A couple of years back, in his Echoes & Reverberations piece about the Longhorn, Jeff Liles ran the picture you see here -- good God, that must have been quite the back-to-back. But that's from January 1978. This week's offering comes later, in February 1982, when Merle Haggard and the Strangers played Dewey Groom's Longhorn Ballroom -- one of his many appearances at the fabled venue that, during its existence at the crossroads of Corinth and Industrial, has hosted everyone from Bob Wills (a former owner) to James Brown to Loretta Lynn to the Red Hot Chili Peppers to, one glorious night way back when, a Dallas Observer Music Awards show.
This particular performance, a strong dose of twang and swing polished with just the right amount of rough, is extraordinary -- the history of early 20th-century American music downed in a single shot. "Mama Tried," an immortal that never tires, sounds brand-new; so too "Right or Wrong" and "Pennies From Heaven" and "Tulare Dust" and the rest of the 21-song set list captured so crystal-clear it's overwhelmingly you-are-there.
And then there is the interlude, during which Dewey himself comes to the stage to issue an announcement -- a threat, more like it. But those Groom boys were awful proud of their place, and rightfully so: In November '82, Dewey's son Doug told Billboard, look, now the Longhorn ain't going nowhere: "The Longhorn will be here 'til they tear it down. It's here to stay." Just like Merle Haggard.