There’s no questioning Austin’s prowess as a dream destination for music lovers. But while the Live Music Capital of the World still has tons to offer, the city has lost several beloved music institutions over the years. Take a look back at six treasured Austin music venues that are no more.
The Soap Creek Saloon was a second home to the hippies and cosmic cowboys that ruled the 1970s Austin subculture. Texas musician mainstays Ray Benson, Marcia Ball and Alvin Crow were regular performers and patrons of the ramshackle venue. According to a 2001 Austin Chronicle article, legendary Tejano-influenced musician Doug Sahm (pictured above) lived across the parking lot and a young blues guitar virtuoso named Stevie Ray Vaughan played some of his first gigs there. The club helped raise a whole generation of Texas music fans before closing its doors forever in 1985.
After getting his start at Soap Creek Saloon, young Stevie Ray Vaughan found a home at the Rome Inn. The blues man, along with his older brother Jimmie Vaughan and his Fabulous Thunderbirds, held a residency at the club where patrons could witness music history for a $1 cover. Rome Inn manager C-Boy Parks, who was immortalized in the Fabulous Thunderbird’s “C-Boy’s Blues,” helped boost Austin’s blues scene. While the club only lasted two years, the spirit of Rome Inn lives on in a new venue. Steve Wertheimer, the owner of the Continental Clubs in Austin and Houston, opened C-Boy’s Heart and Soul in 2014 in honor of his old friend.
The Skyline Club, which opened in 1946, hosted some of the most sought-after music acts of the 1940s and 50s. Ernest Tubb, Bob Wills, Marty Robbins and even Elvis Presley played the venue. But perhaps the most notable performer was Hank Williams, who played what is believed to be his final public performance at the Skyline Club in 1952.
Cash-strapped travelers and equally down-and-out musicians found sanctuary in the Alamo Hotel and Lounge. Legendary songwriters Townes Van Zandt, Blaze Foley and Lyle Lovett played for tips in the hotel’s downstairs Alamo Lounge. Part of the music video for Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard’s “Pancho and Lefty” was filmed here, featuring a cameo by Townes Van Zandt, who penned the song.
Liberty Lunch may be best known for bringing alternative rock artists to Austin, but in addition to Nirvana, a string of country acts, from Dolly Parton to Dwight Yoakam, headlined the venue. The club, which closed its doors in 1999, also hosted rockabilly group Reverend Horton Heat and alt-country band Uncle Tupelo.
Outlaw country, cosmic cowboy, redneck rock… whatever you want to call it, it all started at the Armadillo World Headquarters. When Willie Nelson took the stage at the abandoned National Guard armory in 1972, Austin’s resident hippies and rednecks united in love for the Red Headed Stranger. Like-minded musicians like Jerry Jeff Walker and B.W. Stevenson were drawn to Willie’s history making show and the outlaw country movement flourished. The Armadillo went out in style on New Year’s Eve of 1980, with a sold-out Asleep at the Wheel show. In 2006, the city placed a commemorative plaque on the site where Armadillo World Headquarters once stood.