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Texas | Columns

"Hindsights" by Michael Barr

Looking back at
Cherry Spring Dance Hall

Michael Barr
The ghosts are thick as weeds in the parking lot at the old Cherry Spring Dance Hall, located on Highway 87 between Fredericksburg and Mason. Herman Lehmann established the original Cherry Spring Tavern in 1889. Lehmann was the adopted son of Quanah Parker and the second most famous Indian captive in Texas after Quanah's mother.

The place was known as Klingelhoefer Hall in the 1930s and 40s after owner Alfred Klingelhoefer, and for a time it was called the Last Chance Tavern. But the name was of secondary concern. What mattered most was the music.
TX - Cherry Spring Dance Hall
March 2016 photo © Michael Barr
TX - Cherry Spring Dance Hall
Cherry Spring Dance Hall
17662 North U.S. Highway 87, Cherry Spring, Texas
March 2016 photo © Michael Barr
A lot of people are rumored to have played Cherry Spring, including Hank Williams and Patsy Cline, but the ones who definitely played there constitute a list of music legends.

Lefty Frizzell was the headliner at Cherry Spring on March 14, 1953. A little known balladeer named Marty Robbins played there on September 16, 1953. Grand Ole Opry Stars Ernest Tubb and the Texas Troubadours played there twice: on January 27, 1962 and July 3, 1962. George Jones came to town on June 30, 1962.

Other artists who played Cherry Spring included Hank Locklin, Claude King, Charlie Walker, Hank Thompson and the Brazos Valley Boys, Tommy Duncan, and Darrell McCall. Bill Mack, WBAP's Midnight Cowboy, played there on June 4, 1977, but the gate was smaller than usual. The big crowd that night was in Luckenbach to hear a rising star named George Strait and the Ace in the Hole Band.

Although Cherry Spring's bread and butter was country music, the old hall presented a remarkable variety of entertainment. The Negro Swing Band rolled in on Christmas Eve 1941, just over two weeks after Pearl Harbor. On January 17, 1954 the hall presented King Perry and his Colored Recording Orchestra, featuring singer and dancer Del St. John. King Perry was a jazz saxophonist who played and recorded with Nat King Cole.

On March 2, 1954 Cherry Spring hosted Decca Recording Artist Johnny Long and his orchestra including 16 musicians and 4 vocalists. After paying off the band that cold Tuesday night, the hall lost a bundle.
TX - Cherry Spring Dance Hall stage where Elvis played
The stage where Elvis played
March 2016 photo © Michael Barr

But October 9, 1955 was a night for the ages. That Sunday Cherry Spring Dance Hall booked a traveling show sponsored by the Louisiana Hayride and radio station KWKH in Shreveport, Louisiana. Price of admission was $1.50.

The lineup included Sun Records recording artist Johnny Cash with Wanda Jackson - the Queen of Rockabilly, Johnny Horton, Floyd Cramer, and an unknown vocalist from Missouri named Porter Wagoner. Filling out the card that night - a three-man band featuring guitarist Scotty Moore, bassist Bill Black, and a 20 year old singer from Tupelo, Mississippi named Elvis Presley.

Advertisements called him Clovis Presley, but no one noticed the mistake until Elvis had left the building.


Michael Barr
"Hindsights" April 2 , 2016 Column

Sources:
The Llano News, October 6, 1955
Fredericksburg Standard, June 27, 1962, September 9, 1963, August 24, 1977
The Handbook of Texas, Cherry Spring Dance Hall
Brownwood Bulletin, October 9, 1955

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