Municipal Auditorium
Big Spring, TX


The Municipal (City) Auditorium in Big Spring, TX
Postcard courtesy eBay

The town of Big Spring, Texas was founded in 1882 and incorporated in 1907. It is named for the "big spring" in Sulphur Draw, a historical watering place for coyotes, wolves, herds of buffalo, antelope, and mustangs that also provided water for Indians and wagon trains traveling across the dry country.1 The Comanche 'War Trail' to Mexico branched at the spring.2


The Municipal Auditorium and Hotel Settles in Big Spring, TX - ca. 1950s
Postcard courtesy eBay

Long known as the crossroads of West Texas, in an area where three ecological regions merge, it is the seat of Howard County and sits at the crossroads of Interstate 20 and U.S. Highway 87.1  Early on railway workers of the Texas & Pacific Railroad contributed much to the city's culture. The town flourished with the discovery of oil in almost every part of Howard County and at its height there were four oil refineries located in the town.2


Aerial view of the Municipal Building in Big Spring, TX
Photo courtesy Microsoft EarthData


Fire station, jail and municipal offices in the rear wings of the auditorium - ca. 1930s
Photo courtesy Big Spring and Howard County Images of America

The 1450 seat (City) Auditorium at 310 E 3rd Street was designed by the architectural firm of Peters, Strange and Bradshaw, the same firm responsible for the design of the Lubbock Texas High School Building where Buddy Holly graduated.3 The Municipal Building was completed in 1932 after a $200,000 bond was issued for the project.1 The two rear wings behind the auditorium housed the municipal offices in one with the fire department and the city jail above in the other.4


one of the Statue of Liberty replicas honoring the 40th Anniversary of the BSA
Photos courtesy Waymarking.com

In the early 1950s over 200 scale replicas of the Statue of Liberty were erected in 39 U.S. States and territories in commemoration of the Boy Scouts of America's 40th Anniversary. The theme was "Strengthen The Arm of Liberty." Manufactured by Friedley-Voshardt Co. of Chicago, they were purchased through the Kansas City Boy Scout office by anyone wanting one. The first in Texas was erected on the lawn of the Auditorium in Big Spring and dedicated on April 28, 1950.5


Performers onstage at the Municipal Auditorium - Big Spring, TX
Photo courtesy The Howard County, Texas History Project

Music has always been an integral of Big Spring area life, first in the Honky-tonks where many soon-to-be-famous performers played and then in the Municipal Auditorium and the amphitheater in the city park.  Performers like Lefty Frizzell, Bob Wills, Ernest Tubb and Slim Willet.6


Contemporary view of the Big Spring Municipal Auditorium stage and seating
Photo courtesy City of Big Spring


The Municipal Auditorium in Big Spring, TX - ca. 1955
postcard courtesy cardcow


April 24, 1955 ad

courtesy Andy Crews


April 26, 1955 ad

courtesy Elvis in Concert

On April 26, 1955 Elvis, Scotty and Bill made their one and only appearance in Big Spring with a performance at the Municipal Auditorium. It was the second night of a five day tour with Capitol recording artist Dub Dickerson and TNT artists Chuck Lee and Gene Kay that had started the night before in Wichita Falls.


Oscar Glickman and long time employee Sam Shapiro in the Record Shop - ca. 1977
Photo courtesy Texas Monthly

 

Stanley Oberst wrote that having arrived in Big Spring earlier in the day, Elvis met and ate with Oscar Glickman, the owner and operator of The Record Shop at 211 S Main St., not far from the auditorium. Promoting his Sun recordings, Elvis attempted to sell Glickman copies from the trunk of his car, a practice of self promotion not uncommon for many artists in those days. Though reluctant and with little faith in the boy's future as a performer, he was won over by Elvis' charm.  He bought a box of 78s and reputedly put one record on the shelf and the rest in the basement.7

Oscar started his career during the twenties in Breckenridge when that area of Texas was in the midst of an oil boom. At a time when three companiesóColumbia, Victor, and Brunswickóhad a virtual monopoly on record manufacturing, Oscar was already in business selling 78 rpm records from juke boxes over the counter. By the forties he had established himself in Big Spring.8


The Record Shop at 211 S Main St. Big Spring, TX - ca. 1977
Photo courtesy Texas Monthly

