A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006.

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Entry from November 18, 2007
Velvet Rut (Austin music scene)

The New Yorker publisher Harold Ross once said that his publication was in a “velvet rut”—making good money, but not doing anything creatively. “Velvet rut” came to be applied to many other creative endeavours, including Hollywood and Broadway.

In the early 1990s, musicians in Austin ("Live Music Capital of the World") called the city a “velvet rut.” The term is still used today. There is a Velvet Rut Theatre at 1612 East 7th Street in Austin.


Urban Dictionary
Austin, TX
The velvet rut.
It’s austintatious, living in the velvet rut.
by Amy Mar 2, 2004

Urban Dictionary
1. Velvet Rut
Any locale, esp. a smaller city, with few opportunities for career advancement that traps its inhabitants with its laidback lifestyle.
Victoria, BC, Canada
by cheeky Mar 18, 2005

2. Velvet Rut
Any enduring situation, esp. professional, marked by some hardship, but for whose lush benefits a person nonetheless finds it difficult to extract oneself.
On December 20, 2006, Kathie Lee Gifford was interviewed on Rachel Ray’s new CBS talk show. Miss Gifford referred to her time before quitting the show as a “velvet rut,” adding that while money and other benefits were extremely positive, she was no longer enjoying the work.
by el Ron Los Angeles Dec 20, 2006

SXSW’lypse 2007, y’all
Alt-country chanteuse Lucinda Williams dubbed it The Velvet Rut. That impossibly smooth sensation that overcomes you in a matter of hours in Austin, the hottest cool town in Texas. It’s not so much a destination as a state of mind, one filled with stellar music, skittish bats, and the hippest people around. There’s no point in getting all riled up, that just ain’t cool. Plus, the sultry heat makes it impossible to move faster than a crawl, y’all. 

Wikipedia: Harold Ross
Harold Wallace Ross (November 6, 1892 - December 6, 1951) was an American journalist and founder of The New Yorker magazine, which he edited from the magazine’s inception in 1925 to his death.

Google Books
The Years with Ross
by James Thurber
Boston, MA: Little, Brown
1959
Pg. 30:
“We are in a velvet rut,” Ross once said many years ago, and this was amended not long ago by a sardonic male writer to read, “We are now in a rulle and taffeta rut.”

Google Books
As We Are
by Henry Brandon
Garden City, NY: Doubleday
1961
Pg. 273:
As I said in one piece, Ross used to say: “We’re in a velvet rut"—by which I think he meant the stuff is pretty average, but we’re making money out of it.

(OCLC WorldCat record)
Title: The Velvet Rut /
Author(s): Brennan, Dan, 1917-
Publication: Chicago, Ill. : Chicago Paperback House,
Year: 1962

20 February 1968, San Mateo (CA) Times, pg. 13, col. 3:
In his career as an actor, Mr. Perkins has scored success in all phases of acting. This includes films and plays and he has appeared in comedy, tragedy, melodrama and musical comedy. no velvet rut for Anthony Perkins.

23 November 1969, Long Beach (CA) Independent Press-Telegram, “Judy Would Lose Sock-It-to-Me Image,” Earl Wilson’s Broadway, pg. A20, col. 5:
“Laugh-In,” she said, “was such a velvet rut. You work so hard to get to the top and get a name—and then you have to work as hard to lose it.”

21 October 1976, Dallas (TX) Morning News, “Theater on the tube: Texas producer embarks on ‘awesome’ London venture” by Barbara Nell Hymes, section A, pg. 4:
But after 19 years, boredom set in with what he calls the “velvet rut.”

15 March 1981, New York (NY) Times, pg. SM37:
“Malone is centrally responsible for giving self-confidence to KCET,” says one of the program’s producers, who observes that the station had previously been known as the “velvet rut” in Hollywood, “snoozing its way along through adequacy.”

20 February 1982, New York (NY) Times, “Mardi Gras, as Seen From Puritan Boston, Home of Other Masking Rituals” by Carol Flake, pg. 23, col. 2:
After seven years and seven Carnivals in the Crescent City, my own costume collection was overflowing my closets and my spangled finery was beginning to mildew. I began to understand why New Orleans was known by the embittered as the Velvet Rut.

Google Books
Love, Sex and Money
by Sharleen Cooper Cohen
New York, NY: E. P. Dutton
1988
Pg. 351:
“I’m stuck in this velvet rut we’ve made for ourselves.”

