Stevie Ray Vaughan

A family walks in front of Austin’s historic music venue, Antone’s, on the corner of 5th and Lavaca streets on Sunday afternoon. After South by Southwest, the venue will be moving from its downtown location to East Riverside into the same complex as Emo’s East.

Photo Credit: Maria Arrellaga | Daily Texan Staff

As I drove to Antone’s at Lavaca and 5th street for an interview one night, I couldn’t help but notice the lack of parking and accessibility. The roadwork on Colorado closed half of the road, pedicabs cut in between traffic and intoxicated socialites disregarded “don’t walk” signals. Obtaining a street spot was like winning the lottery, which made paying $10 for a parking garage the better option. 

For some, Antone’s symbolizes the Live Music Capitol of the World. Few venues enjoy as much historical significance. Antone’s put Austin on the map by bringing in musicians like Muddy Waters, Fats Domino and B.B. King, not to mention helping to launch the career of the beloved Stevie Ray Vaughan. This will all change after South by Southwest.

John O’Neill, Antone’s talent buyer, has confirmed a move to the recently closed Beauty Ballroom on East Riverside, in the same complex as Emo’s East, which moved last September. Emo’s and Antone’s shared a co-owner, Frank Hendrix, until last month when he sold Emo’s to C3 Presents. 

“There’s a multitude of reasons why we’re moving, but it comes down to how this town is undergoing a huge transition,” O’Neill said. “In the last three years there’s been so much growth that it’s actually bad for our business.”  

As cranes fill our skyline and small businesses are pushed to the margins, the common denominator seems to be the condominium. Austin is becoming increasingly vertically oriented, and the rent is just too damn high.

“The dirt we’re on is worth more than what we pay in rent. And it’s haunted by ghosts of blues musicians,” O’Neill said.

In all seriousness though, what will downtown look like in the near future if we keep exporting all the good stuff? A barren landscape of high-rise condominiums and parking garages? A typified city like Dallas? In the heart of downtown, we might lose the heartbeat of music.  

Sometimes we only realize how amazing our city is when things change, and this is just another sobering reminder that nothing lasts forever. The benevolent, iconic venue that is Antone’s is a wandering entity by nature — they have moved three times already.  

“People that aren’t excited about the move don’t understand it — they think Stevie played here, and that’s not true,” O’Neill said.

For example, a KXAN news report incorrectly states that Stevie Ray Vaughan “has graced the stage here,” but Vaughan passed away in 1990, seven years before Antone’s moved to its current location.  

O’Neill insisted that the move would be beneficial for everyone. With over 400 immediate parking spots, an exploding neighborhood and condos across the street that have sold out before they’ve reached completion, Antone’s seems poised to capitalize on their new context.

And just like that, the musical landscape that brings us international recognition has drastically changed in less than a year. Other downtown venues will most likely follow suit as the East side becomes more appealing and the West side’s rent continues to climb. 

Austin is the 13th largest city by population, even though it doesn’t feel that way sometimes. We live in the fastest growing city in America, so we should expect things like this to keep happening.

As I sat in Antone’s, scanning the walls of blues memorabilia and portraits of rock stars, O’Neill concisely offered a consolatory thought. 

“Times are changing fast, man.” 

Published on March 4, 2013 as "Iconic music venue relocates". 

The Stevie Ray Vaughan statue stands next to Town Lake under a twilight sky on Monday afternoon. Vaughan was recently named one of the top 100 guitarists by Rolling Stone and he was part of the musical momentum that led Austin to be named the Live Music Capital of the World.

Photo Credit: Jorge Corona | Daily Texan Staff

Smiles came easily whenever the late Austin musician Stevie Ray Vaughan was around because of his positive spirit and the revolutionary sound of his music, said music photographer and friend Susan Antone.

“When Stevie came in the room, he just made you smile — he was really a neat, fun, creative person,” Antone said. “I don’t know anybody who didn’t like Stevie.”

Vaughan, an Austin blues-rock legend, was named 12th best guitarist in Rolling Stone magazine’s “100 Greatest Guitarists” ranking.

Antone’s brother Clifford Antone, a close friend of Vaughan’s, opened the music bar and restaurant Antone’s on Fifth Street in 1975 as a place for up-and-coming musicians to play. The restaurant, now known as one of the prime live music venues in Austin, helped launch Vaughan’s remarkable career.

Dallas-bred Vaughan dropped out of high school at age 17 to move to Austin and pursue a career in music. He formed the blues band Blackbird before joining The Cobras in 1975, a band that would become Austin’s Band of the Year in 1976.

Vaughan then became the lead singer of the band Double Trouble and circled through music clubs around Austin and Texas. Musician and record producer David Bowie saw one performance and asked Vaughan to play on his next album “Let’s Dance.”

Double Trouble released several of its own albums, the fourth of which went gold and nabbed a Grammy Award in 1989 for Best Contemporary Blues Recording.

After a Double Trouble concert in Wisconsin featuring other guitarists including Vaughan’s brother Jimmie, Vaughan boarded a Chicago-bound helicopter. It crashed minutes after takeoff, tragically killing 35-year-old Vaughan and its four other passengers on Aug. 27, 1990.

His legend was never forgotten, and Austin Music Commission vice chair Joah Spearman said Vaughan continues to influence the music scene in Austin.

“You can look at how much downtown Austin has changed since he died, but artists are still influenced by him,” Spearman said. “It speaks to the timeless nature of Stevie Ray. I think we can think of him as someone to credit for making Austin the Live Music Capitol.”

In 1994, a statue was placed at Auditorium Shores in honor of Vaughan to remind Austin of a musician who helped shape its reputation as a music-centered city, said Megan Crigger, a spokeswoman for City of Austin Cultural Arts Division.

“It’s been a huge success,” Crigger said. “Not only because we see people leaving gifts at the foot of the sculpture, but because it reinforces Austin’s reputation as the live music capital — it’s been really beneficial to Austin in that way and the reputation of having great music and supporting musicians and artists.”

Susan Antone said she remembered “Stevie Ray” as both a kind-hearted friend as well as an extraordinary musical talent.

“He was and is one of the greats, and he is not to be repeated,” she said. “He is an ambassador for Austin — every place he went, he carried the banner for Austin and for music.”

Printed on Tuesday, November 29, 2011 as: Austin icon Stevie Ray Vaughan noted as 12th best guitarist by Rolling Stone