FARMER’S DAUGHTER. The Farmer’s Daughter was a popular country music dance hall founded in October 1961 in San Antonio, Texas. Located in the southeast part of town at 542 North W. W. White Road, the Farmer’s Daughter featured an 8,400-square-foot dance hall that could accommodate about 500 people. Bands performed at the dance hall every Wednesday through Sunday and attracted visitors from across the United States and around the world; guest books list visitors from Israel, Puerto Rico, France, Canada, England, Germany, Norway, and Czechoslovakia.
The success and popularity of the Farmer’s Daughter can be attributed to its founder, Bobbie Barker. Known as “San Antonio’s Country Queen,” Barker brought some of the most famous names in country music to play at the hall. The first band to play there was Bob Wills’s Texas Playboys. Singer Tommy Duncan fronted the band when Wills was unable to attend because of illness. Other performers included Merle Haggard, Adolph Hofner, George Jones, Loretta Lynn, Willie Nelson, Buck Owens, Charley Pride, Ray Price, Jim Reeves, Marty Robbins, Mel Tillis, Hank Thompson, Ernest Tubb, Porter Wagoner with Dolly Parton, Hank Williams, Jr., Kitty Wells, and Slim Whitman.
Former visitors and employees had fond memories of the local landmark and recalled how the walls were peppered with photographs of the numerous musicians that played there. Alongside the many photographs were signed contracts by artists: Willie Nelson performed for $50 in 1962; Hank Williams, Jr., received $150 for a 1967 show; Ray Price was paid $600 for a show in 1969. Some visitors also recalled how the dance hall changed from being a popular hotspot for younger people to becoming a dance hall for an older generation of country music fans.
Founder Bobbie Barker, considered by many to be the driving force behind the Farmer’s Daughter, was mysteriously murdered in 1982. The crime has yet to be solved. Following Barker’s death, the club passed through several hands until it was shut down by the IRS in 1996 due to unpaid taxes.
In 1997 Gloria Melendez reopened the famous dance hall as the Farmer’s Daughter Steak House. During her brief ownership, Melendez refurbished the building and displayed memorabilia from the dance hall’s heyday. In 1998 the steak house was once again reincarnated, this time by Penny Dickerson, as Penny’s New Farmer’s Daughter. Despite the name change and a new marketing campaign, the dance hall floundered and Dickerson closed it in 2000.
Jerry Ferguson Interview, Farmer’s Daughter patron, April 12, 2007. Megan Kamerick, “Dance hall reborn as steakhouse,” San Antonio Business Journal, July 25, 1997 (http://sanantonio.bizjournals.com/sanantonio/stories/1997/07/28/newscolumn1.html), accessed March 21, 2007. San Antonio Express-News, August 28, 1995; April 12, 1996; August 10, 1997; September 6, 1998; June 3, 2000. Geronimo Treviño III, Dance Halls and Last Calls: A History of Texas Country Music (Plano: Republic of Texas Press, 2002).