Pairing With History

KUTX announces SXSW Morning Broadcasts from Historic Scholz Garten

Support for KUTX at SXSW 2023 comes from PNC Bank and Chattanooga Whiskey

By Jeff McCord

On March 15, KUTX resumes its great tradition of live morning broadcasts during SXSW, running an exciting and diverse range of SXSW acts on stage and live on the radio, 7-11 am Wednesday through Friday and 8-12 pm Saturday.

Sheryl Wong/KUTX Cimafunk performs at the KUTX Studio 6A morning broadcast during the 2022 SXSW Music Conference

The KUT/X SXSW morning broadcasts first began at the Hilton hotel downtown back in 2010. KUT was also broadcasting live SXSW nighttime showcases from Momos on 6th street at that time.  We moved our morning broadcasts over to the Four Seasons in 2012, and the Four Seasons remained our home until 2019. In 2020, the pandemic hit pause on the broadcasts, and on SXSW itself. 

Last year, we revived the broadcasts across the street from our building in Studio 6A, the original home of the Austin City Limits television series. 

Our morning broadcasts have a long history. Yet that history pales in comparison to this year’s new location for our SXSW morning shows, Austin’s storied Scholz Garten, which, according to their website, is the oldest operating beer garden in the country. And it is certainly one of the oldest operating music venues in the city. 

August Scholz (1885)

Scholz Garten was purchased and opened by German immigrant August Scholz in 1866 (it was a boarding house in the Civil War years). August’s timing could not have been better. The post-war economy was on the upswing, the railroad was coming to town, and Austin was becoming a real center for Texas commerce. Between 1870-1875, the population of the city doubled. And in that mix were a lot of Germans. They made up some 7% of the city’s population, and Scholz’s quickly caught on as one of the city’s prime gathering spots. 

Through the start of the twentieth century, the business thrived. Regular Sunday concerts featured everything from Verdi to Gilbert and Sullivan, and fireworks and balloon rides were part of the festivities. 

The Garden (the name was changed to ‘Garten’ in the early 1960’s) managed to survive all manner of disruptions in the 1900’s. For a while, it became the exclusive meeting place for Saengerrunde, a German singing club, who bought the property in 1908. They tore down the south meeting hall and replaced it with the one that still stands today (and is still operated by the Saengerrunde), along with its famed bowling alley. By 1937, the Saengerrunde had re-opened the Garten to the public. 

It would last through prohibition (non-alcoholic “Bone-Dry” beer was popular), anti-German sentiments of the World Wars, and a purist scandal when the proprietors in the ’60s decided to add (gasp!) air conditioning. It has gone through upswings and downswings with numerous owners and operators in the ensuing decades. The down-on-its-luck vibe remains part of the Garten’s charm. Photos of the front and interior of Garten in the 1800s look remarkably similar to its appearance today. 

And August Scholz (who died in 1891) knew a great location when he saw one. Nestled almost exactly halfway between the Capitol and the University of Texas (and its athletic fields), the hall is besieged from the north and south, by politicos and UT fans/athletes alike. 

Scholz Garten (1965). Courtesy of the Austin History Center

Scholz became an intellectual gathering center during Austin’s heady years of the LBJ administration. The Garten was a major character in one of the greatest political novels ever written, Billy Lee Brammer’s 1961 Texas classic The Gay Place. Famed novelist  Willie Morris name-dropped the place. First Lady Lady Bird Johnson, a member of the Bored Martyrs women’s club, would attend Sunday meetings there.  And even today, particularly when the Legislature is in session, lawmakers find their way there. Legend has it the conservatives congregate inside the restaurant, while the liberals prefer the outdoor Biergarten. These days, the only certainty is the two camps aren’t sitting very close together. 

And on game days, the place is and has always been packed with fans, both before and after play begins.

Scholz Garden’s outdoor beer garden

The current owner/operators of Scholz’s have expanded the food menu and stepped up the live music events. In addition to the usual traditional fare (Old World Wednesdays, Fat Tuesday Crawfish Boil, etc.), new audiences have turned up to see concerts from Bill Callahan, Calliope Musicals, and showcases from Speceflight Records, SXSW, and Levitation, to name but a few. The fireworks and hot air balloon rides may be gone, but well over a hundred years later, Scholz Garten remains an entertainment focal point for Austin. 

On its centennial, the legislature decreed Scholz’s “a gathering place for Texans of discernment, place, culture, and erudition.”

Maybe at least some of that will be true during our SXSW morning broadcasts, but one thing is certain: the lights will be getting turned on a bit earlier than usual. 

OK, two things are certain: The music is going to be great. And fun will be had by all. 

We hope you’ll join us March 15-18 at this venerable Texas landmark, for a great week of the best SXSW has to offer.   

Dave Creaney Calliope Musicals at Scholz Garden

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