Friday, November 15, 2019

The Willie Door

A true German-style dance hall, Gruene Hall is the classically simple structure: a long building, doors at one end, stage at the other, open-air side flaps along the walls in between the two. A no-frills structure built for one simple thing: pile in and have a good time! Not just a dance hall, the spacious building has always served as the social center of the community hosting everything from official meetings and friendly gatherings to birthday parties and badger fights.

This straightforward layout means everyone would enter at the front of the building and musicians are no exception. (There wasn't another option because there is no "backstage door" or green room in an 1878 dance hall!) The artists meander through the crowd on the dance floor, making their way to the stage at the rear of the building. Like so many things in the music industry, all that changed with Willie Nelson.

In 1998, Willie was scheduled to play Gruene Hall for a flood relief benefit concert. That night, the house was packed, showing no clear path through which made Willie a little nervous. They had to figure out another way to get him to the stage. With a spontaneous stroke of brilliance, the window flap next to the stage was opened, chicken wire cut, and make-shift stairs were pushed against the building. He climbed in through the window and The Willie Door was born!

Getting the invitation to use the Willie Door is seen as a symbolic right of passage. For some artists, even after getting the nod, they won't use the Willie Door out of reverence for the iconic star. It's one of the many things that adds to Gruene Hall's iconic history.

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