KUTX’s Black History Month is supported by Austin Public Health, committing to health equity.
The Victory Grill was founded in 1945 by booking agent and band manager Johnny Holmes. He opened the restaurant on V-Day as a place for black soldiers returning home from World War 2 to get a good meal.
At the time, Texas blues and jazz scenes were thriving, even though Black musicians were extremely limited in the venues they could perform. The venues throughout certain parts of the United States that allowed Blacks to perform were referred to as the chitlin circuit. The Victory grill quickly became a part of this circuit and a go-to place for music lovers.
At the height of the club’s popularity in the 50’s— most of the popular black national blues, rhythm and blues, and jazz acts that played in Austin — played at the Victory Grill. On any given night, music lovers from all walks of life would crowd the venue to see luminaries such as Ike and Tina Turner, James Brown, Etta James, Bille Holiday, and Janis Joplin. The Victory Grill was also the happening spot for a lot of popular local legends to show off their musical talents as well; Blues Boy Hubbard, W. C. Clark, and T.D. Bell were just a few of the local acts that graced the stage.
After integration, the chitlin circuit ceased to exist because black entertainers had more opportunities to perform. As a result of this, In the ’70s Holmes closed the club portion of the venue keeping only the restaurant portion open. In 1988, a fire broke out causing extensive damage to the long-standing venue. The Victory Grill was closed after the fire until a friend of Holmes by the name of RV Adams began restoration efforts and reopened the venue in 1996.
Today, the Victory Grill is one of the few standing stops on the “Chitlin’ Circuit” and it claims a spot on the National Registry of Historic Places. The venue is also listed on the National Register of Historic Places and archived by the Texas Historical Commission. Until this day, the establishment continues to thrive; offering southern comfort food and entertainment to all its guests. The Victory Grill remains a true testament to the thriving black community, music scene and culture that once flourished on the east side of Austin.
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