On April 28, 2018, Stephen Micheal Dean finished his last Texas two-step and ascended to that great big dancehall in the sky.
Music was Steve's calling, his passion, and his life's work. He never heard a live band he didn't like, never saw a Texas dance hall that didn't deserve to be saved, and never knew a stranger.
Born in Minneapolis, Minnesota on December 31, 1952, "New Year's Steve" was raised in Irving, outside of Dallas, where he became smitten with music as a youngster. He found his place and his mission in life when he moved to Austin in 1972 as a young man. He played critical roles as an archivist, chronicler, and contributor helping build many of the building blocks that led to Austin becoming known as the Live Music Capital of the World. Through the succession of shops, bars, clubs, and dancehalls he owned or managed, he tirelessly promoted Austin, Texas, roots music, authentic musicians, bands, and venues, and served as an unofficial ambassador and tour guide, welcoming traveling musicians, visitors, and even the occasional wandering scholar.
His first business in Austin was OK Books and Records, a collector's record store on Sixth Street next door to the original Antone's Home of the Blues, while he simultaneously managed legendary Dallas bluesman Whistlin' Alex Moore.
In 1978, he transformed the Aus-Tex Lounge into one of the first music venues on South Congress Avenue, providing a home for up and coming artists including Stevie Ray Vaughan, Lou Ann Barton, Charlie Sexton, the Fabulous Thunderbirds, and the Paladins.
The mid-eighties to early-nineties were Steve's wandering in the wilderness years, spent in San Diego, California running the Belly-Up Tavern and working for the Falk & Morrow Talent Agency, then managing Club West in Santa Fe, New Mexico. He resurfaced in Austin in 1992, opening the East First Garden Theater, then managing Antone's at its Guadalupe Street location for two years before reentering the retail trade with two locations of Under the Sun collectibles shop, which he operated for seven years.
Steve couldn't stay away from music venues, though, and in 2005, he rolled out The Oaks, a bar, icehouse, and outdoor venue east of Austin on 100 acres that showcased local and touring roots, blues, rock, zydeco, and country talent.
Before the end of The Oaks' three-year run, Steve was already on another mission - saving Texas dancehalls. He co-founded the non-profit Texas Dance Hall Preservation, and started spreading the word about these endangered community centers in rural areas scattered outside of Austin and San Antonio. He organized dancehall tours and staged special events. Texas Dance Hall Preservation led to stints managing Sengelmann Hall in Schulenburg, Swiss Alp Hall between La Grange and Schulenburg, and Schroeder Dance Hall near Goliad, established in 1890. Steve authored the 2014 book Historic Dance Halls of East Central Texas (Arcadia Publishing) and published numerous articles on Texas music and culture, including "Live in '75: The Early Antone's" for Living Blues magazine, co-written with Philip Barnard. Before his departure, Steve was able to view the 2018 documentary film, Dance Hall Days, written, produced and directed by Erik McCowan, which follows Steve on his quest to save Texas Dance Halls.
Steve is survived by his loving mother Elaine Dean, his brother and sister-in-law Jason and Yvette Shields, his son Aaron Castillo and his partner Amanda Wiedeman and their son Elvis, his nephews Faron and Conway Shields, many loving cousins and hundreds of friends around the world.
"After all, there is nothing
more Texan than a
Texas dance hall."