A Lil' Bit of History...
A Lil' Bit of
In 1910, about 25 years after the birth of a thriving cattle industry in Fort Worth had begun, there was a building frenzy heading up Exchange Avenue to the west. At what is now 121 West Exchange, the Longhorn Saloon was up and runnin’.
It sat in the heart of what was truly a city within a city, to support the many people who lived in the area employed by the Swift and Armour packing plants. There were banks, stables, eateries, a jewelry store, clothiers, and just about any type of enterprise it takes to maintain a community.
The Longhorn Saloon thrived until the mid 1960’s, when the packing plants closed due to the advent of trucking, local auction houses, and feedlots nationwide. With the death of Swift and Armour came the loss of jobs and the decline in retail merchants.
In the late ‘70’s, the building was purchased by Steve Murrin, who Longhorn Saloon proprietor, Craig “Lil’ Red” Copeland, refers to as “The Cowtown Savior”.
Nothing really happened until 1976 when Charlie and Sue McCafferty founded the North Fort Worth Historical Society and folks started paying attention to a part of the past that had slowly been dissolving. For the next few decades, the Longhorn Saloon hosted many proprietors. With the exception of Leon Walters, none lasted any length of time.
The old building sat vacant for a number of years until Copeland, and his soul partner Jane Woods, leased it in January of 2012. Hence, the birth of Lil’ Red's Longhorn Saloon. Neither had ever owned, operated, or even worked in a bar setting, but Copeland said he'd been in enough of them during his many years of rodeo-ing to know what people liked.
“We cater to a crowd that likes traditional country music, cold beer, quality mixed drinks, dancing, and clean ladies restrooms. We don’t allow no argue-in’ and damn sure don’t tolerate no fightin’!"
Lil’ Red's Longhorn Saloon also houses Copeland's unique “museum” of vintage beer, tobacco, rodeo, and concert memorabilia. The walls are covered with pictures with some of country music’s most famous stars, from Johnny Bush to Dale Watson. In 2017, Penny Gilley began filming episodes of her RFD-TV talk-variety show, "The Penny Gilley Show", on the Lil' Red's Longhorn Saloon stage.
As the only establishment of its kind, Lil' Red's is now a popular tourist stop in the historic Fort Worth Stockyards and a destination spot for live music in the DFW area. In 2019, Texas Monthly recognized Lil' Red's as "Honky-Tonk nirvana" in their "Best Honky-Tonks in Texas" article.
Don’t be surprised when you walk in the front door if Lil’ Red comes up, shakes your hand, and says, “Welcome home!"