1973- 1985 (three locations)
There was nothing like #1, which they called “the Honky Tonk In the Hills” and “Dope Creek.” The first Soap Creek, opened in 1973 by a hippie/biker couple from the Vulcan and the ‘Dillo named George and Carlyne Majewski. The roadhouse used to be a dude ranch bunkhouse and then was the Elm Grove Club. Alex Napier of the Cobras had it for a few months before it was Soap Creek, but it couldn’t make it because at that time, Westlake Hills was way out of town. And that drive up the hill!
Doug Sahm was smart. He rented a house 100 yards away, but let’s just say a lot of people slept in their cars after a night of partying. Freddy Fender remembered that long, rugged drive up from Bee Caves Road and entering a parking lot where longhairs in cowboy hats were smoking weed. “I thought, ‘man, what has this guero gotten me into?!” he laughed. On parole after a marijuana bust, Fender was working as a mechanic in Corpus Christi, but after Sahm covered “Wasted Days, Wasted Nights” in ’74, he reconnected with Fender and brought him up to play Soap Creek. It was the show that made Freddy quit his job at the garage. The next year Fender had the #1 song in the country with “Til the Next Teardrop Falls” and it all started at Soap Creek.
The Majewskis fostered a family environment amidst all the dope smoke and tequila shots (40 cents!), raising their own kids, as well as those Sexton boys, pretty much. Because it was so isolated, the club had a communal feel you didn’t get downtown. And a great sense of humor, billing itself “Home of the Stars” and hosting the annual Spamarama.
“When Soap Creek opened, the Armadillo was king, but they only served beer over there, whereas Soap Creek served liquor, so you had a slightly more mature crowd at Soap Creek,” said Kerry Awn, who designed the club’s posters and performed with the Uranium Savages. “Plus, that was where all the musicians hung out. The Armadillo had a lot of tourists and frat boys, but because Soap Creek was out of the way, with this winding, pothole-filled road to get there, you had to really want to be there.”
“The one night that sticks out the most was when the Grateful Dead was in town and their roadies dosed everyone in the place. I remember Johnny Winter was there and he was jamming with Doug Sahm, who was always there because he lived practically next door. You had to stop selling alcohol at midnight, so when five or six cops busted in at around 5 a.m. they thought they’d find all these people still drinking and they’d haul us all in. But nobody was drinking. Everybody was just tripping and so the cops had to leave.”
A luxury housing project knocked Soap Creek #1 out of the Eanes school district in 1979, but they found a new home at the old Skyline club at North Lamar and Braker Lane. The third Soap Creek location was in the former Backstage Club at South Congress and Academy Drive. All three locations had some great shows. Seeing Doc Watson at #3 in ’84 was the closest I’ve ever sat to a musical genius doing his thing.
The Majewskis sold the business and Carlyne went into band management (Lone Justice, Marcia Ball, the Wagoneers, Kelly Willis). Soap Creek closed in 1985.