DFW Music News

The Longhorn Ballroom Is Coming Back, Baby!

The neon sign of the historic Longhorn Ballroom shines bright again thanks to a recent restoration project that will help the music venue open its doors by the spring.
The neon sign of the historic Longhorn Ballroom shines bright again thanks to a recent restoration project that will help the music venue open its doors by the spring. Emma Delevante
Great music venues never die, and one of the most famous in Dallas will soon be back in business.

Owner Edwin Cabaniss announced that the Longhorn Ballroom on Corinth Street in the Cedars neighborhood will host live music once again by this spring.

"My team and I at Kessler Presents believe that indie venues play a vital role in the overall health of the cultural community," Cabaniss said by email. "I live in Dallas and I love Dallas. The reopening of the Longhorn is our gift to the city and the Texas music scene both past and present."
Cabaniss bought the Longhorn Ballroom in 2021, two years after its most recent closing. It was last owned by Jay LaFrance, who reopened the venue in 2017. Cabaniss, who also owns The Kessler in Oak Cliff and the Heights Theater in Houston, intends to restore the Longhorn's music hall as a prime destination for live concerts and as a historic marker of the kind of places that helped Dallas become a "music friendly city," a recognition awarded by the Texas Music Office.

Plans for the renovation will turn parts of the Longhorn Ballroom into a mini-museum of Dallas' musical history, including new display cases that will house artifacts such as a suit worn by country legend Tex Ritter, a robe from "The Godfather of Soul" James Brown's wardrobe, a dress worn by Loretta Lynn when she played at the Longhorn Ballroom in 1980 and guitars owned by Stevie Ray Vaughan, Waylon Jennings, Tammy Wynette and B.B. King.

Dallas real estate mogul O.L. Nelms built the venue in 1950 as a way to bring the "King of Western Swing" Bob Wills and his Texas Playboys to town, naming it Bob Wills' Ranch House. It included a dance floor that could hold 2,000 people, a bar, shops and a barbecue restaurant. Douglas "Dewey" Groom took over as the club's manager in 1968 and renamed it the Longhorn Ballroom, giving the building its Western look and giant neon sign.

The space hosted some of the biggest names in country and western music — Merle Haggard, Tammy Wynette and Willie Nelson, to name a few — and expanded to other genres with performances by B.B. King, Nat King Cole, Otis Redding and Ray Charles.

The 1970s saw even more expansions to other types of popular music, including an infamous performance by punk legends The Sex Pistols in 1978 in which bassist Sid Vicious got a bloody nose from an audience member and broke his amp with a bottle. That rowdy performance was depicted in the recent Sex Pistols biographical series Pistol, based on member Steve Jones' memoirs.

Cabaniss and his team are in a perfect position to make the Longhorn rock again, having successfully brought new life to the historic Kessler through local and traveling acts, and later expanding to the historic The Heights Theater in Houston.

Kessler and Longhorn Ballroom owner Edwin Cabaniss says the renovation and reopening of the historic music venue is "our gift to the city and the Texas music scene both past and present."
Emma Delevante
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Danny Gallagher has been a regular contributor to the Dallas Observer since 2014. He has also written features, essays and stories for MTV, the Chicago Tribune, Maxim, Cracked, Mental_Floss, The Week, CNET and The Onion AV Club.

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