Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Texas-Size Fun-(Part 2)

Through the Port of Galveston came many of Texas' most enduring immigrants. Political strife, economic hardship and letters home from settlers already in the region brought a wave of immigration to Texas from Germany and its neighbors, Czechoslovakia and Poland, beginning in 1847. The new Texans settled the lands across the southeast and central part of the state reaching west of San Antonio and north of Waco, giving names to towns like New Braunfels, Schulenburg, Boerne, Shiner and Gruene. Small towns with German names are scattered all through this region. Germans made peace with the Comanches in order to settle Fredericksburg and their transfer to the new homeland was impeded only by American conflicts such as the Civil War. Along with the new immigrants came their culture, especially their music-these folks built hundreds of dancehalls in which polka bands featuring brass instuments (especially the tuba) and accordians set feet tapping to the distinct "oom-pah-pah" rhythm-Robert Earl Keen's song "No Kinda Dancer" captures the flavor perfectly:


"First of the month brings back the notion
Of a big round white dancehall in the cool summer night.
Red cherrub faces set black shoes in motion
To the 'om pah pah' rhythm of a German delight.


And I tried hard to tell you I was no kinda dancer.
Takin' my hand to prove I was wrong.
You guided me gently though I thought I could never.
We were dancin' together at the end of the song.


A taut little bald man, like a German war hero
Would box some old matrons to a quick Jon Paul Jones.
Drapes of crepe paper, the ball made of mirrors,
Cast shiny reflections on a brass slide trombone.


And I tried hard to tell you I was no kinda dancer.
Takin' my hand to prove I was wrong.
You guided me gently though I thought I could never.
We were dancin' together at the end of the song.


The man was still dancin' with his phantom partner
Though the band had quit playin' at the evening's end.
It made me feel lucky that I had a partner
To teach me the dance-steps and come back again.


And I tried hard to tell you I was no kinda dancer.
Takin' my hand to prove I was wrong.
You guided me gently though I thought I could never.
We were dancin' together at the end of the song.


And I tried hard to tell you, I was no kinda dancer
Takin' my hand to prove I was wrong.
You guided me gently though I thought I could never.
We were dancin' together at the end of the song."


These dancehalls now provide quaint and quirky venues for the bands that are part of the exploding Texas live music scene. Austin is the self-proclaimed capitol of the Texas live music, but the bands travel a wide circuit that includes frequent stops at these old dancehalls such as Gruene Hall and Saengerhalle near New Braunfels, Luckenbach Dance Hall in Luckenbach and The Sons of Hermann Hall in Dallas just to mention a few. These halls are simple affairs-just a bar area usually just inside the door, a stage and a large wooden dance floor with a few tables that run lengthwise down the floor.

Our destination was Gruene Hall-the oldest dance hall in Texas where many singing stars and legends have performed there over the years. Willie Nelson, George Strait, Jerry Jeff Walker, Lyle Lovett are some of the well-known singers who have graced it's stage . A huge photo gallery of the singers and bands that have played there is displayed inside the hall. I had wanted to go there forever and when I found that Reckless Kelly, our favorite "hick-rock" band would be there on October 28th, my "planning gene" kicked in and we began assembling a group of willing "pilgrims." It wasn't hard and soon we had seven with airline, hotel and rental van reservations in hand.

Posted below are pics of the fun-loving Carolinians that "invaded" Texas last week. Tomorrow-Dinner, the Concert and the incident at the Inn that we laughingly refer to now as "The Kerfuffle on the Guadalupe." Stay tuned!

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