This article is part of Wide Open Country's ongoing series Back to Country, which celebrates country music venues around the U.S.
Though downtown Austin may seem like it's got nothing but 6th Street dance clubs and hippies, there's a place where country music will never die: The Broken Spoke. This quaint honky-tonk sits on South Lamar and was established in 1964 by James White.
The Broken Spoke originally opened as a cafe. The name was inspired by a movie called Broken Arrow and White's love of wagon wheels. Once, customers started dancing to the jukebox, and White pushed all the pool tables out of the way to make more room, but so many people were dancing they poured onto the dirt parking lot. Eventually, a few customers would play songs they had written. White knew what had to happen next: add a dance floor and make The Broken Spoke a dancehall.
Before White knew it, groups like Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys, Roy Acuff, Tex Ritter, Ray Price, Floyd Tillman and Ernest Tubb were playing to a full house. When the outlaw movement started in Texas, White didn't slow down a bit; he booked Kris Kristofferson and Willie Nelson to play on The Spoke stage. Texans like The Chicks (formerly the Dixie Chicks), George Strait and Dale Watson have graced the stage as well.
White didn't stop there, though. In 1988, he formed a record label called the Broken Spoke Company. "It's all for fun. There's no fancy recording studio—just the stage at The Broken Spoke on Monday when it's closed."
The honky-tonk heaven has been featured on PBS's Austin City Limits, the Country Music Television special "Honky Tonk Sounds," and the Discovery Travel Channel. Movies like Honeysuckle Rose (1980) and the Dolly Parton-Gary Busey film Wild Texas Wind (1991) have been filmed at the live music venue. In fact, in Wild Texas Wind, you can spot Ray Benson's band Asleep at the Wheel right on The Broken Spoke stage.
If you're ever in South Austin, drop by 3201 S Lamar Blvd and join a two-step dance lesson, order a chicken fried steak, and be a part of Austin nightlife at a legendary honky-tonk.