5434 Burnet Road
Austin, TX 78756-1602
Hours: Tue-Sat 10am-2am, Sun 1pm-10pm,
Established: Early 1970’s
Written by: Robert Tomas Ellenberger
Photos by: Robert Tomas Ellenberger
No fussin’, no cussin’ and no cookie-cutter country here! What you can expect is 6 nights of roots country music and dancing. Ginny’s is a real Texas Honky Tonk; small, proud, and profound in its adherence to roots country artists, such as Dale Watson, Roger Wallace, Alvin Crow, James Intveld, Teri Joyce and many others. Ginny’s gives the purists, a place to play, and the patrons, a place to go.
And go they do, especially on big draw nights and for Chicken Shit Bingo (CSB) every Sunday. The overflow crowd often spills into the parking lot, which surrounds the bar and is fortunately “grandfathered in,” allowing for mingling with drinks and still within earshot of the band.
The history of the bar goes back over 40 years, and somewhere in that lineage it became known as The Little Longhorn Saloon. That is what it was called back in 1981, when Ginny Kalmbach began to work there for owner Dick Setliff. In 1993, when Ginny and husband, Don Kalmbach, took over ownership of the bar, they added nightly live music and Ginny’s name to the moniker, and since then, the locals simply know it as, Ginny’s Little Longhorn.
The sound system at Ginny’s is simple but dialed in, with Fender tube amps and pedal steel, fed through the venue’s PA system. When artists take a break, music is channeled through a bona
fide 8-track player, as though to emphasize the roots artists that emanate from the speakers.
Thursday through Saturday nights are busy, however, it is Sunday afternoon’s CSB anchored by Texas legend, Dale Watson (when he isn’t out on the road) that really packs the house. On any given night, you may also hear Earl Poole Ball (Johnny Cash), Redd Volkaert (Merle Haggard), Billy Dee Donahue (Johnny Paycheck), or Pete Mitchell (Ernest Tubb) fronting their own band, or joining in with other artists. The documentary Crazy Again by Zalman King, about Dale Watson, was partially filmed here, and Billy Joe Shaver, Robert Duval and partner Luciana Pedraza (A Portrait of Billy Joe) have graced Ginny’s doors. Still, it’s the plethora of local talent playing original and beloved covers that keeps Ginny’s real, and the people coming back.
Ginny’s is BYOB and a cash-only bar, serving cold beer, set-ups and snacks. Popular nights are extremely crowded. The door maintains a no-cover policy, so the artists play for tips; and the bar staff is to be commended, they get extremely busy, but be patient, they will get to you! It’s hot in the summer, and not for the claustrophobic; the dance floor is tiny, but very active. Everyone works and plays hard, so, please, tip artists and bartenders accordingly!
Ginny’s Little Longhorn, “The Honkiest, Tonkiest Beer Joint In Town!”