Texas Union, 1933-1934

East Austin, Swing, and Other Updates to ‘Athens on the Colorado’

Brian JonesJune 13, 2019

We’ve been working on some updates to our first exhibit, Athens on the Colorado: The Dominance of the Universities, 1929-1946, and are ready to share a few.

The first is a new introductory essay that sets the scene for what makes this little-remembered era of Austin music interesting. While people all around the growing city were playing a wide variety of informal and vernacular music, the universities dominated the scene. Performers from Austin were not breaking out nationally, but influential bandleaders from around the country did make their way to Austin to play for the large student population. Crucially, Jim Crow segregation shaped the geography and experience of the growing culture for music performance and enjoyment in this period.

We’ve published three new essays. “East Austin Centers of Swing: The Royal Auditorium and the Cotton Club, 817 E. 11th” traces the legacy of East 11th Street as a cultural and business center for the African American community in East Austin through these two prominent pre-World War II dancehalls, while “Swing in Austin” explores Austin’s early engagement with Swing music and connects its performance to the geography of segregation in the city. “Photos of the All University Dances: An Image Essay” collects photos from The Cactus student yearbook to recreate the environment at the University of Texas student events where most of the performances of this era took place.

We’ve also updated some existing pieces. Our essay on the Texas Union, “The Texas Union Project, Texas Oil, and the New Deal,” has been expanded to explore the role this project to solidify the university’s position as a national institution played in bringing popular music to students on campus. Both national and regional bands played the All University Dances provided to students. Our essay on these regional bands, “Territory Bands: Local Music,” has been updated with some more perspective on how these bands traveled around the state including an interactive map presenting the touring schedule for Steve Gardner and his Hokum Kings in 1930.

Local Memory is an ongoing project. We will continue to update and improve on the ‘Athens on the Colorado’ exhibit and have begun development on our second exhibit.