Category Archives: Honky Tonk

Making Memories with New Experiences

Screen Shot 2015-02-09 at 10.12.29 AMBeing from a suburb of Atlanta country music is popular but Honky Tonk is not a thing. Two stepping is something that is well known from the rap song “2 Step” by DJ UNK. So this last weekend I ventured up to Dallas/Fort Worth and got to experience the world’s largest Honky Tonk, Billy Bob’s Texas. It was nothing like I could have ever imagined. The place was huge and full of people. When we first got there we went right into the bull-riding arena. The arena was just buzzing with excitement. Only two of the riders made it to the full eight seconds, however it was so thrilling to watch. The atmosphere that the arena brought was crazy. When the bull-riding was finished we moved to the dance floor to people watch. And let me just say Billy Bob’s attracts all different types of people. From old people to young people, all different types of ethnic groups, couples to just groups of friends, it was a very good people-watching scene. Some couples were such good dancers my friends and me were in awe of them, while others were just awkward and uncomfortable to watch. The good ones would work the whole floor doing dips and spins. Although at one point things got really weird, when a hired dance company called The House of Horrors, came on stage to perform a zombie version of a “Fifty Shade of Grey” dance. They were clearly promoting the release of the new movie this weekend but the dance was awful, uncomfortable to watch, and felt very out of place.

Sara Evans was the performer for the night, which I thought was huge because I grew up listening to her music. However, neither of my friends seemed to know any of her songs. My two favorite songs of hers that I listened to growing up were “Suds in a Bucket” and “Cheatin”. The first song she played was also her other big hit “Born to Fly” it was performed beautifully and she had the crowds full attention.

Screen Shot 2015-02-09 at 10.13.06 AMWe did not stay for her whole performance because we also wanted to walk around the stockyards. It was so different from what I had expected, because we had been in downtown Fort Worth for dinner so when we arrived in the stockyards it was nothing I could have imagined. I felt like I had stepped into a small old country town and was not still in one of the biggest cities in Texas. Obviously, it was late at night at this point so we window shopped at the closed stores and peeked into the other bars to get a feel for what they were like. They all seemed very similar with people dressed to the nines in their boots, belt buckles, and cowboy hats. It was so interesting because even though everyone was dressed similarly there still were a wide variety of people everywhere. We left the stockyards and went to explore West 7th Street in downtown which is suppose to be the college area, and it was a drastic change as to where we had just been.


Filed under Dancing, Honky Tonk, Live Music, Texas, USA, Women

Waltzing with the Debutante

Honky Tonk Debutante by Christine WarrenLast week, the Rhetoric of Country Music class had the pleasure of welcoming the author (and country music expert) Christine J. Warren to class. She spoke about some of country’s early subgenres, shared great stories about the development of Austin’s live music scene, and read a couple of passages from her book Honky Tonk Debutante: The History of Honky-Tonk Music as I Care to Tell It (2014).

With this post, I wanted to share links to a couple of projects that developed from Christine’s visit. First, she mentions the class on her own blog (“Reality on the Half Shell”), and she even includes photos of the card we signed for her.

Second, I included an interview I did with Christine in the new episode of the Zeugma podcast series. Zeugma is sponsored by UT’s Department of Rhetoric and Writing, and it generally addresses topics related to rhetoric, technology, and popular culture. I am contributing to all of the podcast’s Season 3 episodes, but the new one on “Honky Tonkin'” has the clearest relevance to our class. Anyway, if you have about 20 minutes to spare, I’d love for you to check it out.

Do you have any lingering questions from Christine’s presentation? What do think of her blog post about us and the “Honky Tonkin'” podcast?

Let us know in the comments!

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Filed under Austin, Class work, Honky Tonk

The Roots of Ernest Tubb

As I was reading Christine Warren’s Honky Tonk Debutante, I made a mental note at her mention of Ernest Tubb, the man credited with starting honky-tonk music. Tubb, nicknamed “The Texas Troubadour”, had an incredible influence on the sound of traditional country music, and as Warren stated, his hit song “Walking the Floor Over You” was the first honky-tonk hit and started the golden era of honky-tonk music. While Ernest Tubb is an important figure for every country music fan, he is especially notable for me. Before Tubb gained worldwide fame and recognition, he got his start in my hometown, good old San Angelo, Texas.

For those of you who haven’t heard of San Angelo, it is located right smack dab in the middle of Texas, far isolated from any interstates or big cities. It never rains (at one point last year we had just 15 months left in our water supply), and there really isn’t anything to do for entertainment. It’s a typical West Texas oil town.

One thing there is to do in San Angelo is see live music. Texas Country artists like Aaron Watson and Kyle Park are always playing at Midnight Rodeo, and local singers play at bars around town. Famous artists like George Strait and Lee Ann Rimes used to play at the San Angelo Rodeo before they made it big, so there is also lots of history in the city’s music scene.

San Angelo country singer Case Hardin

But as I mentioned above, San Angelo’s real claim to fame is the place that gave Ernest Tubb his start. Tubb moved to San Angelo from San Antonio in 1939, and was given a daily radio show on a local station, where he was paid $2.50 a day. The wage for the radio show wasn’t enough to support his family, so he also drove a beer delivery truck for $2 a day, plus 8 cents for each beer sold. In addition to his two jobs, he was known to set up on the street corner to play his guitar and sing for passersby. Tubb liked San Angelo so much that he wrote the song “Beautiful San Angelo”. Just four years after moving to San Angelo, Tubb was a member of the Grand Ole Opry and in the middle of a career which saw him collaborate with singers like Loretta Lynn, and even garnered him a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Tubb was instrumental in the sound of honky-tonk music, and none of it would have been possible without his short time in San Angelo.

