From the Sex Pistols to Nat King Cole, 5 notable Longhorn Ballroom performances from the past

The sign of the Longhorn Ballroom lit up at night.

The exterior of the Longhorn Ballroom. Photo: Emma Delevante

Live music returns Thursday to the Longhorn Ballroom, after more than five years of inactivity, and nearly a year of restoration work, courtesy of the Kessler Theater’s Edwin Cabaniss and his team.

It’s impossible not to feel the history seeping out of the venue’s walls — a veritable cavalcade of stars has passed across the Longhorn’s stage over the last 73 years. That history is a key piece of the refurbished room — Cabaniss and his team have carefully curated a series of enormous shadow boxes, which chronicle key points and key performers in the venue’s existence.

So, on the eve of Asleep at the Wheel returning to the Longhorn Ballroom Thursday to officially christen this new era, let’s look back at some of the bigger names to take a turn on the historic stage. (Want more? The Longhorn has it, looking back at all the historic performances at the venue.)

Bob Wills

What accounting of the Longhorn Ballroom and its glittering roster of guests would be complete without a mention of the fella for whom the space was initially built? Western swing icon Bob Wills was a frequent guest on the Longhorn Ballroom stage over the years, even recording a live album there, titled The Longhorn Recordings, in 1964-65.

Sex Pistols

Second only to Bob Wills when it comes to acts most identified with the Longhorn Ballroom, England’s late, great band of scabrous punks famously appeared on stage in Jan. 1978, as part of a fitful U.S. run of dates. Bloody, chaotic and as much a stunt as an actual musical performance, the Sex Pistols’ one (and only) Dallas stop is lodged in local lore.

Loretta Lynn

One of the many country greats who made an appearance at the Longhorn Ballroom over the decades was the Coal Miner’s Daughter herself, Loretta Lynn. One of those performances was preserved as part of a 1980 TV special titled “Country Gold: The First 50 Years of Country Music,” which was hosted by Dennis Weaver and featured a pre-taped Lynn performance from the Longhorn.

Nat King Cole

The legendary crooner was one of many A-list acts who appeared at the Longhorn Ballroom, and Cole’s showcase came in 1954, just four years into the venue’s existence. This show, according to historical reports, was booked by none other than Jack Ruby, a little under a decade before he’d become wholly synonymous with a different, bloodier chapter of Dallas history.


For reasons lost to the mists of time, Aerosmith released two different versions of the music video for its 1990 single “What It Takes.” One was a standard-issue glimpse behind the scenes of the recording sessions for Pump, the LP home to “Takes.” The other, directed by Wayne Isham, finds the band performing at the Longhorn Ballroom to a room full of rowdy cowboys.

Asleep at the Wheel, Brennen Leigh and Joshua Hedley at Longhorn Ballroom, Dallas. 8 p.m. March 30. Tickets are $28-$816.

Preston Jones is a North Texas freelance writer and regular contributor to KXT. Email him at [email protected] or find him on Twitter (@prestonjones). Our work is made possible by our generous, music-loving members. If you like how we lift up local music, consider becoming a KXT sustaining member right here.