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Legendary Texas yodeler silenced

March
20
1987

On this day in 1987, legendary Austin country singer and tavern owner Kenneth Threadgill died of a pulmonary embolism. Threadgill was born in Peniel, Texas, in 1909, the son of a minister. As a youngster, Threadgill was working at Beaumont's Tivoli Theater when Jimmie Rodgers performed. Backstage, Rodgers heard Threadgill imitating his yodeling and was impressed. Threadgill incorporated yodeling into his country singing act later in his life to make a unique style that fans loved. In 1933 Threadgill moved to Austin and began working at an old service station. He soon bought the establishment and renamed it Threadgill's Tavern, which still sold gas and food but operated with the first beer license in Austin after the repeal of Prohibition. After closing temporarily during World War II, Threadgill's reopened and became known for its Wednesday night hootenannies, at which university students and local residents congregated for beer, country music, yodeling, and the "Alabama Jubilee," the song that would usually get Kenneth to dance his patented shuffle. Bill Neely and Janis Joplin were among the many performers who found Threadgill's a congenial spot to launch or further musical careers. Threadgill gained some measure of national celebrity himself when he acted and sang in the Willie Nelson movie Honeysuckle Rose (1980). He sold the tavern in the early eighties, but Threadgill's Restaurant remains an Austin institution.

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