23 March 1993, San Jose (CA) Mercury News, “Too Laid Back For Its Own Good? Austin’s Talent Is Legendary, But It Doesn’t Have a Head for Business” by Deborah Hopewell, pg. 4D:
As singer/songwriter Robert Earl Keen is fond of saying, “Austin is the best. It’s been called the “velvet rut,” A comfy complacency that many artists ...

7 October 1993, Dallas (TX) Morning News, “Jimmy LaFave’s a reason the city’s music scene rocks during the week” by Michael Corcoran:
And what of the so-called “Velvet Rut” of Austin, where so many “almost famous” musicians and writers get comfortable and complacent about how good they’ve ... 

1 June 1995, Dallas (TX) Morning News, “Charlie Sexton has finally shed the child-prodigy tag,
I didn’t come back to party or hang out,” Mr. Sexton says, addressing the famed “velvet rut” of Austin life.

8 February 1996, Austin (TX) American-Statesman, “Label these “Austin’: New releases signify much of our music scene” by Michael Corcoran, XL section, pg. 8:
Austin is a city of musical migration, with so many acts moving here to be part of the storied nurturement, while almost as many flee ‘’the velvet rut,’’ looking to take their music to where the stakes are higher. 

13 June 1997, Sarasota (FL) Herald-Tribune, “Jimmy Lafave, Singer-Songwriter, Gets Out of the ‘Velvet Rut’ and Confronts His ‘Austin Dilemma’ Head-On”:
At the same time, he says, Austin has a reputation among musicians as a ``velvet rut.’’ ``You can make a living just playing here, and a lot of people get ... “

(OCLC WorldCat record)
Title: Velvet rut
Author(s): Booth, Kevin. 
Publication: [Austin, Tex. :; Sacred Cow Productions],
Year: 1998
Description: 1 sound disc :; stereo., digital ;; 4 3/4 in.

Austin Chronicle (November 16, 1998)
American Power Pop II
By Kent H. Benjamin
NOVEMBER 16, 1998:
(...)
“I love Austin,” he gushes. “I’ve never been more at home anywhere. I like living in a lot of different places—New York, L.A., Tulsa, Dallas, but I’ve never been happier anywhere than in Austin. The music scene is so great. A lot of times people talk about it as the ‘Velvet Rut’; you can get into it and it’s so comfortable here that you can just sorta let time go by and you don’t work. But it’s had just the opposite effect on me. I’ve never worked as much, since we got here and I got a little bit established. Since then, I’ve just been busy all the time. I’ve been so lucky to get to record with so many great people. My kids like it here. We’re all just so happy!”

4 September 2002, Austin (TX) American-Statesman, pg. A1:
WELCH, W.Va.—Sixty years ago, while Austin idled in the velvet rut of purple sunsets, deep shade and the carbon-copy drudgery of state government, industrial America wheeled around Welch.

Google Books
The Provincials: A Personal History of Jews in the South
by Eli N. Evans
New York, NY: Free Press Paperbacks
1997
Pg. 215 (New Orleans—The Velvet Rut):
“Discrimination?” she sighed wearily. “I’ll tell you why nobody does anything about it. It’s all so dull. We’re all caught here...caught in a velvet rut...and we just can’t get out.”

Google Books
All Over the Map: True Heroes of Texas Music
by Michael Corcoran
Austin, TX: University of Texas Press
2005
Pg. xii:
In 1985, after my first year in town, readers of the Chronicle voted me “The Worst Thing to Happen to Austin Music.” That’s cool. I dish. I take.

After four years in “the velvet rut,” I took off for San Francisco, the home of many a bored ex-Austinite, then settled in Chicago, where love took me, and the char dogs from the Wiener Circle kept me, for just over three years.

19 September 2005, People, “Kathie Lee Gifford” by Maureen Harrington, Q+A, pg. 228:
Why did you leave the daytime show?

I left because my father was terminally ill. I didn’t want to put on a happy face, because I was grieving for him. Also I was frustrated on Live. I was in a velvet rut. It was time to try other things. 

26 July 2007, Richmond (VA) Times-Dispatch, “Curreri ditched ill-advised film aspirations for what he really does best: write songs” by Bill Craig, Weekender:
“I’d heard Charlottesville referred to as The Velvet Rut - folks who can’t make that daydreamy jump forward because they’re stuck getting stroked by all this comfy lushness. I mean, fair enough. But personally, I got my own Velvet Rut to deal with. Sometimes I wish I had more money. Then again, I slept till 10:15 this morning.”

Posted by Barry Popik
Texas (Lone Star State Dictionary) • (0) Comments • Sunday, November 18, 2007 • Permalink