A Texas Legend

by Stefani on 21-April-2008

If you’re a little fiddle player, or the kind of little guitar picker that proudly displays his (sort of) calloused fingers, Gruene Hall is the stuff dreams are made of.

Oldest Dance Hall in Texas

If you didn’t know any better, you might pass right by the place and not look twice at the unassuming building with it’s whitewashed facade. Frankly, it looks more like a chicken house than anything one could call legendary.

Gruene Door

Walk through that little screen door though, and you find yourself on the same ground where once stood some of the true greats – Ernest Tubb, Willie Nelson, Merle Haggard, Lyle Lovett, Robert Earl Keen, Jerry Lee Lewis, Little Richard and some of my personal favorites too Lucinda Williams, Kelly Willis, Charlie Robison and Slaid Cleaves.

As the oldest still operating dance hall in Texas, you’d think they’d get the bug to renovate, pretty and polish it up a little, but they don’t and they like it that way. I do too.


Everyone of those tables is covered in carved names. The floor is creaky and old and there are a few spots you might just fall through if your two-stepping gets too rowdy. Gruene Hall is hanging on to it’s history though, it’s grit. It wears each and every flaky bit of paint and gouged wood as a badge of honor. It is a true testament to aging gracefully.

I told my aspiring musicians that as for me, if I were going to rosin up my bow, I’d rather play a place like that than a big fancy auditorium any day. If I was going to make music I’d want to be down in it, where I could see the dust flyin’ off the boots, you know?

I’m just sayin’ that it’s good, really good, that in an age of fast fame and bright lights there’s still places where it’s the music that matters.

Sarah Jackson April 21, 2008 at 8:37 pm

what a fun place to take budding musicians! The kind of gritty old places are the best.

molly April 21, 2008 at 8:49 pm

i can just imagine doing the two step on that old wooden floor, listening to good ol’ music.

shelley caskey April 21, 2008 at 10:25 pm

i’ve been to gruene hall many a time, listening to the likes of dana cooper and shake russell. it’s truly a place dreams are made and lived! love, love, love it!

Steph April 21, 2008 at 11:09 pm

Oooohhhh…I’d love to see that place when it’s rocking!

sarai April 22, 2008 at 4:23 am

oh absolutely. That’s wonderful.

Jade April 22, 2008 at 4:54 am

Oh Beautiful Stef! You captured Gruene Hall beautifully. We had our honeymoon in Gruene so it holds a lot of great memories for me.

Tracy April 22, 2008 at 5:45 am

What a cool piece of history!

Anna April 22, 2008 at 6:32 am

a fabulous place to see a show. at this point, can’t even remember who i saw there…all i know, is i had a great time!

kelly April 22, 2008 at 6:56 am

Did you say Slaid Cleaves, lol? Friends and myself were lucky enough (some 20 years ago, yikes!) to watch him play the streets of Portland Maine’s Old Port. He was the highlight of our summer. Glad you are enjoying him down there too!

Amy April 22, 2008 at 7:35 am

That is my kind of place!

OMSH April 22, 2008 at 7:54 am

Whoohooo! Willie! I don’t care how ugly that man is – I love his croon. This looks like a fabulous place.

Did you know my Emelie has decided to play the clarinet next year in band and I’m thinking of picking up a guitar? I’ve always loved singing, but I’ve always thought it’d be nice to know how to either fiddle or play the guitar.

katie fox April 22, 2008 at 8:46 am

i just found your blog, and already added it to my reader. i think we have a lot in common – at least, in some of our musical tastes! oh yeah, and i love gruene hall! the last time iwas there was to see patty griffin! 🙂 i’m in austin. thanks for the fun post.

Kim April 22, 2008 at 9:23 am

Amen and Thank you for the tour! We have the Floyd friday night jamboree weekly at the floyd country store, which has been recently restored but still retains its charm. It’s so nice to see that this tradition of live music, flat footin, and generations of family comin’ together to let loose exists in other corners of the world!

Have yourself a little look:

I have recently started reading your blog and hope we will visit with eachother often! 🙂

gonzomama April 22, 2008 at 10:33 am

These are things that make me wish I lived in Texas.

laura r April 22, 2008 at 11:28 am

That’s so cool! I’ve been there several times growing up while visiting relatives in San Antonio, but had no idea all the history. All they told me was it was the dance hall from John Travolta’s “Michael” movie.

molly April 22, 2008 at 12:34 pm

Oh, I love this post. We have a little hardware store that stays open late on Fridays for bluegrass. It’s quite a taste of the local flavor. I’ve even gotten up on stage to sing a few bars of Gillian Welch, myself. It’s a good time.

love these pictures. I can just see what that place looks like when it’s really jamming.

Keri April 22, 2008 at 4:25 pm

Okay, that’s it. I’m moving back to Texas! You’re killing me here!!! 🙂

EVERYBODY plays at Gruene. Unfortunately, I’ve never been but it’s certainly on my list of things I’d love to do. Roger Creager even wrote a song about it, which is now stuck in my head (good thing I like it!).

Great post, thanks!

Julie @ Letter9 April 22, 2008 at 5:03 pm

Those two interior shots? Wow. What a cool place.

Places like that are probably why my dissertation’s on place. I’m a sucker for something with such, I don’t know, emotion, history, knowledge…

Sachi Smith April 22, 2008 at 5:53 pm

Your post makes me so homesick–I am a Texan stuck in NJ. Places like the one you are describing are what make the state what it is. There is a bar in Luchenbach with a similar feeling. I love this post and I love your blog. Thank you.

Molly April 22, 2008 at 6:01 pm

It can’t be compared to Gruene really, but my favorite place for live music had the same dusty floors and old carved tables. Felt like I grew up there really – coming of age with 10,000 Maniacs, Rusted Root, Donna the Buffalo and John & Mary. It’s a tiny, unshiny spot called Joyce’s Keg Room, Jamestown, NY. A legend where we come from, in any musician’s estimation. Your story brought it straight back into view — that’s why your writing grabs me so.

Awesome photos, again.

Shelley April 23, 2008 at 4:32 pm

Wow – Gruene Hall first, then the Dixie Chicken? It’s a flashback smorgasbord! I went to school in Seguin, then San Marcos – probably a little because of their proximity to Gruene Hall. Saw Robert Earl, Jerry Jeff, and Lyle there. Oh and Gary P. Nunn, too. Back in the day, one of us would pay, and then the rest of us would copy whatever the “stamp of the night” was — on our hands with the magic markers we’d brought from the dorm.

And 14 years ago while pregnant with my second babe, I took my yankee husband to Gruene – and Texafied him. First with chicken fried steaks at the Grist Mill, then with long necks (o’douls for me) and two-steppin’ at Gruene Hall. Thanks for the pictures. I’m delighted that it looks exactly the same.

Cheryl April 23, 2008 at 6:06 pm

Considering my music fetish, you’ve got to know I love Gruene Hall. Not to mention that I went to college in Seguin which is right close to Gruene. Your hitting close to home and I’m loving it!
Now don’t forget the unforgettable catfish plates at Clear Springs. Gotta stop in Clear Springs every time we are in the vicinity.

Relyn April 23, 2008 at 7:13 pm

This post made me think of one of my favorite books, “The Second Coming of Lucy Hatch” by Marsha Moyer. Have you read it? If not, I highly recommend it. I think you will love it. One of the characters sings in a place just like Gruene Hall. Hope you enjoy.

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