Historic Texas Music Venue is Being Reborn: Family Trio Saves a Legendary Landmark From the BulldozersBY Catherine D. Anspon // 02.14.17
The Longhorn Ballroom dates from 1950, and was built by Dallas tycoon O.L. Nelms as a HQ for Bob Wills and his Texas Playboys. (Photo Cal Quinn)
Music publicist Amber LaFrance and her developer dad, Jay LaFrance, are part of the family team that are saving the Longhorn Ballroom. (Portrait Cal Quinn)
In 1958, Dewey Groom and his act took over the venue, changing its original name from Bob Will's Ranch House to the Longhorn Ballroom.
A rendering for the Container Park at The Longhorn Ballroom. Dallas-based architects GSR Andrade will design the new music, art, and retail mecca.
The Sex Pistols' January 10, 1978 performance at the Longhorn Ballroom was notorious for a bloody head-butting incident.
The Longhorn's mascot awaits its new paint job by Stylle Read. The muralist of the Fort Worth Stockyards has also been commissioned to create a mural cycle for this urban renewal/preservation project in the Cedars. (Photo Cal Quinn)
In lieu of another apartment complex, Dallas will see the restoration of a historical music venue, and a new concept — a container park for retail, restaurant, and artist studios. Eta summer 2017 for initial move-ins.
Paul Cook of The Sex Pistols misbehaves in 1978 at the Longhorn. (Photo © Lynn Goldsmith/Corbis)
The ballroom's original house band: Western swing's Bob Wills and his Texas Playboys. Reportedly, Wills' horse Punkin' was often part of the performance, prancing across stage in rubber shoes.
The Sex Pistols tuning up for their 1978 performance at the Longhorn.
Willie Nelson from back in the day on the ballroom's stage.
Soon the Longhorn marquee will blaze again with headliners, as it did in this night in 1978 when the Sex Pistols came to town. (Collection Doug Groom and the Groom family)
A historic Texas music venue that’s seen its glory days disappear will once again go live soon.
About a year ago, Dallas publicist to the indie music scene, Amber LaFrance gave us a tip about the Cedars’ grand music palace, a holdover from another area — the fabled Longhorn Ballroom. Erected in 1950, during the golden days of Western Swing (originally, Bob Wills and his Texas Playboys crooned there as the house band), the Ballroom has been the venue for legendary music acts from Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard on.
Not all were country and western performers — the Sex Pistols played the Longhorn Ballroom in 1978, a notorious gig where Sid Vicious was head-butted by a female fan. Now LaFrance’s dad — developer/entrepreneur Jay LaFrance has acquired the Longhorn. Along with Amber (set to be the creative director) and his son Jayson LaFrance (a web designer tapped as operations director), the family’s coming together to revive the Longhorn Ballroom, and offer something new for the millennial crowd.
Say hello to The Container Park at The Longhorn, a venue for outdoor acts, artist studios (eventually in shipping containers), food trucks, makers stations, and more, adding another 22,000 square feet to the equation.
LaFrance revealed that she is hoping to lure some visual talents from Deep Ellum over to the Longhorn after the reported closure of studios at the Continental Gin Building. Expect concerts and studio move ins as early as this summer, providing another boost to the historic Cedars as cultural nexus.
Specifically, the LaFrance family’s S&D Longhorn Partners, LLC plans for the Longhorn center around a venue for indoor events with a capacity of up to 2,550 people and outdoors events with a capacity of up to 5,000 people. Situated on 4.5 acres — at 200 Corinth Street, one mile south of the Dallas Convention Center — the soon to be reborn site will feature murals commissioned from a DFW classic: Stylle Read (whose paint brushes created the 31 x 83-foot street scene that graces the Fort Worth Stockyards).
Read has also been enlisted to refresh the paint on the Longhorn Ballroom’s mascot. Architects GSR Andrade will be devising the master plan, providing a contemporary spin with the concept of the shipping container park.
Meanwhile, the entrepreneur who is saving the Longhorn, and making it into a family act too, Jay LaFrance tells PaperCity via email — “Originally I was looking at it as a real estate investment opportunity, but when I opened the door to the Ballroom I was floored by what I saw.”
“I had heard stories of music legends who had played there, but when I saw it in person I felt like I was being transported back in time.”
“We’re thrilled to bring back a piece of Dallas’ legacy and save it from being bulldozed to make room for new apartments. I just couldn’t let this landmark be lost.”
Read more about this unfolding story in PaperCity’s April print magazine. We’ll detail the roll call of acts that once played the 23,000 square-foot venue, the 10th largest in Dallas. Back in the day that included jazz, blues, R and B, rock, and hip hop notables, from Nat King Cole, B.B. King, and Lionel Hampton to the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Johnny Winter, and 2 Live Crew.
Who’s next on the Longhorn stage? Stay tuned.