that he got me a real good ticket to see the Grand Ole Opry back in 1966. When my wife and I got married, we got married on a Thursday so I could be at the Grand Ole Opry Saturday night."


"There's a question mark why he isn't on the national charts in country music, and why he isn't a big huge star, because he's got everything it takes to be a big huge star. People in Australia love him, people in England love him, and those people, when they come to Austin, they come to hear Dale Watson. Sometimes in Europe, they understand a lot more than some of the people in the United States do about what country music oughta sound like."


"You look at him onstage and you know he's the real deal, you know he's hardcore country. He sings from his heart. I've seen him give the shirt off his back to somebody just because they liked it. He told me, 'Mr. White, if it's 3am and you need somebody to wash your car, just call me up and I'll be there.' He's that kind of guy. He's true, true Texan."


"He's always smiling, always having a good time. He can go out and talk to the crowd all night long, which they love. He don't go hide out in some bus or something. Everybody likes Gary P. Nunn. 'London Homesick Blues' should be the national song of Texas."


"They're great, great guys, and they draw more on Thursdays than probably any other band I could get on Thursday night. They're just dedicated, and they love the Broken Spoke, and I love having them play here, and we're gonna continue having 'em play here."


"I love the Buck Owens beat they have. They always have the good, fast, lively beats. Alvin Crow told me I should book the Derailers out here, and I'm glad he did, because I've become real good friends with them, and I look forward to them always playing here. They're one of my biggest-going bands right now."


"He's sick now, and I hate it, because I love Don Walser's music. Anybody that can double-yodel and belt out all those beautiful notes like that. He's like James Hand. Hell, he'd give you anything he had. He used to play for any benefit, fundraiser. I didn't ever have to ask him but one time and he was right there."


"I started booking Asleep at the Wheel in 1973. Ray [Benson], he's such a bandleader. He knows how to get it going. He's great on Western swing, he's great on all the country music he does. Ray is dedicated. He never tires about getting out and giving interviews and traveling. Just the travel part will wear you out. But he loves it, and he loves what he does, and he does a good job for us."

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