The Tasting Panel magazine

October 2014

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Page 26 of 132

26  /  the tasting panel  /  october 2014 A LONE STAR LIFE T his is not meant to be an indictment against the patrons of the Broken Spoke in Austin, but on one recent September evening there were more eyes (and ears) on the four-piece band in the corner than there were on the television—which was showing the University of Texas football game against BYU. The soft, slow twang of Western swing music was simply too much of a force, and football never had a chance. "I'm glad you noticed that," says James White, who opened this cozy bar in 1964, when he was 25; back then, he sold beer for two bits a bottle. Today, at 75, he runs the place with his family and sells beer for a lot more than a quarter, but he admits some things don't change. "It is the people who keep coming back that make the Broken Spoke such a special place." Those are people (age isn't an issue here) who love an authentic honky-tonk. They dress in Stetsons, Wranglers and pearl-snap shirts, just like the bands that play here. They dine on chicken-fried steak and Lone Star beer while enjoying Western swing's soft side before heading to the dance floor and some serious boot-scootin' music. That's what the Broken Spoke has offered for much of the past 50 years. White, one of the most affable and welcoming gentlemen around, takes me out to show me his car. From the outside, the low-slung building belies the size of the legendary dance hall in the back, but the whole place looks a bit, shall we say, engulfed. "When I first came here, you couldn't see another building. You had to make a trip to get here," White says, leaning on his bone-white '54 Cadillac Coupe de Ville, before adding that in 1964 the bar was outside the city limits. Now his view is all but swallowed up within a south Austin retail and housing development. "I'm pretty much surrounded on all sides now. What took everybody so long to get here, huh?" Back inside, the framed photos on the paneled walls tell the story of who's already passed through, including Willie Nelson, Dolly Parton, George Strait, Billy Joe Shaver, Ernest Tubbs, Roy Acoff, Kris Kristofferson and Bob Wills. The four-piece has fin- ished its last tune and the doors to the dance hall are wide open. White follows the crowd inside, but not before making it clear that they dance the Texas Two- Step at the Broken Spoke. "We don't do line dancing," he says. "We like to dance with our women here. It's more fun to touch each other while dancing." Honky-Tonk Man JAMES WHITE KEEPS THE WHEELS TURNING AT AUSTIN'S BROKEN SPOKE by Anthony Head / photo by Kirk Weddle Some words of advice about customers from James White, owner of Austin's 50-year-old Broken Spoke: "They come to have a good time. Don't make it hard for them."

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