In October 1961, Ray Chaney opened the first generation of the Stagecoach Inn in the old Stagecoach Hotel, 2408 N. Main in Forth Worth, Texas. On opening night, he had Al Dexter of "Pistol Packin' Mama" fame as his first act. He did quite well at the location.
Soon the crowds got too large, and he moved his club in 1963 to the then Crystal Springs Ballroom, 5336 White Settlement Rd. and began the second generation of the Stagecoach Inn.
Chaney booked many of the big names of the era at his club. The names included Willie Nelson, Bob Wills, Porter Wagoner, Jim Reeves, Bobby Bare and quite a few more. The last performer to appear at the Stagecoach Inn in White Settlement was Tommy Duncan, on January 19, 1967, shortly before he passed away in July 1967 the club was destroyed by a fire.
In April 1967, Chaney, leased a building that was once a Safeway store and opened the Stagecoach Inn, where it stands today at 2516 E. Belknap, Fort Worth. When the new Stagecoach Inn opened Bo Powell and Gene Kelly noted that it "..was one of the biggest crowds ever seen in a club in Fort Worth".
But this time it may have peaked too soon. A 1970 article notes that Ray told his employees in late 1968 that if business didn't start to pick up, he was going to have to close the place. That New Years Eve, his old friend, "whom he had once told to give up singing", Willie Nelson came in to play and brought the crowds along with him. That seemed to be the spark that renewed the interest in the Stagecoach Inn.
August 24, 1972, Chaney died in a car accident. It was reported that he was on his way home, north of Fort Worth, hit a bridge abutment and was not found until several minutes after the car caught fire.
Chaney's wife, Fae ran the Stagecoach for a few years and was under a binding lease agreement until Bruno Czajkowski and his brother-in-law Milton Trojacek, took over the property from the management company circa 1974 and then by March 1976 were running the Stagecoach Inn.
Bruno and Milton renamed the club the Stagecoach Ballroom, and the house band the Stagecoach Express. For more than 20 years the house band played every night the club was open.
**Click on photos to enlarge.**
Moe Bandy, Jean & Kiran
In 1983, Jean Czajkowski, Bruno's daughter, who was designing accounting software, started managing the financials for the Stagecoach, and on January 20th, 1984, she purchased Trojacek's half of the property and business and partnered with her parents for the next several years.
In the spring of 1986, the Stagecoach was home to the filming of the movie "Square Dance" released in 1987. The movie starred Rob Lowe, Wynona Ryder, Jane Alexander, Jason Robards, as well as Trace Adkins as a member in the "Bayou Band". The film later appeared as an NBC movie of the week under the title "Home Is Where The Heart Is".
In October of 1994, TBS filmed a segment of it's series: "America's Music: The Roots of Country" that was released in 1996 as a three-part, six episode documentary. In 1997 it was an Emmy nominee for "Outstanding Achievement In Informational Programming".
As of 1999, Jean and her husband Kiran, have owned and operated the club. They decided that the days of a house band were not as lucrative as they may have once been. Nor was it attracting the next generation of customers. The Stagecoach still has an incredible house band, The Coachmen. They play every Sunday starting at 5:00 pm. Fridays are typically for local and upcoming bands. For many Saturdays, they now book series of concerts throughout the year, with artists such as: Johnny Lee, Eddy Raven, Doug Stone, Johnny Rodriguez, T. Graham Brown, Moe Bandy and many more. Though it was an enormous adventure Jean and Kiran decided to take on, it has seemed to work noting that their first five guest performers were Gene Watson, John Conlee, Johnny Bush, Kitty Wells and Gary Stewart.
"TEXAS WAS THE SWEET SPOT, where there was money to be made. and Fort Worth and Dallas offered the most dependable paydays. "They'd come in a lot to where I played, the Stagecoach Inn,because we played Western Swing music, said Charlie Owens, the Fort Worth steel guitarist. Paul had played behind Ray Chaney, the owner of the Stagecoach in the early 1960s. Once he joined up with Willie, whenever they were gigging around North Texas, Paul would persuade Chaney to let Willie and him play a Sunday mantinee as a two-piece for the door."
"Can you believe that last title?... everybody around Fort Worth, had pitched me the song one night on my bus at the Stagecoach in Fort Worth. That same night, the club owner, Ray Chaney, had invited me to breakfast after the gig. I said no because I needed to fly to Nashville the next day to work on the album.
Ray Chaney was killed in an auto accident on the way to breakfast. It seemed like tragedy was all around me."
Monday Night Wrestling
For almost two years, 1990 to 1992, the Stagecoach Ballroom was Fort Worth's home to Wrestling.