Texas Thanksgiving – Live from the Armadillo
Editor’s Note: This is a blog post that originally appeared in 2010, repeated here in case you can’t get home to the Armadillo this holiday season.
Long as I can remember, the corner of Riverside Drive and Barton Springs Road in Austin, Texas, has been a Thanksgiving Day oasis. Today of course that’s the location of Threadgill’s World Headquarters, a down-home restaurant with killer chicken-fried steak and the best tattooed waitresses in town. And yes, they are open on Thanksgiving Day: usually the place is packed by 11 a.m. and although no reservations are necessary you can expect to wait at least an hour before being seated.
This Threadgill’s is also the living descendant of the legendary Armadillo World Headquarters, the city’s top music venue in the 1970s and the spiritual heart of the Austin music scene. Many of the top touring acts of the era played there, as well as Lone Star legends like Willie Nelson, Asleep at the Wheel, Joe Ely, Janis Joplin, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Jerry Jeff Walker, Delbert McClinton and many more. One of the house favorites was Doug Sahm, the unofficial State Musician of Texas.
In 1972 Sahm decided to look up some of his friends and play a giant Thanksgiving show at the Armadillo. He enlisted a who’s who of Austin musicians and added ace keyboardist Leon Russell. Then he learned the Grateful Dead would be in town for a gig the night before; Sahm and the Dead went back a ways, so he gave them a call too.
So on November 23, 1972, Doug Sahm and his all-star band – including the Dead’s Jerry Garcia on steel guitar and Phil Lesh on bass – took the stage at the Armadillo and delivered a sonic feast of country, R&B, early rock ‘n’ roll, honky tonk, blues, bluegrass and Bob Dylan. Somebody in the house had the foresight to roll tape from the soundboard, the recording of that show has been a sought-after souvenir for many years.
Thanks to a number of sources (mainly the excellent blog The Adios Lounge) you can download and hear the entire show here. Think of it as a little thank-you gift to you, our loyal readers. Being a soundboard recording from the early 1970s, the sound isn’t perfect but it’s a great way to celebrate a holiday. The full set list is included in the download, and we’ll give you a few samples so you can decide if you want the whole meal.
Thanksgiving Jam samples
The Full Show (ZIP file)
Armadillo photo by Steve Hopson – here is his website