Photography: John T. Floore's Country Store

The “Quintessential Texas Honky Tonk” in Helotes, Texas, is celebrating its 75th anniversary.

They’re having a 75th anniversary celebration this weekend in Helotes, Texas, at John T. Floore’s Country Store, the celebrated dance hall and café often described as “The Quintessential Texas Honky Tonk.” And the guest of honor is no less a luminary than Willie Nelson, one of several legendary country music stars who have graced the Floore stage since the venue opened its doors in 1942.

Willie Nelson & Family will be performing sold-out shows Friday and Saturday, October 6 – 7. But wait, there’s more: Other Floore mainstays booked for upcoming shows as part of the dance hall’s anniversary celebration include The Randy Rogers Band (October 14) and Robert Earl Keen (November 3).

“There’s a lot of history attached to this place,” says Floore’s Country Store co-owner and talent buyer Mark McKinney. “And a lot of acts have their own history here. You could say these three particular acts each represent a different generation of our history.

“Willie’s association with Floore’s is as big a reason as any — maybe the biggest reason, period — that we’re still around here after 75 years. Willie’s been playing here for over 60 of those years, and he’s always, always welcome.”

Robert Earl Keene “would be next on the list,” McKinney says, “since he’s been playing here for, oh, about 25 years. And he recorded one of his most popular albums [No. 2 Live Dinner], a live album, here. We had an anniversary celebration for that album last year — and he recorded another live album [Live Dinner Reunion] that night.

“And then you have the next generation represented by The Randy Rogers Band. They’ve just huge down here — they’ve sold the place out dozens of times. And they also recorded a live album, and a DVD, here.”

Among the other notables who are Floore regulars: The Bellamy Brothers (who are scheduled to perform at the venue Dec. 15), Dwight Yoakam, Lyle Lovett, and Cody Johnson. Over the past seven decades, Floore’s Country Store also has hosted  such iconic performers as Bob Wills, Ernest Tubb, Patsy Cline, Hank Williams, Elvis Presley, Bob Dylan, Jerry Lee Lewis, Merle Haggard, Ray Price, George Jones, and Waylon Jennings.

“If you grew up in this area like I did,” McKinney says, “coming to shows at Floore’s is kind of a rite of passage. And I definitely think, judging from our ticket sales, that we have people travel from throughout the state, and sometimes from throughout the country, to see shows here.”

Little wonder, then, that Texas Monthly has proclaimed visiting John T. Floore’s Country Store one of “50 Things Every Texan Should Do.”

“I love John T. Floore's,” says Mickey Raphael, the harmonica master who has performed with Willie Nelson for more than 30 years. “I remember playing there in 1973 when the stage was just — well, it was tiny. I mean, it was as big as a matchbook. We barely could fit, so we just crammed together on stage. The good thing was, at that time, we didn't have a lot of gear. And, you know, over the years, it’s been one of my favorite venues.”

Raphael is looking forward to the Friday and Saturday shows at John T. Floore’s. He admits, however, that he kinda-sorta misses the rowdiness that was typical of the place ages ago.

“Back then,” Raphael says, “the signs on the walls outside said ‘$100 Fine for Fighting,’ because when people get together and they have a great time and there's a little alcohol involved, sometimes disagreements might turn into a fight. And I remember there was one fight that broke out, and some guy in the crowd pulled out a hundred-dollar bill and said, ‘Let them keep fighting.’”

“And you have to remember — back in 1973, 100 bucks was a lot of money, you know?”

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