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Thursday, June 21, 2012

Austin Opry House, 200 Academy Drive, Austin, TX

1955 Terrace Motel, Austin

Around 1950 a new Motel, The Terrace, was built, complete with large swimming pool.
The Texas Opry House (back in the 50's it was part of the old Terraces Motel) closed in December of 1974 just before the Ray Charles concert due to Willie Nelson's problems with the IRS, and reopened in late 1975 as the Austin Opry House.

Willie Nelson opened the Austin Opry House on June 28, 1977 and played for one week solid for the grand opening ceremony. The big outdoor picnic for that year never happened.

In 1978 Willie played the Opry House on July 3&4 and called it Picnic 6&7.

The picnic in 1979 moved to Willie's country club. This is the missing picnic poster. It is next to impossible to find (limited distribution) and a real collector's item. It measures about 11in by 17in and was drawn by Danny Garrett.
It is colored in Red, White and Blue and has a picture of Willie dressed as Uncle Sam pointing to you.”( Roger, e-bay)

Austin Weekly

September 21 -27, 1988
Willie Nelson has turned over ownership and management of the Austin Opera House to Tim O’Connor and Morris Lyda of Entertainment Complex, Inc. of Austin.  O’Connor has served as the manager of the downtown entertainment nightspot since it opened in 1977.

The Austin Opry House was on Academy, just a couple blocks or so east of Congress. This was one of the most rustic or dilapidated of all Austin clubs. Beer and popcorn. A '50s high school auditorium vampire movie could have been filmed here. Charm, personality and a degree of old time grit and grease made it all work.
The Opry House was right behind the last stop for Soap Creek Saloon after it had been, first out on Bee Caves and then at the old Skyline Club on North Lamar. Kind of a nice circle of clubs when you could go to the Opry House, Soap Creek Saloon and the Continental Club, all within a couple of hundred yards of each other.

The Austin music scene lost a great venue, even though the ownership followed up with the great Backyard venue in Bee Caves and the Austin Music Hall.
Austin's last great old downtown dancehall.

Demand Media is now at the Academy Drive location. It's an office building. It is now also Arlyn Studios, a recording studio owned by Willie's nephew, Freddie Fletcher.(1)

Jerry performed here on
 11/1/82 Jerry Garcia Band

1.)^1.)^Austin Opry House,


  1. You fail to mention the period of time when my Mother funded the place with her boyfriend in 1979 before it was taken from her prior to Hollywood coming to town. I cleaned the place and made popcorn and even babysat Eddie Rabbit's kids. Sad that not all is part of this history!

  2. Please email me at slipnut01 at gmail dot com

  3. I was at the Jerry show there at the Opry House, and did an interview with Johnny Winter backstage after one of his performances there. But my favorite show at the venue was "A Benefit For A Friend" to benefit bluesman Lonnie Mack. Stevie Ray Vaughan, The Fabulous Thunderbirds, and Lonnie Mack all performed separately with their bands, and then together in various combinations. One highlight was "Tin Pan Alley w/ the brothers Vaughan...Jimmie's rhythm guitar sounded like a Hammond B3! Incredible (and long) show.

  4. I lived in the former motel which had by 1976 had been turned into apartments. It was party central with the Opry House and the Backstage Bar & Grill. Good times !!!

  5. I lived in the apartments about 1980. Loved the unique look of what used to be a motel. My unit was almost below ground. So sad it's all gone now.

  6. Favorite Opry House event: Guy Clark, Rosanne Cash, & Rodney Clark, all acoustic, sitting in a circle singing each others songs.
    Don't know the year, but I wish someone would find a tape, remix it, and release it.

  7. It is sad that it’s not already part of the history. But only you can now make it a part of the history. Tell your story.

  8. Weren't they sued by some suits in Nashvilee for using "Opry" so had to change it to "Opera" ?

  9. saw some good shows there like the Lonnie m benefit and George t and the destroyers one time willie played a show the night of jan 1 it was packed but everyone was so hungover you coulda heard a pin drop they closed 2 of the 3 bars

  10. I lived across Academy from it in the mid 80s. 1 of my complex mates and I used to sell parking spaces in our tiny lot(we all parked elsewhere in the neighborhood to gain space). IIRC we made $140 or so on our best night.

  11. I remember Big Country played there and the concert was recorded live by Westwood One. It was circa 1985. My girlfriend recorded it for me on cassette. Listened to that for years. I always wondered where this place was

  12. One of fondest memories in my late teen, early twenties is the Opry house. Did any one else remember going to see Dana Carvey, and he did "Church Chat" of Saturday night live fame. Could it be.....SATAN!!!classic stuff. Bittersweet memories of a place that should have been protected as a historical marker in Austin's glory days.

  13. The backstage bar was the last time I hallucinated. Saw the Supernatural Family Band and could barely handle it. Afterwards, we went to one of the nearest apartments and I sat on a couch trying to keep it together. I tried to get help from the chick next to me for an hour. Not knowing it was at the time an unknown Lucinda Williams who just got to town. Austin rocked.

  14. one time at the backstage on a week night about 1 am billy joe was playing to about a dozen of us drunks joe ely and john prine came in and joined him for a few songs boy howdy

  15. I saw Tina Turner there just before her comeback Private Dancer. Maybe 150 persons there. I was on 2nd row, but then we all just crowded around the front of the stage. Tina gave us the same level of performance she gave to tens of thousands later. Would like to know the date of performance, talk to anyone who was there, find an announcement. Tina is the best. Helen

  16. Saw J. Geils Band there in March 1980. It was on a weeknight and we drove up from SA. Couldn't have been more than 50 people. They put on an incredible show.

  17. Saw Taj Mahal there. Great show. Very intimate.