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FIFTY YEARS OF DANCING AT THE STAMPEDE

by Tumbleweed Smith

Hoyle Nix loved western stuff. He was a cowboy at heart. In May of1954 when he opened his dance hall in Big Spring, he decided to call it THE STAMPEDE. It became a monument to Saturday night dances.

Hoyle was a legendary western musician. He was a fiddle player and had a band that played for weekly dances in Brownfield, San Angelo, Sweetwater, Abilene and Big Spring. Hoyle's song, BIG BALLS IN COWTOWN, was played on radio stations across the nation and has since beenrecorded by George Strait and Asleep At The Wheel. Hoyle's death in1985 was mentioned on NBC's Nightly News.

Hoyle's son Jody, who owns the Stampede now, and has a successful musical career of his own, was two years old when the dance hall opened.

"I was there, but t I don't remember much," says Jody. "It opened on May 8, 1954. Eleven hundred people paid to get in. I think the cover charge was a dollar or a dollar and a half."

When it opened, there were no tables, just benches around the wall. People came there to dance. There was a red line painted on the floor. If they weren't dancing, they had to stand behind the red line. The tables were added in 1957 or 58. That cut down on the size of the dance floor, but people could have a place to sit. There has never been any alcohol sold at the Stampede. Jody says it's always been a family place.

In the beginning, men couldn't wear their hats on the dance floor and their shirt tails had to be tucked in. Any man violating this rule was approached by the floor bouncer, usually an off-duty deputy sheriff.

The old dance floor has a few wobbles and warped spots in it now. Every once in awhile Jody has to get a hammer and knock a few nails down. But there's been many a boot sole scooted across that floor in fifty years. The Stampede has had birthday parties, wedding receptions and homecoming dances. When it was built, the walls were not finished. Hoyle just left it that way and it's like that now.

"The Stampede is not a fancy place," says Jody. "It was built to dance in. It wasn't built for looks."

Thousands of people have learned how to dance the Cotton-Eyed Joe, the Texas Two-Step, Put Your Little Foot, Waltzes, Schottisches, the Paul Jones and all kinds of western dances at the Stampede. Jody says a million people have danced there.

Some well known musicians have played at the Stampede. Bob Wills was there 4 or 5 times a year until he had his stroke in the late sixties. But people went there mostly to hear Hoyle Nix and His West Texas Cowboys, which were known all over the state.

Since 1996 Jody has put together an occasional reunion of some of the original members of Hoyle's band. When that happens, the place is packed with people of all ages. Last November's reunion was a sellout. Jody Nix and his Texas Cowboys played until 1:30 AM and didn't want to stop then. Jody is planning a big 50th anniversary celebration at the Stampede May 15th.

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