The Broken Spoke Bus for the Texas Top Hands Western Swing Band

    Newer Older

    Outside of the famous Broken Spoke in Austin, Texas, sits this old, dilapidated bus. I don't know how long this thing has been sitting there, but it looks like quite a while. If it wasn't for the rust, I guess you can assume its age from the phone number only having 7 digits. Remember that? 7-digit phone numbers now seem so quaint, like browsers without tabs.

    I wonder if this bus still works. I know we have a lot of smart Texas readers who can probably tell us the answer to that little piece of trivia! Under the photo of the bus, I put up the older picture of the Broken Spoke dance hall that was taken about 20 minutes later as the sun was finishing it's daily duties.

    from the blog at

    Sunneschii, gedal, Enoch Yong, and 47 other people added this photo to their favorites.

    View 19 more comments

    1. Princess Stand in the Rain 69 months ago | reply

      We're so proud of our Austin Broken Spoke. Here's a bit of history about the bus. Love your work! The Texas Top Hands, one of the state's oldest continuously performing western-swing bands, debuted in 1945 with Clarence J. Sleepy Short on fiddle, George Edwin Knee-High Holley on string bass, Walter Kleypas on piano and accordion, and William Wayne Rusty Locke on steel guitar. Manager Johnny H. Curly Williams played acoustic guitar. The Top Hands had an early-morning spot on WOAI radio, which was at that time a 50,000-watt clear-channel station in San Antonio.

      The group had performed since 1941 under the name Texas Tumbleweeds. Then Bob Symonds, the former manager of the Tumbleweeds, came home from a stint with the Marines in World War II.qv When he filed a lawsuit to reclaim his band name, the group changed its name over a weekend, appearing under the old name on Friday and showing up Monday morning as the Texas Top Hands, the name that they still retain.

      They traveled to New York in 1946 to record for Savoy and to back singer–songwriter Red River Dave McEnery on his Continental recording sessions. With McEnery, the Top Hands made several film shorts in 1947. That year they also co-starred in a ground-breaking movie filmed near San Antonio. The film, Echo Ranch, departed from the usual Hollywood westerns of the day in that it used no artificial scenery but was shot in natural outdoor settings. San Antonians made up the entire cast. Longtime Top Hands manager Ray Sczepanik owns a copy of the film.

      In 1949 the Top Hands began recording on their own label, Everstate, on which they subsequently produced more than fifty recordings. The first—Bandera Waltz by O. B. Easy Adams—became a regional smash and remains a dance hall classic. The lament rode for fifty-two weeks at the top of the Hillbilly Hit Parade on KMAC. Slim Whitman, Ernest Tubb,qv Rex Allen, Jimmy Wakely, Adolph Hofner,qv David Houston, and nine other performers have recorded the song.

      Tired of seven-night-a-week performing, with the Top Hands and with a band of his own, Kleypas left the band in 1952. Rusty Locke then managed the band until 1955, when he formed his own group. That left Easy Adams as leader until 1979, when he suffered a heart attack. Ray Sczepanik replaced him and still led the band in 2009. Locke later rejoined and played with the group for several years.

      The Top Hands backed Hank Williams at his last Texas concert, on December 22, 1952, at the Macdona Shooting Club, near San Antonio; Williams died a few days later. The Top Hands have opened for or backed other well-known singers such as Webb Pierce, Tex Ritter,qv Moe Bandy, Johnny Rodriguez, Jerry Lee Lewis, George Morgan, Jacky Ward, and Mel Tillis. During the early 1950s, while the band played over radio station KABC, Gene Autry,qv William Boyd (known as Hopalong Cassidy), Wild Bill Elliot, Chill Wills, and other movie stars appeared with the band.

      The Top Hands became known throughout Texas for their many appearances at local festivals and rodeos. They were the only band to perform at the first Poteet Strawberry Festival in 1948. On April 1, 1997, Locke, age seventy-seven, returned to the festival, where he sang Milk Cow Blues and Westphalia Waltz." Other appearances include the State Fair of Texasqv in Dallas (1955), where the show was broadcast live. Again, the Top Hands were the only band to perform. They also appeared at the Southwestern Exposition and Livestock Showqv in Fort Worth, the Central Texas Fair in Temple, the Stompede and Rodeo in Bandera, Buccaneer Days in Corpus Christi; the Oil Show in Odessa, the Wool Show and Rodeo in San Angelo, the Stockman's Ball in Laredo, the Peanut Festival in Floresville, the Watermelon Jubilee in Stockdale, the Horse Show and Fair in Junction, the rodeo in El Paso, and the Pecos Rodeo (where they were a regular act from 1950 to 1976). In their heyday they performed twenty-five to thirty evenings a month. Among notable Texans in their audiences, they entertained Allan Shivers, Beauford Jester, Bill Clements, and John Connally.qv Their road trip in early 1949 promoted the first San Antonio Stock Show and Rodeo, at which they also performed. The band returned for the show's thirty-fifth anniversary under the direction of Ray Sczepanik. In 1955 the Top Hands were selected to represent the Lone Star Brewery.

