Dallas is known for its historic music venues. Venues like the Black Forest Theatre, Sons of Herman Hall and the Majestic Theatre have all made history, but only the legendary Longhorn Ballroom has such a consequential past that stands out from the rest. This timeless venue has seen countless musical acts all from different genres.
Located on 216 Corinth Street in Dallas, the famous structure was built in 1950 by Dallas millionaire O.L. Nelms for country music legend Bob Wills and his Texas Playboys. During that time Mr. Nelms was a prominent landowner in Dallas and was known for selfless acts of making other people’s dreams come true.
The club was originally named Bob Wills’s Ranch House; Wills was the host of the venue. In 1958 Doug “Dewey" Groom took over and renamed it the Longhorn Ballroom. Under Groom’s management he made the ballroom into one of the greatest of its day. The 1,900 capacity, western themed club was primarily a country music venue and to accentuate its western theme, there was a twenty-one-foot statue of a longhorn with eighteen-foot-wide horns, murals of the Old West, and a barbecue restaurant located inside.
During its prime the venue was the host to some big names in the country music world. Stars like Loretta Lynn, Merle Haggard, Conway Twitty, Willie Nelson, George Jones, and Ray Price, but it wasn’t long after that Jazz, Blues, R&B and even Punk Rock could be heard at the Longhorn Ballroom. Still a country music venue, one night a week it would cater to other markets by renting it out to other promoters. Legends like B.B. King, Lionel Hampton, Nat King Cole, and Al Green have all graced the Longhorn stage.
In 1978 The Longhorn made worldwide news when the Sex Pistols appeared there during their tour in the United States. Unfortunately, the punk rock band was not favored by their audience of 800. They made headlines when a woman head-butted band member Sid Vicious after he taunted the crowd.
Soon after Groom sold the Longhorn to Ira Zack, an entrepreneur who owned another club called Belle Starr. With the new ownership, The Longhorn began to feature newer bands like George Thorogood and the Destroyers, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Johnny Winter and the Georgia Satellites and its first hip-hop booking, 2 Live Crew in 1990.
In 1996 Raul and Rosalinda Ramirez bought the Longhorn Ballroom. They turned a portion of it into a Mexican-style Mercado and even booked performers including Tejano singer Selena and held rodeos outdoors.
And in 2017 Jay LaFrance acquired the Longhorn and has been working tirelessly to restore the historic venue to its former glory as an important part of Dallas history and a venue for memorable events.