Posts Tagged With: Austin

Austin’s Broken Spoke rolls on

AATWSpokeFor better or worse, Asleep at the Wheel’s longtime hometown of Austin, Texas, has changed an awful lot over the last 40 years. It’s depressing to tally up all the funky enclaves that have been paved over in the name of runaway growth, and it sure isn’t the same town it was during the Armadillo era I wrote about in my University of Texas Master’s Thesis. But Austin still has plenty to recommend it. I’m sure my “Comin’ Right at Ya” co-writer/subject/star Ray Benson will never leave, and I always love going back to visit. I’m already counting the days until next month’s South By Southwest.

The Broken SpokeOne lingering repository of how The Old Austin ™ used to be is The Broken Spoke, an old-style honky tonk that used to be surrounded by empty fields south of downtown. Urban sprawl swallowed up that stretch of South Lamar long ago, but The Spoke is still standing. Going there feels not unlike visiting a game preserve, surrounded as it is by high-rise condos and such.

Inside, however, the place feels pretty much the same as it did when I started going to shows there during my circa-1980s college days, with ceilings low enough to make me glad I’m nowhere near as tall as Ray. And above right is a picture from a show I really wish I’d been able to make it to, Willie Nelson sitting in with the Wheel Thursday night to benefit Turk Pipkin’s Nobelity Project.

Great cause, and I can’t imagine the show was anything but great, too — and man, I can practically taste the Lone Star beer and chicken-fried steak. As long as The Spoke survives, a piece of Old Austin will live on. I find that comforting, y’all.

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Asleep at the Airport

Me&CBRayAustin is Asleep at the Wheel’s town and has been for 40-plus years, so it’s fitting that a manifestation of the group is one of the first things you encounter when flying into Austin’s Bergstrom International Airport. Just down the concourse from the food court, on your way down to baggage claim, you’ll pass by the Asleep at the Wheel Road House — which has cases full of artifacts from throughout the group’s history (including one of the nine Grammy Awards they’ve won) and a performance stage that has someone up and playing on it more often than not, at all hours of the day and night.

One of the AATW Road House’s more iconic tokens is a lifesize photo cutout of “Comin’ Right at Ya” co-writer/subject/star Ray Benson. It’s an enduringly popular photo backdrop, one I’ve used myself more than once. The most recent instance is here on the right, a picture taken when I flew in for the Texas Book Festival.

As it happens, even Ray himself can’t resist it. Below was the scene this past Friday morning, a shot featuring Ray and AATW pianist emeritus Floyd Domino, pausing to mug for a camera on their way up to a show in Denver.


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