Waco History: Walker's Auditorium with Tina Turner, James Brown, B.B. King...

1,241 Views | 14 Replies | Last: 3 mo ago by Goose70
Edmond Bear
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Just after WWII and through the 70's, Walker's Auditorium was the epicenter of black entertainment in Waco. Featuring a well-known house band and hosting acts like Etta James, Ike & Tina Turner, James Brown, and B.B. King, the nightclub connected Waco (black, white, local, Baylor students) to black culture in America.

With elegant furnishings and big-time musicians, the Auditorium was part of the 'Chitlin' Circuit', a network of black-owned nightclubs and businesses which featured black entertainers who were prevented from playing in white-only clubs.

Sitting in East Waco, just north of Waco Drive, Walker's Auditorium was more than an entertainment venue. It hosted large business meetings, debutante balls, parades and other events.







Eventually, competition from other venues, the closing of James Connally Air Force base, and the civil rights movement ushered in the closing of Walker's Auditorium. Today, nothing remains of the building.


source: Waco History - https://wacohistory.org/items/show/211?tour=7&index=4

For a location map, audio interviews and more information, check out the link above.

note: I am not a part of the Waco History organization. I just love history and Waco and the Waco History website is fantastic.
Bexar Pitts
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Waco also had "The Red Carpet" and "The Spot", two well known R&B clubs just off the Old Dallas Highway. These two clubs, although very near to each other, both drew large crowds and often featured name entertainers on weekends. Lots to do in old Waco back in the day!
Old300Bear
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Went dancing at Walker's a few times while a student at Baylor.
Fred Barber
Stranger
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I was there one night to see Joe Tex and they had a "skinny legs" contest in conjunction with Joe's hit song "Who'll Take the Woman With the Skinny Legs?".

The show featured about a dozen contestants with the skinniest legs I've ever seen. Joe sang to the winner, "I'll take that woman, skinny legs and all".

Many Pearl Beers were consumed. Fun experience. Sorta like the scene in Animal House. Except everybody got along.

Out on Clifton Street. A lot of Baylor students went there. Different times, for sure.
I'm a Bearbacker
drahthaar
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Walker's is one institution that needs to be reconstructed and well-funded!
FrankFallonCalling
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Now do Abraxas.
MrGolfguy
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What was the address of Walker's Auditorium? Are those apartments next to it still there?
CTbruin
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On Clifton St. just north of Waco Dr

The Walkers building is gone. Just raw land
MrGolfguy
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What's next to the land now?
4yrletterbear
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We had a group that went there a number of times. They had a "white" table in the back for us to sit at.
Bexar Pitts
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4yrletterbear said:

We had a group that went there a number of times. They had a "white" table in the back for us to sit at.
My guess is that your group never had a problem inside Walkers..For many years, Cleveland "Big" Smith was a "special" McLennan County deputy that basically assisted with most security details for events east of the Brazos. He was/is legendary to those of us who were/are permanent residents of the County. His physical size and reputation as the "Man" almost always calmed any situations that happened to arise, and the crowd paid attention to his "directions." Nobody had more radio antennas on their vehicle than Big Smith's Ford, and he was called many times by many different agencies for assistance. I don't know whether or not he's still with us, but I hope Waco and McLennan County both have expressed their gratitude for his unparalleled years of service.
Nguyen One Soon
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Bexar Pitts said:

4yrletterbear said:

My guess is that your group never had a problem inside Walkers..For many years, Cleveland "Big" Smith was a "special" McLennan County deputy that basically assisted with most security details for events east of the Brazos. He was/is legendary to those of us who were/are permanent residents of the County. His physical size and reputation as the "Man" almost always calmed any situations that happened to arise, and the crowd payed attention to his "directions." Nobody had more radio antennas on their vehicle than Big Smith's Ford, and he was called many times by many different agencies for assistance. I don't know whether or not he's still with us, but I hope Waco and McLennan County both have expressed their gratitude for his unparalleled years of service.

Big Smith was a legend. Lots of memories of him, but my favorite happened one very cold night in 1975 or '76. I was visiting (another story) in the dispatcher's office of the MCSO on the first floor of the Annex. Smith had brought someone to be booked, then pulled around to park between the Court House and the Annex. He came into the dispatch office and had some coffee.
About five minutes after he left, he came charging back in, "carrying" a guy by the scruff of the neck. The guy's feet touched the floor about every third step that Smith took. Being cold, and a bit drunk, he had gotten into the back seat of Smith's warm car and gone to sleep. As Smith drove down the alley, he braked for the dip just before 5th street. That woke the guy up and he asked, "Where we going?"
By the way, Smith was a few tones lighter when he came back in.
Bexar Pitts
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That's a great story! I've got a mental visual on it! Thanks for sharing...
Ivy_Twin
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Our maid growing up who helped raise me(miss that lady) owned a chitlin circuit bar on Elm with her late husband long before I came into the picture. She said they had big time acts come through but that owning it was beyond a head ache. Wish she was alive so I could ask her the name. She used to tell me of how kicking Elm used to be.
Goose70
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Will never forget going Walkees as BU student. My first visit was encouraged by a Ridgewood CC locker room guy, Billy. I didnt even think about there being a hint of trouble for a group of white kids goung there. For sure there was no color barrier of any kind. I hadnt thought about Walkers Aud for many, many years but this thread sure did make me recall some great times. Eventually became a pretty regular spot for Delta Sigma Pi guys and msn did we think we were cool. I dont recall any thought of needing ID card to buy plenty of cold beer.
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