Art&Seek presents This Week in Texas Music History. Every week, we’ll spotlight a different moment and the musician who made it. This week, Texas music scholar Gary Hartman visits a nightclub that used music to help break down barriers of racial segregation.
You can also hear This Week in Texas Music History on Sunday at precisely 6:04 p.m. on KERA radio. But subscribe to the podcast so you won’t miss an episode. And our thanks to KUT public radio in Austin for helping us bring this segment to you. And if you’re a music lover, be sure to check out Track by Track, the bi-weekly podcast from Paul Slavens, host of KXT’s The Paul Slavens Show, heard Sunday night’s at 8.
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The Galvan Ballroom in Corpus Christi opened on March 2, 1950. Rafael Galvan, Sr., built the elegant venue as a permanent home for his 15-piece Galvan Orchestra, the largest dance orchestra in Corpus Christi at that time. The Galvan Ballroom quickly became a showcase for the best in big band, swing and jazz music. Over the years, such stars as Tommy Dorsey, Gene Krupa, Count Basie and Duke Ellington performed there.
However, the Galvan Ballroom also featured numerous local bands, which included black, white and Hispanic musicians. These groups performed in both English and Spanish to mix-raced audiences at a time when segregation was still prevalent throughout the South. As a result, the Galvan Ballroom played an important role in promoting desegregation through the universal language of music.