Tuesday, August 21, 2007

For the Canadian television series, see Honky Tonk (television series).
A honky tonk is a type of bar with musical entertainment common in the Southwestern and Southern United States, also called honkatonks, honkey-tonks, tonks or tunks. The term has also been attached to various styles of 20th-century American music. As of 2007, honky tonk seems to be the most recognized and mainstream subgenre of country music.


Honky tonk Honky tonks
Although the derivation of the term is unknown, honky tonk originally referred to bawdy variety shows in the West (Oklahoma and Indian Territories and Texas) and to the theaters housing them. In fact, the earliest mention of them in print refers to them as variety theaters. Their recollections contain lurid accounts of the women and violence accompanying the shows. However, in contemporary accounts these were nearly always called hurdy gurdy shows, although they mention the associated prostitution, lawlessness, and violence.
As late as 1913, Col. Edwin Emerson, a former Rough Rider commander, hosted a honky-tonk party in New York ("COL. EMERSON'S NOVEL PARTY; Rough Rider Veteran Gives 'Old Forty-niners' Honky-Tonk Fandango'." New York Times, New York, N.Y., February 23, 1913. pg. C7). The Rough Riders were recruited from the ranches of Texas and New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Indian Territories, so the term was still in popular use during the Spanish American War.

Origins of the honky tonk establishment
The distinction between honky tonks, saloons, and dancehalls was often blurred, especially in cowtowns, mining districts, military forts, and oilfields of the West. Eventually, as variety theaters and dancehalls disappeared, honky tonk became associated mainly with lower class bars catering to men. Synonymous with beer joint and like terms, honky tonks usually serve beer or hard liquor and may have had a bandstand and dance floor. Many may have furnished only a juke box. In the Southeastern US, honky tonk gradually replaced the term juke joint for bars primarily oriented toward blues and jazz. As Western swing slowly became accepted in Nashville, Southeastern bars playing Western swing and Western swing influenced country music, were also called honky tonks.

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Honky tonks were rough establishments, mostly in the Deep South and Southwest, that served alcoholic beverages to working class clientele. Honky tonks sometimes also offered dancing to piano players or small bands, and sometimes were also centers of prostitution. In some rougher tonks the prostitutes and their customers would have sex standing up clothed on the dance floor while the music played. Honky tonk bars were also prone to bar brawls due to the nature of most of its customers who were usually bikers and truckers passing by. Such establishments flourished in less reputable neighborhoods, often outside of the law. As Chris Smith and Charles McCarron noted in their 1916 hit song "Down in Honky Tonk Town", "It's underneath the ground, where all the fun is found."

Honky tonk music

Honky tonk See also

American Dialect Society. Honkatonk (1900, from wild geese?). American Dialect Society, December 27, 2005. (Retrieved July 16, 2006.)
Hunter, J. Marvin (editor). Trail Drivers of Texas: Interesting Sketches of Early Cowboys. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1993 (Reprint of 1925 edition). ISBN 0-292-73076-4
Pierce, Bob; Larry Ashley. Pierce Piano Atlas. Pierce Piano Atlas; 10th edition (June 1996). ISBN 0-911138-02-1

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