      The Texas Top Hands were inducted into the Texas Western Swing Hall of Fame on May 9, 1992, in Austin. Former members of the band include Johnny Bush (drummer), Charlie Harris (guitarist), and Buck Buchanan (fiddler), all of whom later became members of Ray Price's Cherokee Cowboy Band. The band had several releases on the Melco label in the mid-1960s and three for TNT in the early 1960s. In early 2003, Kleypas and Locke were the only two surviving members of the original band. Kleypas lived at Canyon Lake with his wife, Lucille, with whom he had celebrated more than sixty wedding anniversaries. Lucille is credited with naming the Top Hands. (A "top hand" is the best worker on a ranch.) Locke lived with his wife, Cora, in Kirby, a suburb of San Antonio, where he owned and operated a television repair shop. Both Kleypas and Locke still made occasional guest appearances.

    2. china.sixty4 69 months ago | reply

      nice work - love the processing

    3. Brad Lee IV 69 months ago | reply


      Whoa! That's a lot of information. Do you write biographies for Wikipedia too?

      Who would have thought that something I might pass by and not give any thought or opinion to has that much history.

    4. susan_r4 69 months ago | reply

      Interesting shots - love the bus too and the history from Princess! What a well versed crowd on flicker!

    5. Kay Schultz 69 months ago | reply

      Cool shot and story. I always look for the properties - F8, 14 mm.

    6. neilalderney123 69 months ago | reply

      Amazing Trey
      Seen in my contacts' photos. ( ?² )

    7. D M Cooper [deleted] 69 months ago | reply

      Another great image. I've learned everything I know about HDR from your work. Also, congrats on the book!

    8. bernat... 69 months ago | reply

      Congratulations!!! your photo reach Explore Front Page
      You can download the capture in

    9. Ed Yourdon 69 months ago | reply

      Wow -- this is terrific!

    10. Deadhead Daisy 69 months ago | reply

      Excellent, wow, intriguing...I was consumed by your photostream. You are brilliant.

    11. Mario Mitsis 69 months ago | reply


      Instant fave!!!!

    12. Jose Ole 69 months ago | reply

      This is a photo still from a stop motion music video I just finished shooting at over 100 locations in Austin, TX. Check my photostream soon for the music video if you'd like!
      Victoria Noll Music Video

    13. Matt Rowles 69 months ago | reply

      This is good HD.

    14. Saveena (AKA LHDugger) 68 months ago | reply

      Cool shot!!

      I found your fantastic rust shot by searching Flickr for key words. I would be grateful if you would consider adding your wonderful picture to the Impressed By Your Beauty's weekly theme of Rust.

      And while you are at it, please join the Impressed By Your Beauty group and add your picture to our group pool!

      ~I SNIFFED out this wonderful image!
      You deserve this nose worthy award!
      Please ADD your
      Impressively beautiful
      photo to~
      Impressed by your Beauty!
      Impressed by your Beauty! (Invite only images)

      Please tag your photos ImpressedBeauty

    15. Ed Montreuil 38 months ago | reply

      As a child, I lived next door to the guy who owned that bus. I mowed his yard a couple of times for him while he was out of town playing gigs.

    16. astromood 36 months ago | reply

      Too bad the year sticker on the license plate is in bad shape or you could tell how long it's been there by that. I believe Texas started using the stickers in 1975 but I doubt it's that old.

    17. 26 months ago | reply

      I remember when the Texas Top Hands actually traveled in the bus. They would come down to my home town, Schulenburg, and play at the summer festival. I'll never forget Easy Adams and Nehi. They were great,.

    keyboard shortcuts: previous photo next photo L view in light box F favorite < scroll film strip left > scroll film strip right ? show all shortcuts