The Texas Western Swing Hall of Fame is a nonprofit organization founded in 1988 in Buda, Texas, by Al Dressen, leader of the popular 1980s western swing group, Al Dressen’s Super Swing Review. Dressen openly acknowledged the important influence so many western swing pioneers had on his career, and he often invited them onstage to perform with his band. By the mid-1980s Dressen decided to join with other musicians in creating the Texas Western Swing Hall of Fame (TWSHF) to publicly recognize and honor the contributions of individual artists to the development of western swing.
In 1988 the Texas Western Swing Hall of Fame held its first public event at the Paramount Theatre in downtown Austin. Bob Wills was the TWSHF’s first and only inductee that year. Since then inductees have included Milton Brown and His Musical Brownies, Cliff Bruner, Smoky Dacus, Tommy Duncan, Johnny Gimble, Adolph Hofner, Laura Lee McBride, Eldon Shamblin, Hank Thompson, Floyd Tillman, Johnny Cuviello, Paul Glasse, the Light Crust Doughboys, the McKinney Sisters, the Sons of the Pioneers, the Seven Rowe Brothers, and many others.
In the early 1990s the TWSHF Board (which consists of up to twenty previous inductees) moved the event to the Austin Opry House and then in 1994 to the campus of Texas State University in San Marcos (then known as Southwest Texas State University). At first the TWSHF held the event inside the university’s Strahan Coliseum until there was a scheduling conflict, and the city of San Marcos offered the use of the downtown square for the festivities. Since the 1990s the event has been part of the Texas Natural and Western Swing Festival (also known as Swing on the Square), co-hosted by the city of San Marcos. The event is free and is held on the third weekend in May both on the courthouse square and other downtown venues. Every year western swing artists come from across the country to participate in the festival. Western swing pioneers such as Johnny Gimble, Tommy Allsup, and Johnny Cuviello, have joined with a variety of younger musicians including some children who are just learning to play.
In the early days Dressen exhibited a small collection of western swing artifacts at the Driskill Hotel in downtown Austin. In 1991 Dressen donated the collection to the Southwestern Writers Collection at Texas State University where it was still housed in 2015. The collection consists of photographs, costumes, posters, awards, and newspaper clippings, dating from the 1930s through the 1990s, featuring prominent western swing musicians. Some items of note include a hat worn by Bob Wills, as well as a fiddle Wills is said to have played.