The legendary Longhorn Ballroom opened in 1950 originally as the Bob Wills’ Ranch House. It was owned and operated by O. L. Nelms as a music venue for Bob Wills and his Texas Playboys. The Ranch House included a dance floor accommodating 2,000 people, a barbeque restaurant, a bar, retail and outdoor areas. Bob Wills, as host, played there with the Texas Playboys on a regular basis. They were instrumental in developing a new take on Western Swing music.
Douglas ‘Dewey’ Groom was brought in to manage the club, and in 1968 he purchased the building, renamed it the Longhorn Ballroom, and added the Western style front façade and the iconic sign and bull at Corinth Street. Groom continued Nelms’ commitment to county music, and built it into one of the greatest Country and Western venues of its day. The artists that played there represented the best – Loretta Lynn, Merle Haggard, Conway Twitty, George Jones, Ray Price, Charley Pride, George Jones, Tammy Wynette and Willie Nelson, as well as locals including Hank Thompson and the Brazos Valley Boys. Groom would also lease the venue to other promoters for Jazz, Blues, and Rhythm & Blues with performers such as B. B. King, Lionel Hampton, Nat King Cole, Al Green, Otis Redding, Ray Charles, and James Brown. By the late 1970s, the venue opened up to other popular music, including the Sex Pistols’ notorious event in 1978 that gained worldwide attention.
Groom sold the ballroom in 1986 to Ira Zack who widened the spectrum of music played there bringing in George Thorogood and the Destroyers, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Georgia Satellites, and more. Aerosmith even filmed a music video in the ballroom in 1989 for “What it Takes.” Ten years later, Raul Ramirez purchased the property and had several retail uses and occasional concerts, including Selina. In 2017, Jay LaFrance purchased the building, renovated the exterior and made upgrades to the interior for events, in the process winning an award for the work from Preservation Dallas. Due to bankruptcy, the building is set to be liquidated, through the court. The building is not protected by landmark status and anyone who purchases it could demolish this incredible piece of Dallas’ musical history.