The Tall Texan's Jukebox Is Not a Toy
Los Skarnales singer Felipe Galvan (right) and friends at the Tall Texan in 2010
Photo by Larami Culbertson
"And I'm hungry like the wooooolf..."
The music from the jukebox blares throughout this tiny bar on North Main. Although pleasing to our ears, the cheesy '80s rock has sparked a rumble of laughter from the regulars splayed across the crooked counter.
It's not often that someone comes into Alice's Tall Texan Drive Inn (4904 N. Main) and takes over the jukebox so abruptly. This old saloon is generally full of mustachioed regulars, some sporting cowboy hats. Others flash crooked smiles and Hispanic Heights charm. Usually the regulars have full run of the place.
Until some silly young bucks step in, anyway.
"Hey. You kids put on this music?"
A middle-aged man laughs heartily as he questions us about our musical choices. Duran Duran has abandoned us, but John Denver's "Thank God I'm a Country Boy" is equally as amusing to these guys. Trying hard not to turn beet-red, we nod our answer.
Yes, yes we did.
When we first stepped foot into the Tall Texan, ranchera music was blaring from the speakers, and we wondered if we weren't in the wrong bar. After all, we'd heard the Tall Texan was cheap-beer heaven, and had even set foot inside once or twice. But those were late-night, post-bar visits, so the details were a bit fuzzy.
Plus the tales of cheap beer and good times had always come from kids in rolled-up skinny jeans and pearl snaps, so we'd expected to walk into hipster heaven. What we found instead was much cooler.
"Ha ha, guys. Nice choice on this one."
Apparently we've hit jukebox gold with our piece de resistance, Bill Withers' "Ain't No Sunshine." The entire place becomes one big singalong, with the men in cowboy hats belting out their deepest notes. We have moved to the role of backup singer, reduced to yelling our part from across the room. Alice's Tall Texan may be small, but it ain't that small.
"And I know, I know, I know, I know..."
But even with the vocal atrocities taking place, "Ain't No Sunshine" brightens up the ambiance. Without Withers' sad tune, the Tall Texan would be decidedly sparse.
Story continues on the next page.
Upon first glance, there's nothing terribly out of the ordinary here. The metal building, recently painted a mossy green, is emblazoned with bright yellow letters across the back declaring "Tall Texan." Aside from the line of cars that surround it, creating a barrier against outsiders, that's about all you get from the exterior.
Inside are a few old wooden tables, a couple of barstools, a row of pool tables and that jukebox. That's about it, apart from the ice-cold giant goblets of cheap beer. Wouldn't you know it, those are one of the bar's biggest draws.
The Tall Texan only has two beers on draft, but they're basically poured over polar ice caps and into these amazing heavy goblets that Alice - who runs the bar, posted up among the cluttered signs and cash registers - keeps ready in the freezer. They'll set you back a whopping $2.50.
The choices are Shiner -- just straight Shiner; none of that fancy Shiner Black or whatever -- and Lone Star. Those huge goblets are all everyone in this bar drinks from.
It's not even entirely clear if the Tall Texan carries anything but those two beers. In our four or so hours there, we only saw one other order - "Two Topo Chicos, please" - outside of beer. Even that was ordered alongside two Lone Stars.
That about covers the drink selections, so we're left with the jukebox again. While more modern than most of the music machines found in old dives like this, the Tall Texan has plenty of songs you'll rarely hear anywhere else in town these days.
There are jams from the '40s, '50s, and of course some rockabilly for the hipsters who frequent Alice's. Add a smattering of Mexican music, country tunes, and even some old rock and roll - which we're taking full advantage of - and the Tall Texan's jukebox is tough to beat for sheer variety.
But it seems we may have pushed our limit with our choices, admittedly made after three of those giant goblets of beer. It may be time to hand over the reins.
"Okay, guys. You're losing jukebox privileges."
Our new friends have had enough Warrant, and we've had enough cheap beer to last a lifetime. We tip our hats and bid adieu to the Tall Texan, stepping out into the night just as the rancheras start blaring again.
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