His practice of overbuying stock, offering no discounts and never returning unsold records resulted overtime in a virtually unrivaled stockpile of collectible and hard to find records and he became renowned the world over by record collectors and vinyl enthusiasts. His store also became "the place" to stop at for musicians passing through. Lefty Frizzell used to drop by to learn the words of his latest record before a show. Lawrence Welk, Bob Wills, George Jones, Jimmie Rodgers, and Ernest Tubb all stopped in to pick, chat, or buy at Oscar's. Jimmy Reed loaded up on discs, then hit three cars backing out when he left.8

In 1974 Oscar cleaned out his basement after a buyer heard the rumor of the pile of 78s for sale. Oscar told him he'd sell them for 10 cents a piece. At about 22,000 records that came to $2200. The buyer went down to the basement and looked for about an hour and came back and gave Oscar the money, then spent three days getting them out.8


211 S Main St. Big Spring, TX - Dec. 23, 2007
Photo © Nopalitot

By 1977 the record industry was selling well over 200 million singles and 200 million albums annually and Oscar's place was one of the few remaining mom-and-pop operations left in the state.Today few people buy records and the digital age changed everything. The Record Shop is still there, operated by Oscar's grandson, though much of the business is devoted to Antiques and Military memorabilia. Stanley Oberst wrote that forty years later, Glickman's grandson stumbled across the Sun label 78s that Elvis had sold him.7 Evidently they were overlooked by the gentleman that bought out the basement in '74.


Performance of The Nutcracker at the Big Spring Municipal Auditorium - Dec. 16, 2006
Photo courtesy KBST.com


Contemporary views of the Big Spring Municipal Auditorium stage and seating
Photos courtesy City of Big Spring

Joyce Railsback, a fan who had been keeping a diary about all their broadcasts on the Hayride, finally got see them in person here and wrote that Elvis wore pink pants and a pink shirt with black trim. After the show she got to meet him and have a Hayride program autographed.9

Following Big Spring, Elvis, Scotty and Bill played Hobbs, NM and then completed the tour at the Cotton Club in Lubbock.  The auditorium would later host other Sun artists like Carl Perkins, Johnny Cash and Jerry Lee Lewis, each on their way to stardom. It has seen many other acts since. In 1980 the Big Spring Symphony Association was organized to bring quality symphonic music to Big Spring each year and concerts are regularly held in the Auditorium.1


City Council Chambers and office in rear wings on Municipal building - 2010
Photo courtesy google streetview


Municipal Auditorium, Statue of Liberty with the old Settles Hotel in the background - 2006
Photo courtesy wikipedia

The Fire Department and City Jail no longer occupy a wing of the municipal building. That space is now occupied by the City Council Chambers.


This Statue of Liberty replica and Big Spring Municipal Auditorium - Aug. 19, 2007
Photo © Bob Weston

Today, a large part of Big Spring's economy is based on public-sector institutions, such as prisons, a regional VA Hospital and a state mental hospital. Although the decline in oil revenues has dramatically affected the entire region, employment rate is high and cost-of-living relatively low. New business ventures are encouraged by city government policies.2


Municipal Auditorium in Big Spring, TX
Photo courtesy Andy Crews

page added April 5, 2011

 

Special thanks to Devoun Blount and the Big Spring Convention and Visitors Bureau for her assistance with this page.

1 according to or excerpt from City of Big Spring | Big Spring, Texas
2 according to Big Spring Texas History - Big Spring in Brief by Doyle Phillips
3 according to Andy Crews, San Antonio Public Library
4 according to Big Spring and Howard County Images of America by Tammy Burrow Schrecengost
5 according to or excerpt from Statues of Liberty on Waymarking.com
6according to or excerpt from The Howard County, Texas History Project
7 according to Elvis in Texas: The Undiscovered King 1954-1958, by Stanley Oberst
8 according to or excerpt from The Last Record Store by Joe Nick Patoski - Texas Monthly  Feb. 1977
9 according to Frank Page in Good Rockin' Tonight - The Complete Louisiana Hayride Archives

 

All photos on this site (that we didn't borrow) unless otherwise indicated are the property of either Scotty Moore or James V. Roy and unauthorized use or reproduction is prohibited.

 
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