If you have lived in Waco for a decent amount of time, you likely have a story about the Melody Ranch. A Waco staple since the late 1960s, “the largest dancehall in Central Texas” was purchased by Gerald Villarial, a partner at Dunnam & Dunnam, and Kelly Snell, McLennan County Commissioner at the end of November 2018, saving the Waco-nic (get it?) building from becoming another hotel near Magnolia.
Since its incarnations as The Cotton Palace, Melody Ranch, then El Rancho, and now Melody Ranch again, the country/western venue has played host to the likes of Willie Nelson – the riser built especially for his grand piano is still on the stage – Merle Haggard, Garth Brooks, Tim McGraw, Conway Twitty, Ronnie Milsap, and George Strait.
Gerald, born and raised in Waco (and a Baylor alum) even graced the stage, playing guitar, bass, and drums for various bands over the years. He and his wife Jamie, their five kids, and Snell (and his family) help maintain the day-to-day operation of Melody Ranch, helping it return to its glory days. While Melody Ranch is known for country music, there are plans to book a variety of bands in order to appeal to a wider audience.
Over the couple of hours that we chatted towards the back of the dance floor, it’s notable that there isn’t a bad seat in the house. Anywhere you stand – or sit, because there actually are tables – offers up a great view of the stage. The acoustics in Melody Ranch are phenomenal, as well. And if plenty of space to sit and dance don’t ring your bell hard enough, a third bar is currently being finished so that waiting for a drink doesn’t mean you miss three songs.
If it’s not yet clear, the Villarials want to make sure that every patron has a good experience at Melody Ranch, and that includes the safety of the patrons. Melody Ranch is proactive in working with local police to make sure that everything from the dance floor to the parking lot is safe and secure. There’s a new security system, cameras inside and outside the venue, and new outdoor lighting to go with a new parking lot.
Hungry? Triple B’s Smokehouse is always on-site, so you can pre-game the concert with Hawaiian Pork, Pulled Pork, Brisket, fries, and more, even during bingo. Oh yeah, Melody Ranch hosts Bingo every day of the week from 10am-2pm.
Melody Ranch opens up the largest dancehall in Texas – featuring the original dance floor with just the right amount of slide – from 7pm until 2am every Thursday-Saturday, with live bands playing every Saturday night.
Melody Ranch is a family business – you will occasionally see Jamie behind the bar helping out, or Gerald and Kelly getting more tables and chairs ready. So text “Meet Me at the Ranch” to your friends and go give a legit piece of Waco history another chance.
Melody Ranch. 2315 North Robinson Drive, Waco 76706
7pm-2am Thu-Fri; 5pm-2am Sat