New book remembers heyday of Armadillo World Headquarters

Co-authors Eddie Wilson and Jesse Sublett pose with their new book, "Armadillo World Headquarters: A Memoir" (Courtesy Eddie Wilson)
Co-authors Eddie Wilson and Jesse Sublett pose with their new book, "Armadillo World Headquarters: A Memoir" (Courtesy Eddie Wilson)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — An iconic music venue in Austin shut down 37 years ago — but the stories of the unique hangout, Armadillo World Headquarters, are living on in a new book written by one of its former owners and a musician who used to play there.

The venue opened in 1970 and hosted a variety of bands as the punk scene made its way to Austin. The concert hall and beer garden at the old National Guard armory at the corner of South First Street and Barton Springs Road was also known for being tolerant toward marijuana and psychedelic drug use.

“I’m sorry there’s nothing in the book that’s television appropriate,” joked former owner Eddie Wilson during an interview on KXAN News Today. He and Jesse Sublett wrote the book “Armadillo World Headquarters: A Memoir.”

Willie Nelson, Ry Cooder, Captain Beefheart, Taj Mahal, Dr. John the Night Tripper, Frank Zappa, the Flying Burrito Brothers and the New Riders of the Purple were some of the bands that played there. Sublett did, too — in the first two punk bands to play in Austin. He said the reaction was often mixed.

“At our gigs, we’d have some really enthusiastic people just eating it up, and then a lot of just hostility — fights would break out, people would throw things at us,” Sublett said.

Wilson said the Armadillo was unique — it even had a nursery inside for children to spend time while parents enjoyed the music. While Austin’s music scene still thrives, Wilson said it would be impossible to replicate what they did in the 1970s.

“I don’t think it would happen today, simply because of the rent,” Wilson said. “Cheap rent is what got the scene in Austin started.”

Wilson also currently owns Threadgill’s World Headquarters at 301 W. Riverside Drive. Wilson said downtown real estate is skyrocketing.

“Nobody knows the future,” Wilson said. “That’s why we get up every day.”

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