Ernest Tubb’s star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame


Filed under Classic Country, Honky Tonk, Live Music, Reflection, Texas, Uncategorized

Tequila Cowboy

Over break I went to visit one of my best friends who happens to live in South Florida. Even though technically Florida is considered the South, we were in one of the least southern places, Miami. One night we were out shopping and looking around when we stumbled upon this restaurant called Tequila Cowboy. Obviously from living in Texas, tex-mex is one of our favorite foods so we thought that we would try it out. We walked into to the restaurant and it was one of the most stereotypical “country” places I have ever been to. There was a man and a guitar singing at the entrance, the décor was rustic with cowboy boots and trucks as decorations, and the waiters and waitresses were dressed to a tee in theme. However, the best part about the restaurant was that they had an electric bull and a karaoke bar attached. They were playing older country music over the speaker system, although it seemed like me and my friends were the only ones that knew the songs.

We ordered our margaritas (because who doesn’t get tequila at Tequila Cowboy) and started looking over the menu. The first thing noticed is that almost everything on the menu contains some form of barbeque. Whether it was pulled pork tacos to barbeque chicken enchiladas. They took the two main staples of Texas cuisine and tried to combine them. Don’t get me wrong, I know pulled pork tacos are a very normal dish but on their menu it seemed like they were trying too hard.

After dinner, we went to the next room to the karaoke bar. We were the only ones in there, when a man walks up to us and asks us if we “want to ride his bull”. We explained to him that we live in Texas and have ridden or have the opportunity to ride a bull on almost any night a week. Finally, the place started to fill up, meaning two more people walked in. The karaoke begins by the “dj” singing a George Strait song. Next up is the two other people in the bar, who happen to be this old man and a woman clearly half his age, watching them sing a love song had to be one of the most uncomfortable experiences out there.

We were up next and chose to sing “Friends in Low Places” by Garth Brooks. We weren’t serious about our singing or anything we just got up there to have fun, which we did, but no one knew the song. More people began to trickle in at this point and we had a street audience since the stage was at a window. Yet there wasn’t an ounce of recognition of the song on anyone’s faces. We got up there, sang, got down, and left.

We had a blast in this cheesy stereotypical country restaurant. Granted the food wasn’t very good, their margaritas sucked, and no one knew the music. But I was with my two best friends and we had a great time.


Filed under Dancing, Honky Tonk, Live Music, Reflection, Texas, USA

Country Music in Video Games

Before I took this class, most of the country music I had encountered had been at rodeos or the radio.   These mediums traditionally play a specific type of country music, so I never really considered myself a fan based off of what I heard. This changed, however, once I was introduced to Hank Williams’ music. His music was simple, somewhat folk-sounding, and placed a lot of importance on story telling. His music was completely refreshing for me and I was instantly hooked on country music. Ironically, I was introduced to Hank Williams through a video game, something that did not even exist during Hank Williams’ time.

TheLastOfUsThe aforementioned game was my brother’s (seriously) copy of The Last of Us, a 2013 game about the zombie apocalypse. It is a beautiful, cinematic game that follows two characters, a hardened survivor and a little girl, as they struggle to survive the end of society. It definitely picked up on the zombie trend of the last couple years and appeals to a younger gamer audience. In fact, The Last of Us has sold over 7 million copies since its release a year ago.

I have included a video of one of the scenes that features Hank Williams. In this scene, protagonists Ellie and Joel playfully banter during one of their few peaceful moments. After a few moments they pop a Hank Williams tape into the cassette player and Hank Williams’ song “I’ll Never Get Out Of This World Alive” begins to play. Joel comments that the tape is a “good one” and Ellie hopelessly remarks that it is better than nothing. Joel (the older survivor) appreciates the tape, while Ellie says that it is better than nothing.

Note:  this video has some colorful language and themes, only watch if you can handle such material.

To me, this was a very telling moment for both characters, as well as Hank Williams’ music. His music is instantly recognizable to the older survivor, while sounding obnoxious and revolting to the younger girl. I believe the same goes for real life, as mature audiences will appreciate the timelessness of old country music while younger audiences will instantly dismiss the music as sounding hillbilly. In a heart-warming change of taste, however, Ellie declares that “this isn’t that bad”.

I feel like Ellie and Joel’s exchange has some relevance to country music. Younger audiences (like Ellie) usually haven’t been exposed to very much country music, at least not classics like Hank Williams. After listening to the tape for just a few moments, she has already developed a taste for country music. I feel like this is true for most people: they say that they don’t like country music, but once you show them the “right” artist or song, their taste dramatically changes. The Last of Us did this to me by simply including Hank Williams’ music in the game. Although I didn’t know of him beforehand, I liked his music once I heard it and it opened me up to more country music.

In a world dominated by technology, there are nearly an infinite number artists and songs available to listen to. Many younger audiences tend to gravitate towards music that they are familiar with, such as hip-hop or pop or even electronic. The Last of Us managed to alter my own musical preferences simply by showing me some old Hank Williams songs and letting me know of their existence. It is sort of like a gifted basketball player who has never picked up a basketball; the second he does, it will just feel right to him. Similarly, when I first heard Hank Williams I knew that I had to learn more about this type of music. In a world dominated by technology, I can at least appreciate that some forms of modern media still pay homage to old country music legends.


Filed under Honky Tonk, Movies and TV, Reflection