Broken Spoke, at 3201 South Lamar Blvd. in Austin is about as honky tonk as you get. It was established in 1964, but feels like much longer, based on the volume of country singers who have played here. George Strait’s newest album, Honky Tonk Time Machine, has Broken Spoke featured on the cover. According to a poster on the door the night we visited, he’ll be having his CD release party this Friday (March 29, 2019) right here. The Waggoners will be playing that night too. Garth Brooks, Dale Watson, Willie Nelson, Asleep at the Wheel, Dolly Parton, Kris Kristofferson, Joe Ely, Clint Eastwood, Gary P. Nunn, Jerry Jeff Walker, Governor George Bush and on and on have played, danced, filmed or had a beer here.
We each visited Broken Spoke in the past, but we hadn’t danced there together. So we made a date to dance on a Tuesday night – the only night there is NOT a dance lesson offered. The dance floor opens at 7:30 Tuesday through Saturday. Music starts at 9:00 Wednesday through Saturday, with dance lessons from 8-9 Wednesday through Saturday. There’s a restaurant for those who are hungry and early for dancing. Sally is in charge of the tickets and hand stamping at the dance floor. Say Hi to her for us.
The ceiling is low on the dance floor and stage. If a band member is tall and/or wears a hat, it’s very likely to scrape the ceiling. One nice thing about the low ceiling is it prevents younger dancers from lifting their partners overhead. Tables (many of them with regulars names) are on either side of the concrete floor. If you want to dance, stand near the bar or at the entrances to the dance floor.
As with many dance floors, there are often more followers than leaders. Many females have learned to lead so they can dance when the available leaders are taken. But, like many floors, the guys are happy to rotate through the waiting followers. Don’t go thinking you’ll be able to do a lot of spins and fancy moves. There just isn’t enough floor space. Most times we felt like we were on bumper cars, the dancers are so thick on the floor.
It’s a high energy place. Lots of people just sit at the tables and watch the dancers and listen to the bands. Cover is $6 on Tuesday nights. I don’t know what the cost is for the dance lessons or to get onto the dance floors other nights. Concert tickets are higher. They didn’t know the cost of George Strait’s release party – and Sally said they might not until the night of the event! They don’t pre-sell any tickets, so if you’re interested in a high profile band, get there early.
Jan. 2021. An update. James White, the owner of Broken Spoke passed away this month. Here’s a link to the local television station commenting on his legacy. https://www.kxan.com/news/local/austin/james-white-owner-of-austins-iconic-broken-spoke-dance-hall-dies-at-81/