The coronavirus lockdown is being felt by businesses everywhere. The music business is facing an exceptional hardship and many venues are shutting down. Among their numbers will be the Austin, TX café and music venue Threadgill’s, a club known for helping launch the career of Janis Joplin.
Threadgill’s first opened in 1933 right after Prohibition ended. Converted from an old gas station, the venue wouldn’t see its heyday until some 30 years later when a local musician named Janis Joplin would come in for their open mic jams. Joplin was viewed as an outcast but owner Kevin Threadgill took her under his wing.
Pianist and Threadgill regular Floyd Domino fondly remembers those times. "Kenneth Threadgill, as I understand, welcomed Janis Joplin to Threadgill's and nurtured her — and this, at a time when no one liked how she looked. A lot of people didn't like how she sang. And he gave her confidence, and she ended up going out to San Francisco and the rest is history."
After Joplin went to San Francisco, Threadgill began focusing on his country music career and the venue eventually closed. However, in 1981 it was reopened by local hippie music promoter Eddie Wilson. Not only did the venue continue to feature great music, it also served terrific Southern comfort food like slow cooked ham hocks and Southern fried steak.
In addition to making delicious food, Wilson also added a great atmosphere to the venue decorating it with artifacts of Austin music culture like signed photographs, musical instruments, vintage concert posters, neon beer signs and more. Many of these were taken from when Wilson co-owned the Armadillo World Headquarters, a concert hall that helped develop the promoter’s quirky persona.
Although the venue had many successful years, business began slowing down. Food tastes had changed and the venue simply was not bringing in enough patrons. On top of that, Wilson and his wife were getting close to 80 and looking to retire. The pandemic served as a sort of ‘nail in the coffin’ if you will.
Here’s what Wilson had to say about the decision to close. "I would've never gotten around to it probably if the shutdown hadn't come along and put all the people out of work that I would have had to put out of work myself. It just felt like it was time."
Currently the property is up for sale. It will be auctioned off later in the summer. The kitchen staff is accepting offers.
Hopefully, the venue will fall into the right hands and breathe new life into the business. Until then, the world says goodbye to yet another landmark of music culture.