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2012-07-05

Arkey Blue - Texas Hero tried & true

By Mary Allyce Special to the Courier

When the Frontier Times Museum inducts Arkey Blue into its 2012 Texas Heroes Hall of Honor at high noon on Saturday, July 28, at Bandera County Courthouse complex as part of the National Day of The American Cowboy, it will be source of pride for all of Bandera - but no surprise to anyone. For decades worldwide, tourists, fans and friends of Arkey Blue and his Silver Dollar Saloon have known Arkey was a true Texas Hero.

Born Arkey Juenke in Fredericksburg, Arkey was playing and singing music by age 14 with The Texas Rhythmaires. By 19, he was on a path familiar to many musicians. "I was sleeping in my trailer, playing gigs for $5 and $10 a night." Arkey made his first recording, "I Had You and You Had Me" in San Antonio and wrote one of his signature songs, "Back Streets of Bandera" in a barn at Lost Valley while working as a wrangler.

During this time, a record producer noted, "You play all those blue songs ..." Arkey Juenke was rechristened Arkey Blue.

He tried Nashville. "I recorded eight songs," he said, "but they want you to move up there, want to control you." He played George Jones' Possum Hollow Club. "They liked me," he admitted, "but there's a singer on every street corner."

Nashville 's loss was Bandera's gain. Arkey came back to Bandera, worked as a wrangler at Lost Valley Ranch and played the old Bella Union Dance Hall, which he calls "a great place."

However, he also admitted to "going broke playing a lot of dingy dives," too.

In 1968, Bill Henry, former president of Bandera Bank, loaned him the money to buy the old Fox Hole Saloon. Arkey Blue renamed it the Silver Dollar Saloon and a legend was born.

He's recorded over 100 songs, written and published more than twice that number and collected fans from every corner of the United States and enjoys continued popularity overseas where he epitomizes Texas country music to many Europeans.

In 2005, Arkey Blue was the first "Living Legend" inductee into the Bandera Music Hall of Fame. In 2011, he became the first person to be inducted twice, this time as Songwriter - a fitting tribute for a man who has written more songs about Bandera than anyone.

He's arguably welcomed more folks from across the world to Bandera at the Silver Dollar, as well. "Bandera Love Affair" might be applied to Arkey's love affair with Bandera. "This is important," he's said, "It's special to be honored by your hometown. Bandera has been very good to me."

Everyone is invited to join him and his fellow inductees, Buddy Groff, Craig Cameron and Joaquin Jackson, on Saturday, July 28, as Bandera and the Frontier Times Museum return the compliment to a Bandera musician, businessman, cowboy, rancher and friend - Arkey Blue, a true Texas Hero.