Top 10 Honky Tonks in USA

Top 10 Honky Tonks in the USA

The name honky tonk is definitely a strange one, but to good old country music fans, it’s just another synonym for a good time! The history of the honky tonk is an interesting story, but what is most important is where to find these legendary top 10 country music bars. America the beautiful is the birthplace of country music and there are a lot of fantastic honky tonks across our fine country to enjoy it. While there are many country bars that might make a claim to being a honky tonk, only some live up to the iconic name. For those country music fans who love to travel, we have put together a list of the top 10 country bars in the USA.  So, put on your dancin’ boots, saddle up your horse, and let’s get going!

Grizzly Rose – Denver, Colorado

We may be a little biased, but we think this is the best honky tonk in not only the Wild West, but the country as a whole. Just ask any country music lover from the state of Colorado about the Grizzly Rose and you will see for yourself. It’s a mixture of a bar, nightclub, and a dancehall, and we’re sitting in a convenient location in Denver. Aside from seeing some great live music where most of the country’s top country artists make an appearance, it’s also a good place to do some line dancing, ride a mechanical bull, enjoy an authentic smokehouse grill, and socialize with other country music lovers. It’s such a great destination that people come from all over the country just to pay us a visit.

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Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge – Nashville, TN

A walk down Broadway in Nashville and it’s hard to miss Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge. The bright purple building sticks out for all to see and like much of Nashville this place is a big piece of country music history. The rumor is that after Willie Nelson played his first show here, he landed his first songwriting gig! It’s known as the most historic country bars in Nashville and many of the big names in country make their way through this great place each year.

The Bowery – Myrtle Beach, South Carolina

The Bowery proclaims itself to be the “8th Wonder of the World.” Normally beaches and honky tonks don’t mix, but for this place we’ve made an exception. The famous group Alabama used to be this bar’s house-band for 7 years and it is where they got their start. It’s only 50 yards from the beach and if that’s not enough, one of their bartenders broke the Guinness Book of World Records for caring the most mugs of beer without a tray. (It was 34 mugs if you were curious.) It’s a great place to enjoy country music in a unique setting on the coast of South Carolina.

Billy Bob’s – Fort Worth, Texas

No list of the best honky tonks would be complete without mentioning the state of Texas, and no list of Texas country bars would be complete without mentioning Billy Bob’s. They are a massive establishment located in the Fort Worth area where many great country bands make an appearance. They also boast an indoor rodeo arena, a mechanical bull, and a number of bars. Texas will always be synonymous with country music and for Texans this is a great place to enjoy it.

Una foto publicada por TYLER LAIN (@tylerlain) el

Ponderosa Lounge – Portland, Oregon

This top country bar is located at a truck stop in Portland. While that may not seem like the ideal place to enjoy live country music, this place has become famous for hosting some of the best talent ever to grace the country music scene. Even Texans like, former president George Bush Senior have visited this place and it’s a great and unique honky tonk to enjoy.

Una foto publicada por Jones & Fischer (@jonesandfischer) el

Gruene Hall – New Braunfels, Texas

Another great and iconic honky tonk is Gruene Hall. This place boasts itself as the ‘Oldest Dance Hall’ in Texas and is located between San Antonio and Austin in a classic Texas country setting. Not much has changed since it was built back in 1878 and many famous country artists make their way through this venue. It’s a piece of country music history and a great place to dance!

Una foto publicada por Thomas Gelo (@tomgelo) el

Robert’s Western World – Nashville, TN

This place is full of history, from being part of the area serving as hospitals in the Civil War, to being an iconic steel guitar shop in the heyday of country music where many famous stars used to hang out. Now it’s home to a cowboy boot shop, a honky tonk grill, and a great bar/venue to enjoy country music. Nashville should be on any country music fan’s list of travel destinations and if you make the trip make sure to check out Robert’s Western World.

