Art&Seek presents This Week in Texas Music History. Every week, we’ll spotlight a different moment and the musician who made it. This Week in Texas Music History, we’ll visit a club that played a key role in desegregating the Texas music scene.
You can also hear This Week in Texas Music History on Sunday at precisely 6:04 p.m. on KERA radio. But subscribe to the podcast so you won’t miss an episode. And our thanks to KUT public radio in Austin for helping us bring this segment to you. And if you’re a music lover, be sure to check out Track by Track, the podcast from Paul Slavens, host of KXT’s The Paul Slavens Show, heard Sunday night’s at 8.
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On Nov. 3, 1944, jazz trumpeter Don Albert opened the Keyhole Club in San Antonio. Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington and other musical icons played there, along with Texas artists, T-Bone Walker and a young Doug Sahm. The club also showcased such local performers as “Iron Jaws,” a man who lifted tables with his teeth, and Peg Leg Bates, who tap-danced on a wooden leg. The Keyhole Club drew criticism from some, because it welcomed a mixed-race audience of whites, blacks, and Hispanics who came to hear blues, R&B, and jazz.
City officials tried to shut down the Keyhole Club, because it violated local segregationist laws. However, Don Albert took his case to the Texas Supreme Court and won. The Keyhole Club continued to feature artists and audiences from all ethnic and racial backgrounds, thereby helping integrate the Texas music scene and setting the stage for the emergence of such innovative and eclectic bands as the Texas Tornados.
Next time on This Week in Texas Music History, we’ll celebrate a country dance hall that helped change rock and roll history.