Honky-Tonk Days In Arizona

Come dance and fight to the music of Buddy Long.


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Gone are the “bulls  messing with the heifers” at Sarg’s Cow Town, Abel Hall, the Matador, Chester’s, Riverside Park Ballroom, JD’s and Mr. Lucky’s.

Phoenix Madison Square Garden was the most recent loss, torn down in 2005, to be replaced by a nondescript office building.

Buddy Long outlived them all. He was the ticket to the honky-tonk scene that twanged in Phoenix, Arizona, in the 1950s and early 1960s.

“Slowly, I’m falling more in love with you...” Buddy Wheeler’s steel slides Buddy Long and his Western Melody Boys into the Webb Pierce favorite. A tall, lanky, Louisiana-born, 25-year-old redhead, his cowboy hat cocked back, stands on the stage. Dressed in a flowery cowboy shirt, cowboy pants and boots, Buddy leans into the microphone. Dancers join together close; be it love for a lifetime or one night. The song echoes the post-WWII honky-tonk scene in Phoenix; “Slowly, you’re winning a heart that can be true.”

The honky-tonk scene in Phoenix included a litany of clubs and dance halls. Vern & Don’s, where Frankie Starr gave Glendale’s Marty Robbins his start. The Stag, Sciotts Ballroom, the Cactus Garden, the Bridge. The raucous Sarg’s Cow Town, where the Russian farmers from Glendale awaited their Saturday night fight with the cowboys. The nearby Riverside Park Ballroom, where thousands danced to Bob Fite and his Western Playboys. The Silver Saddle where Johnny Dakota sang. Chester’s in Glendale. Saturday nights at Madison Square Garden, where a young Phoenix disc jockey, Ray Odom, promoted big-name Country artists appearing in the Garden’s wrestling ring. The...

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