Una foto publicada por elise davis ?? (@_elisedavis_) el

Broken Spoke – Austin, Texas

From Willie Nelson, to George Straight, to Ernest Tubb, many country icons have been regulars at this famous country bar establishment. Located in the capital of Texas, the Broken Spoke looks more like an old, side of the road convenience store than a legendary country music and dance venue. It’s another place that’s ingrained in the history of country music in Texas and worth of a visit for country music fans who visit or are living in Austin.

Una foto publicada por Texas Tourism (@texastourism) el

The Texas Club – Baton Rouge, Lousiana

George Straight, Toby Keith, Garth Brooks, the list goes on of artists who played at this venue early in their career before they hit the big time. It’s been open since 1981 and millions of country music fans have paid a visit to the Texas Club to enjoy country music. This large venue is famous for it’s live music and if you find yourself in Louisiana it’s the country bar to visit.

Una foto publicada por Cody Johnson (@codyjohnsonband) el

Cowboys – Dothan, Alabama

Cowboys claims to be the ‘Largest Honky Tonk this side of the Mississippi.’ While Alabama might not the first place that comes to your mind when you think about country music, they host lots of great country artists each year. In addition to live country music and dancing, it’s also a popular place for locals and travelers to enjoy pool, poker, and cheap drinks.

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The History of the Honky Tonk

Honky Tonk HistoryThe definition of a Honky Tonk is ‘the name given to a type of bar that provides country music for entertainment to its patrons.’ This name has also been applied to a variety of music genre’s centering around a country theme. Whether it’s referring to a local country bar or a new favorite track, the term is still widely used today, but the question is, where did this quirky term originate from?

What really was a Honky Tonk?

When the word first came about, a Honky Tonk was considered to be a place that served alcohol to working class folk. They also typically featured some element of live music such as a piano player or a live band. Dancing was very common at these establishments as the night went on, and very often they were also well known for being centers of prostitution.

How did the word ‘Honky Tonk’ come to fruition?

The sad truth about the word ‘Honky Tonk’ is that no one can really agree how it came about. The earliest evidence of the word being used was by a newspaper in Fort Worth, Texas in 1889. The word was capitalized and followed by the word ‘theater’ in the article, which was simply a petition to re-open the establishment. This suggests that perhaps it was just the name of the establishment rather than the type. In another newspaper article in 1894, this time in Oklahoma, the word honk-a-tonk was used in an article, but it had nothing to do with a bar or theater of any kind. Historians believe the word might have been meant to describe cattle drive trails where cowboys would bring their livestock to market. These were very common around the border of Texas and Oklahoma during that time period. As cowboys were common in these types of establishments, this localized slang may have developed into the name for their local drinking holes over time. One final other theory about the terms origination comes from the name of an American piano manufacturer. ‘William Tonk & Bros’ started making pianos in the late 1880’s many of which were likely being played in these Honky Tonk establishments. As music was a commonality for these types of bars, it’s very plausible that ‘Honky Tonk’ developed from the brand name of these pianos.

Where were the first Honky Tonks?

Honky Tonk Bar HistoryThere is much dispute on where exactly the first Honky Tonks originated from. That being said most people would agree that they originated somewhere around Texas and its neighboring states. As mentioned above, Texas and Oklahoma have the oldest newspaper record of the word being used. Basically, where there were cowboys, there seemed to be evidence of Honky Tonks. Writers of the late 1800s such as Wyatt Earp, mentioned visiting Honky Tonks in a variety of cowtowns from Kansas to Montana. In accounts of the Spanish-American War in the early 1900’s Honky Tonks were even mentioned as far west as New Mexico.

What’s a Honky Tonk today?

Today Honky Tonks are losely synonymous with a country western bar that offers live music. They are no longer limited to the ‘wild wild west’ region of the United States and can be found in major cities and small towns from California to North Carolina. While this type of quirky named establishment may have changed over the years and we still don’t really know exactly where it came from, we are proud to be an authentic Honky Tonk for the city of Denver!