The Tumbleweed Ballroom was a joint venture business of Mr. and Mrs. R.A. Lospeich and Mr. and Mrs. Jack Hesser during the national “Urban Cowboy” craze that swept country music. In 1981, they purchased land, build a large building and opened the Stillwater’s Honky-Tonk in October. (About the same time, Billy Bob’s of Texas opened their doors too.) The Tumbleweed ultimately became a legendary country music venue that's been in business for 30+ years!
Over the next four years, the venue grew quickly in reputation for hosting local, regional and national artists. Some of the early artists included George Strait, Charly McClain, Mel McDaniel, John Arnold Band, John Anderson, and Garth Brooks. Garth actually worked as a bouncer for eventual owners, John and Linda Klinger, as he was finishing up his studies at Oklahoma State University.
In 1985, the Oklahoma Liquor laws changed and made it hard for ballrooms and other clubs across the state to continue their ways of doing business. In addition, country music saw a waning in popularity. The Klinger’s responded with a Steak House operation that complimented the venue and was able to survive the change in state liquor laws for a few years.
In 1987, Tumbleweed Ballroom was leased and ultimately purchased by Hank Moore and Sherry Perrin. Under new ownership, the Tumbleweed Ballroom began a transformation. The dancehall held a special place in the owner’s heart as they had their first date there and practiced dance routines on a regular basis for competitions. One of their first improvements was a new sound system and installing a floating maple dance floor. Both were major improvements over dancing across the old cracked concrete floors from music playing from an old record turntable.
During the spring of 1991, the operation focused on starting outdoor shows and rodeos behind their building. The first outdoor concert was none other than Stillwater's own, Garth Brooks. One early special event that grew into a regional festival what is now known as Calf Fry. The Calf Fry witnessed unprecedented continued growth in popularity and attendance with each year being larger than the year before. Every year since inception the event has grown bigger and better.
During the 90s, The Tumbleweed hosted numerous rodeos, bull riding, and additional special events. Artists from different music types that played Tumbleweed included: Chris LeDoux, Keith Whitley, Lorrie Morgan, Gene Watson, John Conley, Jackyl, Vanilla Ice, Third Eye Blind, 2 Live Crew, and many others.
The Tumbleweed was recognized by being nominated as Nightclub of the Year from the Country Music Association in the mid 90s. Also, a young bull that began at Tumbleweed rodeo arena became a Bull of the Year for the Professional Rodeo Cowboy Association- Bodacious. (Bull was owned stock contractor Phil Sumner).
In 2005, the Tumbleweed was nominated by the Academy of Country Music for Nightclub of the Year. Again, country music is key to Tumbleweed’s success and longevity.
Tumbleweed has led the effort to identify and highlight a vain of country music known as “Red Dirt Music” by promoting local and regional musicians that have ties to Stillwater’s “Red Dirt” music scene. From the grandfather of Red Dirt Music itself- Bob Childers, to the Red Dirt Rangers and all the way through current songwriters and performers have played at Tumbleweed.
Some of the musicians and artists with roots to Stillwater and Tumbleweed performances include Garth Brooks, The Great Divide, Jason Boland and the Stragglers, All American Rejects, Cross Canadian Ragweed, Stoney LaRue, Bo Phillips, No Justice, Scott Evans, Mike McClure and Nick Gibson. Many more are honing their skills for future performances on the Tumbleweed Stage.
In March of 2011 a new ownership group purchased The Tumbleweed. Since they've taken over they have replaced the old rotting dance floor along with making other long over due repairs and will continue to update the facility into the coming years. These new owners have vowed to bring back regular live shows to The Tumbleweed, returning the venue to it's former glory!
From that mid semester opening back in 1981, a long history of country music has been continually enjoyed by countless fans and students of Oklahoma State University at The Tumbleweed. Over the years, The Tumbleweed has hosted over 700 shows. In the process, the venue had titles like “legendary”, “iconic”, “fixture of country music” applied to it’s existence. Regardless of the title, The Tumbleweed Dancehall strives for a simple goal - to provide an enjoyable place and friendly atmosphere to dance and to enjoy LIVE MUSIC.
None of The Tumbleweed's history could have ever been made without the loyal support of customers, dedicated staff, and returning “Old Timers” to make The Tumbleweed what it had been, what it is, and also what it will become. The Tumbleweed is deep in gratitude to those who have labored and who have enjoyed countless hours at Stillwater’s very own Honky Tonk.