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SPOTLIGHT REPORT


Before Antone's The Victory Grill was The Home of the Blues


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Photo: Victory Grill sign Photo: Victory Grill performers

When Clifford Antone -- often credited for bringing out the Blues scene in Austin -- first opened the doors to his Guadalupe Street club, Austin already had a rich history of Blues music. Another club on the Eastside of town is really where it all began.

"We're talking about Bobby ("Blue") Bland getting his start here. We're talking about B.B. King getting his start here. We're talking about Gatemouth Brown," said Rudolph Malveaux of Victory Grill Entertainment. "What's significant about all those people? They are all in the Rock 'n Roll Hall of Fame."

Photo: Victory Grill posterJohnny Homes first opened the Victory Grill in 1945 as a restaurant and bar for soldiers returning from the war. The hamburger and beer joint on East 11th Street soon became the place to be. It was hopping every weekend.

"You have to remember this was the segregated South. It was right after the Second World War and there was a lot of racial violence," says Malveaux. "Our serviceman who served our country couldn't just walk in and get a beer somewhere. So Mr. Homes built this place for the serviceman. That's why it's called the Victory Grill."

In those days Austin was segregated and Holmes had a built-in clientele. His club not only attracted East Austin residents but was popular with solders stationed at Fort Hood. It soon became a curiosity for white Austin residents as well, attracting University of Texas students and other Blues lovers.

Photo: Victory Grill performance"It is much like the legacy of Clifford Antone, it is much like the legacy of the Armadillo World Headquarters or Shoal Creek," said Harold McMillan, founder of Diversearts. "There were things that happened on East 11th Street and they won't happen again."

The Victory Grill was an authentic and it was the kind of Blues club that many other clubs have tried to imitate.

"The first time I put on a guitar and played in public as a professional was right here," said Blues musician W.C. Clark about the Victory Grill. "It was always crowded and people hanging 'round."

But to many Austinites it's not just a club. It's Austin's home of the Blues.

"Without the Victory Grill there would be no Austin music scene, period," said Malveaux.

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Produced by Elena Ramirez.

 

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