In my previous post, I told the story about finding my long-lost shoe box containing a dozen smaller boxes of photographic slides. Over the years, I have kept wondering what happened to that shoe box. There was only one small box of slides that I really wanted to find, as I really had no memory of what any of the other boxes of slides contained.
The box that I really wanted to find contained photos that I took inside of the Armadillo World Headquarters on December 27, 1980, which was just 4 nights before they closed their doors forever. That box of slides was plainly marked “AWHQ 12-27-80”.
This place has played a legendary role during the 1970’s for helping to put Austin, Texas on the map as a prominent center of music – behind only Los Angeles, California and Nashville, Tennessee. Wikipedia has an excellent history of the place, as well as a pretty decent list of the bands that played there, and the albums that were recorded there over the years. Here is a link to the site that declares itself the official web site for this place that closed its doors more than 32 1/2 years ago. Under the lower left corner of the photo, click the link to “Enter The Site” and then on the left side, click on the photo that says “Performances”. The list is truly staggering in length!
I have been busy this week learning how to scan these slides on my Epson V500 scanner and using the Epson scan software that came with it. There is no metadata that I can look at to tell me anything about the settings that I used.
All I know for sure is that in late 1980 my camera was a Canon AE-1, and I had three prime lenses: a Canon FD 50mm f/1.8 lens, a Canon FD 100mm f/2.8 macro lens, and a Canon 200mm f/2.8 lens. I am not sure which lens that I used for which photo that I am about to show you. I also had a Canon Speedlite 199A external flash, and you can tell that I used it (in the hot shoe) to illuminate several of the photos of the artwork (but certainly did NOT use it to photograph the bands). The slide film was Kodak Ektachrome, and I am guessing that it was ASA (ISO) 64.
The ticket stub shown at the top of this post says that the show started at 9:00 PM, and my first wife and I arrived well before that. We were probably one of the very first people in through the door, and nobody said anything about me bringing in a camera with a large lens attached. It never occurred to me that they might not allow that, either.
I took my first photo of the stage, while the first band was still checking out their sound settings, and before any other customers parked themselves in my field of view.
Reminder: You can always view any photo at a larger size by just clicking on it. You will then need to use your browser’s “Back Button” to return to my story.
I remember that the first time I came to The ‘Dillo was in the spring of 1974. I remember that, because I remember the 3 other guys who I came with – we all lived next to each other in the dormatory at UT. I do not remember which band that we saw, however. I do know that we were all very impressed with the whole “experience” that we had that evening. I knew that I would be back!
The artwork on the walls was somewhat “iconic”, and that was the main reason that I wanted to bring my camera into The ‘Dillo.
This large canvas painting was hung high and to the right of the stage. My memory says that someone once told me that was Freddy Fender in the photo above, but I must admit that I really don’t know who it is. I just thought it was pretty cool! That canvas is probably 10 or 12 feet across.
The photo above was high and to the left of the stage. This is the legendary blues man, Freddy King. I guess he represented the heart and the soul of the Armadillo.
The women’s restroom was located to the left of the stage, and the door was in plain view of everyone in attendance. That door is in the lower right corner of this huge painting on the wall.
I walked to the back of the “concert hall”, where one of the two bars was located. This photo is exposed for the neon signs, but you can still see the pitchers all stacked up and ready to be filled with beer. On a “good night”, you had to hang onto your pitcher, as they would run out at the bar and then you could only order by the bottle (oh no!).
OK, so that’s all of the photos that I took before the first band came out on stage. I really do not remember who they were.
I do remember that the photo above was taken from our seats, which were the first row of metal folding chairs. Everyone in front of us was sitting on old beer stained carpet remnants scattered all over the floor. You can see that in the next photo, which I took during the intermission.
The 20 or 30 minutes between the two bands was usually enough time to get your pitcher refilled, and to go to the restroom. After the men had “done their business” in the trough, and they turned to exit the restroom, here is the larger than life-size artwork that they would see.
The main event of the evening was billed as “Joe Ely – Lubbock Reunion”. I had seen Joe at least 3 or 4 times before this show and always really liked what I saw and heard. I know that even today I still have a couple of his vinyl records and at least a half a dozen of his CD.
Lubbock, TX is the home of Texas Tech University, and is located exactly 400 miles northwest of Austin. Lubbock has been, and still is, the home of several highly respected musicians. Buddy Holly (and The Crickets) was from there. Later on Joe Ely, Butch Hancock, and Jimmie Dale Gilmore formed a band they called The Flatlanders.
Lloyd Maines, was also born and raised in Lubbock, and supposedly has appeared more times than any other musician on the Austin City Limits television show. He’s the master musician playing the pedal steel guitar!
OK, so it’s time for the main act, and here’s one of two photos that I took of them from my seat.
That’s Joe Ely playing guitar in the center, and Lloyd Maines is seated just to Joe’s left (your right). I guess I knew that if I was going to get any decent photos, I was just going to have to get up out of my chair and work my way into the crowd.
That’s Butch Hancock sharing the microphone with Joe Ely. The next photo shows them together, as well as a better shot of Lloyd Maines on the pedal steel guitar.
I’m going to stop typing now, and just show the best 6 of the last 9 photos that I took while they played.
Wow, what a show! Being that close to the stage, the wall of speakers to either side of you just resonant right through to your sole.
After the show, and the lights were turned back on, I realized that there was another piece of artwork that I had missed.
The Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers were always watching over the crowd at The Armadillo World Headquarters!
Last night after I had finished scanning this box of slides, I was really in a nostalgic mood. I got out my box of ticket stubs that I have saved over the years. I think I found all of the ticket stubs that I have from The ‘Dillo. This is certainly not all of the shows that I saw there – these are just the ticket stubs that I saved.
The Armadillo World Headquarters wasn’t the only honky-tonk that I would go to in the 1970’s. But The ‘Dillo was where you could go and drink your pitcher of beer right in front of the stage with all of the other cosmic cowboys. And in the 1970’s there wasn’t any other honky-tonk that I was aware of that everyone was welcome: hippies, cowboys, UT students, working people. In all the times that I went there, not once did I ever see, or even hear about, a fight. Not once did I ever feel unsafe or threatened. With all of beer that was consumed there, that just doesn’t seem possible today!
Thank you for stopping by and visiting my blog today.
4 thoughts on “The Armadillo World Headquarters – December 27, 1980”
“nobody said anything about me bringing in a camera with a large lens attached”
I used to take a camera to one of those summer tent stage show places. I have tons of stuff somewhere – Tom Jones, Englebert, Liberace, Joan Rivers. You could get a season ticket to the shows for almost a song back then. Some day I’m going to have to find that box of slides.
And I used to get questions – why would you even want to bring a camera like that? All you used to see back in those days were the people with their Kodak 126 Instamatic and the flashcubes on top. And if you had even a smidgeon of advanced camera knowledge, you knew that when they got the film back it would be mostly a black frame. With maybe a white blob if they were lucky.
I love that artwork for the ladies rest room – funky! The neon shot is great.
This looks like one of those fine old places that you probably wouldn’t want to see in daytime with all the lights turned up 😉
Gregg, A great review on the Amardillo World Headquarters – I loved it as I never got there before it closed! I wonder why such a fabulous part of Austin disappeared? What a shame…but thanks for a good look at it so many years later. I hope you find more of those shoeboxes!
I’ve heard a lot about this classic Austin venue. Long gone by the time I got to Austin.
The AWHQ was certainly different than anything in Austin at the time, or since. I think that it has some influence on what got people to start thinking about Austin as something “unique”.
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