Put on your dancing shoes this Wednesday as the Summer Dance Hall Series returns to the Pearl Stable for its second round of celebrating South Texas.

Musicians will be playing jazz, blues, Texas swing, German, and Mexican conjunto music during free concerts every Wednesday at the Pearl Stable starting July 1 to August 26 from 6-9 p.m. A cash bar will sell beer, wine, water and soda.

Brent “Doc” Watkins, a local pianist, organist and band leader, will play two shows during the series also curated the lineup. He said he wanted to feature an array of artists who each contribute to San Antonio’s varied culture and history.

“In San Antonio you have a melting pot of different cultures,” he said.

Brent "Doc" Watkins performs with a South Texas Jazz ensemble at the Esquire Tavern. Photo by Kody Melton.
Brent “Doc” Watkins performs with a South Texas Jazz ensemble at the Esquire Tavern. Photo by Kody Melton.

Watkins plays in five bands as a pianist and singer. He moved from Austin to San Antonio ten years ago with his wife and son. He said San Antonio’s rich culture is what drew him to the city.

“I just remember the first time I visited the city it had a certain charm that really appealed to me and I just fell in love with it from the beginning,” he said.

Watkins said he encourages people to come ready to dance. This summer’s series is an effort to revitalize the dance hall era of San Antonio, a tradition that seems to have slipped out from under the city’s realm of entertainment and nightlife. (Though Sam’s Burger Joint does a pretty fine job of picking up the slack.)

George Chambers, the front man for George Chambers and the Country Gentleman, said dance halls were popular from the ‘50s to the ‘80s in Texas, but they’ve since moved out of the metropolitan area. He said in that timeframe, San Antonio had about seven of the best dance halls in Texas.

“They’ve all gone by the wayside,” he said.

Chambers has been in the country music scene since the ‘60s, and has worked with major artists like Willie Nelson and George Strait.

“Anytime (Willie Nelson) was down here he’d hire our band to play with him ‘cause he said people were complaining that they couldn’t dance to his music so we’d do the dance sets and Willy would do his thing,” Chambers said.

Lines gather in front of The Pearl Stable during Pints and Politics at The Pearl Brewery. Photo by Scott Ball. Rivard address the crowd
Lines gather in front of the Pearl Stable. Photo by Scott Ball.

Chambers said he’s looking forward to playing at the Pearl Stable, a spot he used to call the “Round House” back when the Pearl Brewery was still brewing beer.

Chambers and his band played the Summer Dance Hall Series last year.

“We had a good crowd,” he said. “They were a real dancing crowd, I’ll say that much.”

Here’s the complete lineup:

July 1: Doc Watkins and the River City Stompers
July 8: The Lonestar Swingbillies
July 15: Johnny P. and The Wiseguys
July 22: Santiago Jimenez
July 29: George Chambers and the Country Gentlemen
August 5: Terry Cavanagh and the Alpine Express
August 12: The Melissa Ludwig Band
August 19: Mark Halata and Texavia
August 26: Doc Watkins and his Orchestra

*Featured/top image: Screenshot from a 2014 video made by the Pearl about the Summer Dance Hall Series. 

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Joan Vinson

Former Rivard Report Assistant Editor Joan Vinson is a San Antonio native who graduated from The University of Texas with a bachelor's degree in journalism. She's a yoga fanatic and an adventurer at heart....