When my family moved to Burleson, TX in 1975 there was what seemed like a long stretch of I-35W between Fort Worth (a real city) and my new home. Of course, it was only about a 6 mile trip, but the differences were palpable.
The last sights of Fort Worth were of the “mall” formerly known as Seminary South, liquor stores, and a restaurant called The Rig complete with a fake oil rig in the parking lot. And then 6 miles or so of nothing but a few houses.
As a 5 year old, I remember the marker that told me we were entering my new town. It was a tall pole with a smiley face wearing a cowboy hat perched on top and it rose from the parking lot of a dusty bar called The Western Place. (I was 5 years old. I just assumed the place was dusty.)
Of the thousands of ways this town (now city) has changed, this one landmark has remained constant.
I’ve been to the Western Place a few times back in my retail days while in my late 20s or early 30s. Before this town was “wet”, the Western Place was a close and convenient place for co-workers to gather and have a few beers to celebrate a birthday or to toast someone who was moving on to greener pastures. You see, even though the bar was in Burleson, it was also in the sliver of Burleson that was in Tarrant County where adult beverages could be served.
Conveniently, there was the Beer Barn next door – a drive through beer store. A place I frequented far too often in my youth. Alas, it is gone now – a victim of the service road becoming one way traffic only, thus making it a major hassle to stop in for beer even if all the other options required one to actually exit their vehicle.
But the Western Place still stands and is still open.
Other than schools and Thomas Conveyor, I cannot think of a single institution that has been open longer in this town than the Western Place. There has to be something, right? But even the gas stations have changed names.
Wait – Dairy Queen. But that’s the only other business I can think of.
So for my entire life in this city, that sign has stood as a beacon welcoming me home from wherever I was traveling from, even if I’ve only been inside the place a couple of times.
And this little secret called Burleson pretty much remained out of the thoughts of anyone who had never lived here. That is, until Kelly Clarkson came along and kind of put us on the map in the minds of others.
And then there was that short-lived MTV “reality” show called “My Life as Liz”. (The description per Wikipedia is as such: My Life as Liz is a mockumentary-style American comedy television series that centers on the life of Liz Lee, a misfit high-school senior living in a small town in Texas.)
Sure, there were those in town who remember the Red Hot Chili Peppers playing at the original Dalton’s Corner (a teen hangout that sold near beer) back before anyone knew who they were, let alone who they would become, but it was Clarkson who really helped lift us from anonymity.
So imagine my surprise tonight when I learned of an act that played in this town in 1979 at the aforementioned Western Place. On Nov 26 of that year, this person played at the Roxy Theatre in Los Angeles, at Rainbow Music Hall in Denver on Nov 28, and then before heading to The Palace in Houston, at the Western Place on Nov 29.
That’s right. The Western Place, whose name really describes it well, was once blessed with a performance by the one and only Prince.
What I wouldn’t give to hear stories about that night.
I wanted to write a little about Prince after his passing. I wanted to mention the songs he wrote that others performed (such as the title of this entry, the Bangles “Manic Monday”, and Stevie Nicks “Stand Back”, for example), or his absolute mastery of the guitar – something I fear is overlooked by the masses.
But, no – the way this little tribute was written kind of fits my style better.
You will be missed, Prince.