Book Review: The Broken Spoke: Austin's Legendary Honky-Tonk

Donna Marie Miller

The Broken Spoke: Austin's Legendary Honky-Tonk

As the Broken Spoke rolls through its fifth decade, the local honky-tonk finally gets a properly bound documentation. Following last year's big-screen detailing, Honky Tonk Heaven, Donna Marie Miller dives into the story of Spoke proprietors James and Annetta White, and their endeavor's half-century as a two-stepping outpost on South Lamar. Tension between tradition and change plays a necessary backdrop to the account, contemporary condos now overshadowing the dance hall, but the Spoke's ability to survive amid urban boom while retaining its foundational ethos makes a compelling case for the honky-tonk as the most essential venue in Austin. While the Armadillo World Headquarters cohabited rednecks and hippies locally, the Whites' veneration of cowboy counterculture did as much to cement the unique hybrid defining the capital city as Willie Nelson. Miller brings the Spoke to life with loving detail through extensive interviews with the proprietors, who extrapolate on the overflow of photos that line their walls. While The Broken Spoke: Austin's Legendary Honky-Tonk overly relies on the owners' recollections, the author understands that their history is inextricable from the business, and alternates between the Whites' personal trials and professional peaks. Ultimately, that tight focus gains poignancy as the family becomes as familiar as James White's classic stage introductions.

The Broken Spoke: Austin’s Legendary Honky-Tonk

by Donna Marie Miller
Texas A&M University Press, 244 pp., $24.95

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