A Texas Honky-Tonk in New York City

Castle Clinton was constructed at the southern tip of Manhattan for the defense of New York City. Designed as a near-twin to Castle William on Governor’s Island, the building stopped functioning as a military base after the War of 1812. The castle was converted to an opera house, then an immigration processing center, and finally an aquarium before being named a national monument in 1946.

Today this circular red sandstone building in Battery Park serves as the ticket office for ferries going to Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty. And, for a few magical summer evenings each year, it is transformed into an open air concert hall. A portable stage is erected, folding chairs are opened, a refreshment stand set up and tickets (first-come, first-serve) distributed to the crowd that waits outside in the sun for hours.

Why do they stand so patiently in the middle of a heat wave? Simple. Because the space is intimate (only 600 seats are available), the price is right (free), and the acts are first-rate.

Today, as day turned to night, this former military fortress became a Texas honky-tonk when Joe Ely, Jimmie Dale Gilmore and Butch Hancock — also known as the Flatlanders — performed for those lucky enough to score tickets.

The sounds of these veteran country singer-songwriters had the New York City crowd clapping their hands, stomping their feet, and finally, up on their feet and happily dancing under the stars.

DSCN0718
The Flatlanders on the stage

Jimmie Dale Gilmore
Jimmie Dale Gilmore

Butch Hancock
Butch Hancock

Joe Ely
Joe Ely

Rob Gjersoe on bass
Rob Gjersoe on bass

Joe Ely singing
Joe Ely singing

Butch Hancock singing
Butch Hancock singing

Jimmie Dale Gilmore singing
Jimmie Dale Gilmore singing

New West Records: The Flatlanders
Jimmie Dale Gilmore
Jimmie Dale Gilmore – Welcome
Wikipedia: Jimmie Dale Gilmore
Joe Ely
Wikipedia: Joe Ely
Wikipedia: Butch Hancock
Castle Clinton National Monument

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5 Responses to A Texas Honky-Tonk in New York City

  1. moi says:

    i have heard that expression honky tonk so much in the country songs…what does it really mean, Annulla??

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  2. Interesting group to be sure. I like the photos you took of the individuals. Nice work.

    Abraham Lincoln
    Atomic bombs and goggles today

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  3. kalyan says:

    The pictures has been very well captured indeed & it was nice knowing about this place…very nice work!

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  4. annulla says:

    Moi, I’m not exactly sure what a honky-tonk is. However, during the show, Jimmie Dale Gilmore exclaimed, “We’re going to turn this place into a real Texas honky-tonk!” and from the crowd’s reaction, I guess they did.

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  5. A honky-tonk is a nightclub, but a special kind of nightclub, like a road house. I used to manage Joe Ely and he played at the Cotton Club in Lubbock, a long-term, road house, music venue on the edge of town. One night I fired a couple of shots from my pawn show .25 automatic into the ceiling just to warn the crowd to lighten up. A honky-tonk is a place where the smell of gunsmoke is more acceptable than at a Starbuck’s. There are a few genuine honky-tonks, like the Broken Spoke in Austin.
    I will have a novel out around Christmas that will really tell all on the Texas honky-tonks. Johnny Hughes

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