A History of Austin's Music In Three Acts (Act One)

Act One - The Beginning


Austin has always stood at the precipice of live music and entertainment, towering over most other American cities in regards to a love of heartfelt, phenomenal live music, much like The Parthenon over Acropolis. I only use such an analogy because Austin seems to have a mythic quality when it comes to its music scene. Those desperate for a chance to prove their talent come from all over North America—and in some cases, the world—to show their stuff in Austin. But where did this all come from? How did this legacy begin? And what is it exactly that makes Austin the music capital of the world?

Music emanates from your culture, it stems from what you are and what you think you know and understand. Upon its establishment, Austin was home to a variety of cultures, a hodgepodge of African Americans, Anglo-Americans, Spanish, and Mexican—among others. This mix in culture and traditional music lead to the creation of traditional Texas blues. Such innovations in music created the need for musical venues, a place where people could play and watch. Over the years, various halls and gardens, including the infamous Dessau Gardens, began to play an important role in the procreation of live music.

As the years progressed, countless small venues opened shop—Threadgills in 1933, Big Mary’s, Charlie’s Playhouse in 1958, Ernie’s Chicken Shack in 1960, The Broke Spoke (famous for showcasing a young Willie Nelson) in 1964, Armadillo World Headquarters (frequented by Frank Zappa, ZZ Top, and AC/DC) in 1970—creating this subculture based on musicians. There was never a night where one, if not all, of these locations had music pouring from its doors.  Clifford Antone opened Antones in late ’75, a person and place that became infamous in the launching of Texas legend, Stevie Ray Vaughn. 

Article continues with Act Two.

Tags: history, music

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