Gruene Hall - Texas Oldest Dance Hall
Gruene ( pronounced "green") Hall is legendary. Not just because it's the oldest, continually operating dance hall in the state of Texas, but also because it has served as both a starting point and a warm limelight to some of the most prolific talent in American history. It has helped to launch the careers of such musicians as George Strait, Lyle Lovett and Hal Ketchum, among others.
The famous stage has also welcomed the likes of Bo Diddley, The Dixie Chicks, Jerry Lee Lewis, Garth Brooks and Willie Nelson. Gruene Hall has gone from hosting badger fights in the 1870s to being featured in such notable publications as Forbes, Newsweek and Women's Wear Daily. It has been the site of famous birthdays, such as baseball great Nolan Ryan's 50th, and the location of numerous music videos, commercials and movies. Of special note, the dance scene for the movie "Michael" starring John Travolta was filmed at the Hall.
It all started over 130 years ago, when Heinrich Gruene built a dance hall and saloon in the 1870's. Providing entertainment for the tenants and surrounding farmers, Gruene Hall became the center of the community's social life.
The town of Gruene (which is now a part of New Braunfels) had been established on the Guadalupe River for the operation of the steam operated cotton gin, and by 1872 over 8000 acres were under cultivation. The Dance Hall was built along with a store and saloon for the local farmers, and hosted barn dances and fandangos on Saturday nights until the 1950's, when the town dried up and nearly vanished.
Restored in 1979, the hall has inspired the entire town to be restored to its 1880's appeal. Many artists from all over have played this monument to Texas Music, including Jerry Jeff Walker, George Strait, Lyle Lovett, Joe Ely, Robert Earl Keen, The Fabulous Thunderbirds, Hal Ketchum, Bruce and Charlie Robison, Willie Nelson, Merle Haggard, Kinky Friedman, Billy Joe Shaver, Ray Wylie Hubbard, Loose Diamonds and Sisters Morales.
Gruene contains the best of all the things to love about Texas: cold beer, an old dance hall, an eclectic mix of people, picnic tables, music, an almost imperceptible breeze, and talking with good friends who become even better friends by the night's end.
"Gruene Hall was always the social center of the town, and it's really not changed over the years," Gruene Hall co-owner Mary Jane Nalley said about the small venue near New Braunfels. "It's still the social center after 130 plus years of time being passed. It's sort of the heartbeat of the little town."
The rambling dance hall and bar still looks the way it did a hundred years ago. I recently went up there to see Pure Prairie League, and it looked the same as it did 20 years ago. Gruene Hall has hosted practically anyone who's anyone in the history of country music. It's where George Strait and the Ace in the Hole Band played for almost six years before anyone in Nashville would give them a break.
The legacy of Gruene Hall continues to grow with the best live music featured year-round. This month the hall hosts Hal Ketchum's 4th Annual Gruene Reunion on September 23rd, and the Joe Ely Band on September 30th.
About half of the members of the Texas Hall of Musical Excellence have performed at Gruene Hall, and it deserves to be included here. GATOR