One For The Ages: Charley Crockett’s $10 Show at The Broken Spoke

According to The Broken Spoke, only two times since 1964 have people been allowed to crowd in front of the stage as opposed to leaving it open for two-steppers. The first time was when Garth Brooks played the legendary Austin, TX dance hall in 2017. The second was Monday night, April 29th, when Charley Crockett took the stage to a beyond capacity crowd, and brought the house down.

An opportunity to see Charley Crockett at The Broken Spoke, and for a $10 cash-only fee, that was enough to have some brave individuals starting a line the night before. By the time 5:30 p.m. rolled around when they opened the restaurant, the line already snaked around the building, down the street, and around the adjacent condominium complex that looms over The Spoke like an impending gargoyle of gentrification.

Luckily, The Broken Spoke has been historically designated, preserving it forevermore. And after Monday night, the Charley Crockett show will go down in the venue’s long and storied history that has seen the likes of George Strait and Willie Nelson start their careers on the stage, and has seen performances by Bob Wills, Ernest Tubb, and Kitty Wells to name a few.

The day started for Charley Crockett a ways down Lamar St. at another Austin landmark, Waterloo Records. This is where performers regularly take the stage to promote new album releases. Folks who attend these free shows vouch they’ve rarely seen an artist at the capacity of Charley Crockett keep this tradition. But that is part of the philosophy of Crockett’s rollout of his new album $10 Cowboy, which is all about telling the story of how he went from a street busker to the big time, and how he intends to hold onto his humility along the way.

Right on cue, after Crockett played the Waterloo stage, he stayed behind to sign LPs the crowd purchased. His handlers kept barking out that Charley had a hard 6:15 departure time. After all, the had to grab some grub and hoof it over to The Spoke for the evening’s performance. But Crockett didn’t care. He stayed at Waterloo getting a cramp in his hand and signing everything presented to him, patiently talking to fans until they finally ushered him away at 7:00 o’clock.

Meanwhile back at The Broken Spoke, the venue was already filling to capacity while many hundreds of people were still left outside. The early birds were rewarded with places right up by the stage. Some played hooky from work or school, arrived hours before, and still didn’t get in. The amount of people who showed was easily in the four figure range. But it was first come, first serve.

Crockett came out on stage in a cream colored suit, while his backing band The Blue Drifters were wearing deep Broken Spoke barn red. Even before they played a single note, The Broken Spoke packed from wall to wall was a steam bath. Three songs in, Charley and the band were sweating through their stage clothes, but this only lent to the sweaty, greasy sound that Charley Crockett throws down, sliding between straight country, blues, and vintage R&B.

The Broken Spoke stage was so cramped by The Blue Drifters, keys/trumpet player Kullen Fox had to set up his consoles facing opposite directions pilot and bombardier style instead of at a 90-degree angle. You could fit an index card between the crown of Crockett’s Stetson and the decrepit ceiling tiles of the Broken Spoke ceiling, but nothing more. The closeness of the crowd and the energy of the room resulted in one of the most inspired sets for Charley Crockett you’ll ever see.

The stage banter was all about Charley Crockett’s long road to success, how he started busking outside of places like The Broken Spoke and Gruene Hall, hoping some day he would get to play them, let alone blow them out with a legendary show like the one Monday night. He paid special tribute to Jon Folk, and early believer in Crockett who started the booking agency Red 11, recently acquired by WME.

And yes, an entire camera/production crew was on site, so don’t be surprised if extensive videos, or an entire live album/film come from the experience.

“Austin, TX. Broken Spoke. I won’t let you down, you folks know that. Thank you so much. I’d be nothing without y’all. See you next time,” Crockett said at the end of “Just A Clown” before walking off stage. As the place started chanting “Charley! Charley!” he’s return to play a couple of quick acoustic numbers before finishing up with the band playing “Good At Losing” and “Paint It Blue” (see full set list below).

The song “Good At Losing” is from the new $10 Cowboy album, and pretty much sums it up.

They laughed at me in New York City
Called me a fool in L.A
I doubt that Nashville saw me comin’
Besides the bar folks workin’ late

Charley Crockett’s whole career hasn’t been about talking himself up or showing off. It’s been about admitting that he came from humble beginnings, and has had to work his ass off to earn everything that has come to him. He’s a “$10 Cowboy.” He’s “Just a Clown.” Even when people saw they crowds assembled for Crockett outside the Broken Spoke, some chided him as overrated. But nobody can question the success he’s found, and how he’s done it his own way.

It’s hard work that has put Charley Crockett in a bus, with another bus for his band, and a semi truck hauling around their gear, all of which were parked behind The Broken Spoke on Monday. But as Charley Crockett proved throughout the day, he’s not there to show he’s better than anyone else. He’s there to validate that hard work has rewards, that he’s still willing to work to prove that he’s worth a $10 entry fee.

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All photos by Kyle “Trigger” Coroneos. For more media and live coverage, follow Saving Country Music on Instagram.

Keys/trumpet player Kullen Fox

Guitarist Alexis Sanchez

Bass player Jacob Marchese

Drummer Mayo Valdez

Charley Crockett and the Blue Drifters (Nathan Fleming on steel guitar)
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