It’s an overcast Sunday afternoon and the staff at Ginny’s Little Longhorn Saloon on North Burnet Road is preparing for their busiest night of the week. The chickens that live in a coop out back are fed, escape, and a brief parking lot chase ensues. A rustic, hand-painted bingo table is set up in the back. Fragrant barbecued brisket tacos are delivered and everyone gets hungry. In a few hours Dale Watson and His Lonestars will play to a packed house that will include old-timers, tattooed hipsters, and bus-loads of Dutch, Croatian, Australian, and French tourists.
Watson has been playing Ginny’s for more than 15 years. He immortalized the bar in the song “Honkiest Tonkiest Beer Joint,” with lyrics taken from a sign that hangs behind the place (“no fussin’ no cussin’; no hasslin’ no wrestlin’”). And then earlier this year, he bought it.
Watson’s bio reads like that of a country star in the making. He was born in Birmingham, raised in Pasadena, just outside of Houston, and has been writing songs since he received his first guitar when he was seven years old. His 1995 debut album, Cheatin’ Heart Attack, and its anti-industry “Nashville Rash” song spread his fame across the Atlantic. His latest album, El Rancho Azul, is a Valentine to his honky-tonk life (half of the songs are devoted to drinking, including “I Lie When I Drink” and “Thanks to Tequila”). We sat down with the legendary troubadour to ask how honky-tonk music melds with the new and growing Austin.
I started the process about a year ago because I wanted to have an annual celebration devoted to a new genre of original music with a prominent roots influence. Americana music has roots in Woody Guthrie, and prominent folk and rock influences. Ameripolitan music traces back to artists like Jimmie Rodgers and Hank Williams.
It all started when CMA vocalist Blake Shelton accepted an award, and told the music industry how he felt about my style of music, describing it as “music for old farts and jackasses.” The statement let the proverbial cat out of the bag and really set the Internet abuzz. I’m trying to brand our style of music, which doesn’t fit into a preconceived notion of what it should be. The notion caught fire quickly. We raised $26K on gofundme.com, and the sold-out awards ceremony featured the likes of Johnny Knoxville and Mojo Nixon, among other great artists.
My music is a blend of honky-tonk, western swing, outlaw, and rockabilly. Four genres that don’t necessarily fit into any existing categories the industry celebrates.
I just got back from Australia; it was summer there, so we got to go to the beach. Australia reminds me of Texas in the ’70s—all that wide-open space. Now I’m back in the studio recording Trucking Sessions 3, the last album of a trilogy that will be released this summer. In addition to playing ACL and touring, it’s been a busy year.
How much I love America. Also, that mayonnaise on French fries ain’t too bad.
As with music, a place can grow and change, but it doesn’t have to leave its roots behind. In the same way that I’m trying to preserve the roots of Texas music, with Ginny’s I’m trying to keep the roots of Austin alive. That process doesn’t need to be stagnant or passive. We installed a new stage and a better sound system, started offering draft beer, and took out the pool table to accommodate more people. We’re bringing in the new, but exposing people to chicken poop bingo and roots music. For the same reasons, I also just purchased Big T’s Roadhouse, outside of San Antonio, so I’ve been spending more time there.
I think the biggest surprise of the whole thing is how long it has lasted! It started with a culmination of many things. I’d already been playing for Ginny and her late husband, Don, on Thursday nights for about 12 years. They asked me to play Sunday nights too, but I didn’t want it to be “just another night.” So I suggested playing in the afternoon, since people work the next day. When I spent time in California, I played a bar that offered free hot dogs, and another that ran a very illegal chicken poop bingo—that’s where I’d seen it for the first time. We decided to do both and make it legal; we don’t allow any betting. We only thought it would last a month or so, but from the get-go it packed the place out. I have no illusions of grandeur; I know the real star is the chicken.
There’s good and bad to it. It’s good that more people want to come here and hear Texas music. The bad is, well, the traffic. A lot is changing in the neighborhood, with new condos going in across the street and a new traffic light about to be installed. But some of the new celebrates older Southern traditions, like our neighbor Lucy’s Fried Chicken. Our communal picnic table area features tables donated by several local businesses that support what we do.
Honestly, it’s Sunday nights at the Longhorn. It’s truly amazing seeing so many people enjoy it so much. Everyone gets along; in all the years I’ve been doing it there’s never been a fight. People from nine to ninety come here and make friends right away. I think we’ve got a bit of the old Armadillo. This is old Austin and new Austin together.
by Joanna Steblay
As the warm weather begins to set in and patio parties hit our calendars, we can’t help but embrace that summertime has returned to Austin. If you’re anything like us, you’ll be celebrating the return of the season with decadent ice cream, healthy smoothies and icy cocktails from your favorite local spots.
For those days when it’s too hot to venture out, we went to Austin’s sweet treat professionals and compiled the ultimate collection of DIY recipes to make from your home. Click through the galleries below to learn how to make everything icy and sweet, from poptails for date night to ice cream sandwiches for a dinner party.more
The spring edition of the Renegade Craft Fair returns for its seventh year in Austin May 14-15 at Fair Market. With over 125 makers on the roster, the scene is sure to be bustling with local artisans and DIYers slinging their unique, one-of-a-kind wares. In addition to great shopping, the RCF offers activities, special showcases and plenty of food and drink options for visitors. This year, celebrate your hard work shopping with a snack from Burro Cheese Kitchen and Lucky Lab Coffee Co. before commemorating the afternoon with some snapshots from Magnolia Photo Booth Co. But before...more
by James Ruiz
Inspired by the beautiful outdoor living spaces featured in our May feature The Space Between, we went window shopping and found some great outdoor furniture and accessories to liven up your outdoor patio, porch and pool. Flip through the galleries below to see how you can add a pop of color and style to your outdoor hideaway.more
Hundreds of people are moving to Austin each day, and downtown is one of the major hubs of growth for the city. Local real estate expert Jude Galligan discusses smart urban growth and what to expect this year as the skyline continues to evolve.
Your blog keeps Austin updated on the latest news in downtown. What is the most exciting development happening right now?
From my point of view, the most exciting development is the Waller Creek District Master Plan. Decades in the making, this transformative project came to life after designers competed for the contract. It is finally coming to downtown, bringing an imaginative chain of parks,...more
by James Ruiz
As you flip through the pages of our February Love Issue, one thing you’ll notice is the beautiful blooms that pop up throughout the magazine. We got some major googly eyes for the bouquets featured in our "Real Weddings" features, and earmarked the TRIBEZA Wedding Guide for even more Pinterest-worthy petals.
Instead of letting all that inspiration go to waste, we tried our hand at flower arranging to see what we could create. Since we consider ourselves floral design novices, we asked a few top designers...more