Austin FC’s new jersey hearkens back to the days of the Armadillo World Headquarters. Photo by Jacob Gonzalez/Austin FC.

The Armadillo World Headquarters never grew old. But its legend sure as hell did.

As a venue, it lasted not quite 11 years, from mid-1970 to the first hours of 1981. But in the 43 years since it closed, the Armadillo’s legacy has loomed over Austin. As a potent combination of music, art, and progressive values, it hasn’t been replicated.

Now, it’s back.

Not as a physical location—though Armadillo founder Eddie Wilson said that could be possible down the line. Instead, it’s been reborn as a brand: Armadillo World will release original recordings and a pair of documentaries, produce live events, and sell merchandise, including reprints of its historic posters created by the group of artists known as the Armadillo Art Squad. An anonymous investor heads the brand, and New York-based marketing company Passion Point Collective oversees the work.

In addition, Armadillo World is partnering with Austin FC. During an event at ACL Live at the Moody Theater on Feb. 15, the city’s Major League Soccer team unveiled its “Armadillo Kit,” a jersey inspired by the Armadillo World Headquarters. The green and white jersey is marked with a small armadillo on the bottom front corner. The back of the collar features the Armadillo World Headquarters’ former street address number 525 1/2 Barton Springs Road—a detail Wilson appreciated as “pretty friggin’ subtle.”

Gary P. Nunn and William Beckmann perform at the kit reveal at ACL Live at the Moody Theater. Photo by Getty Images for Armadillo World

During the kit reveal, a pair of short videos paid tribute to the Armadillo, emphasizing the diversity and inclusivity the venue was known for (musical acts to grace its stage ranged from Count Basie and AC/DC to Ravi Shankar and Billy Joe Shaver). It also was a place where hippies and rednecks met in harmony. “The spirit of the ‘Dillo lives on,” intoned Asleep at the Wheel front man Ray Benson in the video just before the kit reveal. “It never was about one place…never was. This city is about us. Imagine all these faces coming together to the drumbeat that found its rhythm at the Armadillo.”

Hundreds of Austin FC fans—many of whom likely had only the dimmest notion of what the Armadillo World Headquarters was—stood on the floor of the Moody Theater. On the mezzanine, “old Austin” looked on. There was musician Gary P. Nunn who recalled the “seminal days of Austin” and said it sure would be magic if the city could grasp that spirit once more. Squad artists Danny Garrett said the return of the Armadillo was “long overdue” while Jim Franklin said he looked forward to the chance to share more of his story.

In an interview at his Austin home the day before, 80-year-old Armadillo founder Eddie Wilson talked at length about the revival of the Armadillo and the joy of becoming a soccer fan. “How hard should it be to fall in love with the greatest sport in the world?” he said.

Along with the musician-focused documentary by Eric Geadelmann that has long been in the works, Passion Point is making an Armadillo-focused documentary that is Wilson’s vision. If there’s a takeaway from the Moody event, it was the power of the mostly unseen video footage that Wilson had tucked away all these years.

He brought up a clip from the time singer-songwriter Tom T. Hall ran out of songs and ended up singing “Will the Circle Be Unbroken” for four encores. “He finally came out and said, ‘I wish I had some of what y’all are smoking—and the sky rained down with joints on the big stage,’” Wilson said. He laughed as he described Hall waving goodnight to the crowd with a closed fist. “He got one in his hand that he wouldn’t let go of.”

William Beckmann, Gary P. Nunn, Dani Pereira, Ray Benson, and Owen Wolff celebrate the re-launch of Armadillo World at the Austin FC jersey launch party. Photo by Rick Kern/Getty Images for Armadillo World

As for the possibility of a physical Armadillo in the future, Wilson said he and his partner have not discussed it. But he’d be wary if one is proposed—it’s not easy to put that part of the legacy in someone else’s hands. At the moment, he’s just pleased to share the history and to have it so well-received.

Wilson’s wife Sandra, who is helping with the new endeavor, said the marketing team they’re working with loves and respects the Armadillo. Austin FC is equally enamored. After the kit reveal, a couple of Austin FC staff members approached Wilson. “Was that all right?” they asked. “Did we do right by you?”

Wilson loves that the team studied Austin history and came to the conclusion that they wanted to associate themselves with the Armadillo’s values—which Wilson says include peace, love, and happiness. “You know,” he says, “the ultimate hippie trip.”

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