Many historical live music venues in Austin, Texas are still alive today and keeping the tradition and reputation of the "the live music capital of the world" alive and well. Austin is the home of the most vibrant life music scene in the country and some of its many music venues have stories as interesting as the musicians that played in them.
Between 1930 and 1960 a gas station that sold beer called Threadgill's on North Lamar Boulevard was the home of the Austin music scene. Kenneth Threadgill created an "anything goes" progressive music culture by bringing together an eclectic mix of musicians and fans, this was an instrumental move in making the Austin music scene what it is today. When Threadgill’s was facing being torn down, the owner of the Armadillo World Headquarters, Eddie Wilson bought Threadgill's in 1980 when the Armadillo was forced to close. He re-opened on New Year's Day 1981 right where the Armadillo left off. The Armadillo World Headquarters was started in an old Armory buy a group of free spirits and hippies and hosted a variety of musical acts. On the night of August 12th 1972, Willie Nelson played at the Armadillo and that night is credited for being the starting point of the modern Austin music scene. Threadgill's original location on North Lamar honors its history between 1930 and 1960. And the south location is themed around the Armadillo with a southern style restaurant featuring items from the menu from the old Armadillo and music lovers can enjoy a great Southern meal with their live music.
This legendary bar ranks as one of Austin's oldest continuously running clubs and has hosted a variety of entertainment. At one point it was a high-end Supper Club, it has been a blue-collar bar that opened at 7 a.m., and has also served as a burlesque club. During the 1970s and 80s it hosted live music and featured Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble, Joe Ely, Bill Carter and the Blame and many others. The interior of the venue was returned to its original 1950s splendor back in 1987. The club is still home to “roots rock, traditional country and blues, rockabilly, and garage rock”. Musical acts that have performed on the stage here are Robert Plant, Wanda Jackson, James McMurtry, Junior Brown and Dale Watson.
In 1961 Donn Engelman came on the Austin music scene. He established Donn's Depot in an actual train depot in 1972. He still performs there on Tuesday and Friday nights, playing the piano and singing and is often accompanied by a drummer and a bass player. On other nights, the club showcases a cast of regulars and features rotating acts on Saturday nights.
Christopher “Stubbs” Stubblefield established Stubb's BBQ in Lubbock in 1968. Until the mid-1980s this location hosted big music names such as Johnny Cash, BB King, Willie Nelson, Muddy Waters and Stevie Ray Vaughan. Stubb’s moved to Austin in 1986, and that location later closed in 1989. After Stubblefield's death in 1995, the barbecue & live music venue was revived in the historic building at 801 Red River Street and has a large outdoor stage and Amphitheater.
The Cactus Cafe and Bar
This is a small venue that opened in 1979 and is located In the Southwest corner of the Texas Union Building on the corner of 24th Street and Guadalupe. The venue books local, regional, national and international acoustical music acts. Well- known artists that have played the Cactus Cafe early in their careers are Lyle Lovett, Shawn Colvin, Ani DiFranco and Robert Earl Keen. Alison Krauss, Townes Van Zandt, Bill Monroe, the Dixie Chicks and Patty Griffin are just a few more who have graced the stage at the Cactus Cafe.
One of the original 6th Street music venues is Antoine's Nightclub which opened in 1975. It is considered to be a leader in creating Austin's reputation as a live music mecca. Fats Domino, John Lee Hooker, Muddy Waters, Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown, BB King and Gary Clark are some of the musicians who have performed at Antone's. The venue is now located on East 5th Street and offers live music 7 days a week.
These are but a few of the famous and storied venues that helped make Austin famous for its live music scene. They continue to be home to many musicians both well-known and up-and-coming. These historical buildings are one of the many gifts the beautiful city of Austin has to offer its residents and visitors.