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19 Jun 09 White Elephant Saloon Stockyards Tradition

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The Fort Worth Stockyards is filled with history. It has a lot of state history on display, including the Cowboy Hall of Fame and Museum. Stores line the area, offering everything from bumper stickers to high-end state furniture. The stores have bars, where customers can buy longneck beer while shopping. And most importantly, the Stockyards area has music.

During a recent visit, my wife and I stopped in for a while on a Saturday afternoon at the White Elephant Saloon, located just off Main Street in the heart of the Stockyards. We were drawn inside by the sound of live music, drifting out the door and onto the walkway. I’m accustomed to live performances at night; so the draw of hearing someone perform at 2pm was too much to pass up.

When you walk into the White Elephant, you walk into a bit of Texas music history. A plaque honors Al Stricklin, who walked away from the Bob Wills Band and walked into the White Elephant, playing many of Wills’ big hits there. Cowboy hats, donated by Stockyard characters, visiting celebrities, and some of the great performers who have sung there, hang on the wall. Roy Clark, Gary P. Nunn, Ray Wylie Hubbard, Red Stegall and Jack Ingram are just a few of names I noticed. The side area of the club contains shelves filled with hundreds of carved white elephants – gifts and collections, no doubt.

The day we were there, the tables were filled with customers, drinking beer and listening to Don McRay. His play list was very interesting, mixing original songs with covers, ranging from Johnny Cash’s “Folsom Prison Blues” to Ricky Nelson’s “Garden Party.” McRay was backed by a very talented group of musicians. My wife and I sat at the bar, had a couple of drinks and hot dogs, and simply had a great time.

I think the best part of the White Elephant Saloon is it is authentic. Too many clubs are built to look old and worn. This place actually IS old and worn. I was in the men’s room when I overheard someone say, “I been coming to this place for 30 years, and this bathroom still ain’t got no bigger!” But the place is comfortable and has that western class you would look for in a saloon in the Stockyards. It’s a place where tourists and locals can mingle and have a great time.

Esquire Magazine calls this one of the 100 best bars in America. The White Elephant Saloon has live Texas music and dancing every night, and is open seven days a week. It is located at 106 East Exchange Ave. For more information, call 817-624-8273, or visit their website, www.whiteelephantsaloon.com.

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