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2013-05-02

Iconic Silver Dollar celebrates 45 years

By Mary Allyce Special to the Courier

A sign at Arkey Blue's Silver Dollar proclaims, "What happens at the Silver Dollar, stays at the Silver Dollar" and the memorabilia crowded walls have undoubtedly seen a lot in 45 years. One thing's certain - all of what's gone on over those 45 years has played out to the backbeat of the music folks come to hear at a true Texas honky tonk.

Arkey and the Silver Dollar will celebrate 45 years of togetherness on Saturday, May 4, and everyone is invited.

Arkey Blue took ownership of the Silver Dollar on May 1, 1968, after stints recording and performing in Nashville; at Lost Valley Dude Ranch, where he wrangled dudes and entertained; and a stab at employment in Kerrville. "I was goin' broke playing all the dingy dives," he said of his music career back in South Texas . "Bill Henry was president of Bandera Bank and he told me the Silver Dollar was for sale. I said, 'I only got $125 dollars in your bank,' and he said, 'Yeah, but I'm the president.' Took me 15 years to pay it off. I mowed grass for the highway department until the joint started picking up. It's been good to me."

Once on stronger financial ground, he hired the first "Blue Cowboys Band" - Ceasare Masse, violin; Phil Trimble, fiddle; Wes Butler, steel guitar; Saul Cantu, drums; and Doug Livingston, vocals and bass. The current incarnation of the Blue Cowboys includes Gary Lewis, front and bass; Dale Burkett, lead guitar and vocals; Mark Wright, drums; Don Daily, steel; and Mr. Blue himself on Saturday nights. With typical generosity, Arkey added, "Be sure to mention all the years Gary Maddox played steel."

The building, originally named The Foxhole, dates back to the 1890s and there was a lot of work to be done. "It was half this size," Arkey recalled. "Where the dance floor is, it was boarded up." Indicating the side wall where the bar originally stood, he said, "I moved the bar to where it is now."

On any given day, Europeans, Australians, South Africans, Canadians, Japanese, people who want to experience a real western honky tonk and maybe dance a step - or two - join visitors from all across the United States. Toss in an assortment of colorful local characters, eclectic décor and museum-quality memorabilia like the Hank Williams Sr. signed table, and it's no surprise the Silver Dollar catches the imagination of film and television productions. Canadian, British, Japanese, French and Swedish producers are just some drawn to this iconic setting.

Musicians, too, are honored to take the stage at the Silver Dollar. Willie Nelson, Earnest Tubb, Lefty Frizell, Hank Williams Jr., Johnny Bush, Mo Bandy, Bruce and Charlie Robison, Darrell McCall, Jake Hooker, Frenchie Burke and many others have stepped up to the mic. The stage belongs to Arkey Blue, however.

He and The Silver Dollar, named "Legendary Venue" in 2012 by the Bandera Music Hall of Fame, are inseparable. The man and his music have defined the term "honky tonk" for 45 years to a worldwide audience.

On Saturday, May 4, the party starts in the afternoon and will run well into the night. Everyone is invited to the celebration to honor the man and his historic venue.



Pictured: Bandera music legends, Arkey Blue and Doug Livingston, performed at a showcase for the Bandera Music Hall of Fame.

Vivian Schmidt and Arkey Blue at a celebration for a previous Bandera Music History Project Hall of Fame induction ceremony.


Recognize those steps? They lead to Arkey Blue's Silver Dollar. Drop by Bandera's iconic watering hole at 308 Main Street for a 45th anniversary party, kicking off the afternoon of Saturday, May 4.