Longhorn Ballroom

By: Cindy Tillmon

Type: General Entry

Published: May 26, 2015

Updated: October 15, 2020


The Longhorn Ballroom, located within a complex of 80,000-square feet on 4.5 acres at 216 Corinth Street in Dallas, is a popular music venue that has seen a wide variety of musical acts since it was built in 1950 by Dallas millionaire O. L. Nelms for country music legend Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys. Originally named Bob Wills’s Ranch House, Wills was host of the venue. During the early 1950s Jack Ruby served as manager for a time. In 1958 Douglas “Dewey” Groom took over and renamed it the Longhorn Ballroom. He built it into one of the greatest venues of its day on the country western circuit. In its heyday, the 1,900-capacity club had a ballroom with a twenty-one-foot statue of a longhorn with eighteen-foot-wide horns, murals of the Old West, and other decorations to emphasize a western theme. The venue hosted country music artists such as Loretta Lynn, Merle Haggard, Conway Twitty, Willie Nelson, George Jones, and Ray Price. The complex also included a barbecue restaurant.

Though it remained primarily a country music venue, one night a week it would cater to other markets with different music by leasing it out to other promoters. Jazz, blues, and R&B became a part of the music that could be heard at the Longhorn Ballroom, and such notables as B. B. King, Lionel Hampton, Nat King Cole, and Al Green performed there. On January 10, 1978, the Sex Pistols appeared there while on tour in the United States. The punk rock band was not well-received by their audience of about 800 people, and the group taunted the crowd and made headlines when one woman head-butted band member Sid Vicious.

In 1986 Dewey Groom sold the Longhorn Ballroom, and later owners booked it for musical genres that ran across the spectrum. One notable booking in 1990 was 2 Live Crew. Due to the nature of the group’s song lyrics, a judge had to be persuaded to issue a restraining order against the city to allow them to perform. However, on the night of the show, the band refused to take the stage unless they were paid first. The crowd became angry and began to riot. At least fifty police officers in full riot gear arrived to calm the melee. In subsequent years, the surrounding neighborhood fell into decline, and people moved away. The ballroom had trouble attracting customers.

In 1996 Raul and Rosalinda Ramirez bought the Longhorn Ballroom with plans to revive it and turn portions of it into a Mexican-style Mercado with small shops catering to Hispanic vendors and customers. They had already operated Raul’s Corral Mexican Restaurant located in the ballroom complex and even booked a few performers including Tejano singer Selena. In 2001 the ballroom once again was up for sale. The Ramirez family continued to operate the restaurant and added David Hargrove’s HMi Architectural Antiques. By 2009 the venue was still used for occasional special events.

 Dallas Morning News, October 28, 1985; November 20, 1988; August 4, 1994; August 4, 1996; October 26, 1996; February 9, 2001.

Categories:

  • Music
  • Venues

Places:

  • Dallas/Fort Worth Region
  • Dallas
  • North Texas

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

Cindy Tillmon, “Longhorn Ballroom,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed January 22, 2022, https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/entries/longhorn-ballroom.

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

May 26, 2015
October 15, 2020

This entry belongs to the following Handbook Special Projects:

Loading