When Johnny Cash died, a lot of people were just getting into him and discovering that before Nashville turned country into slickly produced assembly-line pop-twang, white people made soulful music of an unusual quality. Just a little before rockabilly stormed the South and then the rest of the nation, Jimmie Rodgers, and then Hank Williams, and Ernest Tubb, and many others turned the “hillbilly” moniker on its head with a sort of neo-traditional take on rural music. Meanwhile Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys developed their hot cowboy jazz known as Texas swing, and many thousands danced and hollered. Once upon a time country was really, really good, but the better part of its fire has long ago dissipated.
And yet Hank Thompson never stopped! And as long as places such as The Broken Spoke remain popular, real country will never die- Garth or no Garth, Shania or no Shania. Thompson had a run of hits many moons ago, with songs such as “Wild Side of Life” and “Six Pack to Go” pleasing audiences in dance halls and honky-tonks for decades. The old gent delivered the goods and kept ‘em dancing for song after song with a band that knew just when to step up for a solo, or back off and let him sing. While billed as the “King of Western Swing”, the sound was mostly pure and satisfying old-school honky tonk done very well (having seen the Texas Playboys, I wouldn’t particularly call what I heard “swing”). The crowd ate it up and the dancefloor stayed packed. The Broken Spoke, as one of the last of the old-school honky-tonks, is where the country meets the city, and retains a friendly hospitality for all. Johnny Cash may be gone, but if you pay attention, you can still see some of the old-timers and legends from the era when country was country.