THE RAY CHARLES RIOT

YESTERDAY The flap over 2 Live Crew’s failure to perform recently at the Longhorn Ballroom and the resulting uproar by the Crew’s loyal fens made good press, but the few broken chairs and windows hardly registered on the riot scale. For a real down-home concert riot, we have to go all the way back to September 28, 1964.

The scene was Dallas Memorial Auditorium; the occasion, a concert by the legendary RAY CHARLES. Brother Ray had lived in South Dallas during the mid-Fifties, performing at the Empire Room on Hall Street and touring the Southwest with his band in a De Soto Firedome station wagon. It was while living here that Charles composed such early classics as “Mess Around” and “It Should Have Been Me.” By the early Sixties, a Ray Charles concert was a hot ticket here.

Though an integrated entertainment audience was still considered a social experiment in those days, the Charles concert began without incident. But after a few preliminary numbers, one of Charles’s ensemble grabbed the mike and told the audience that the IRS had confiscated The Genius’s gate receipts, and it was no-pay, no-play. The rabble-rouser goaded the frenzied assembly by suggesting that they storm the ticket office to demand refunds.

The classic elements of unrest were present in this microcosm of the Sixties: black versus white, the disenfranchised against the establishment, police in riot gear, and even a crowd chanting anti-LBJ slogans. Whiskey and wine bottles were flying everywhere, glass was shattering, and a parking lot attendant was leading cheers like an Aggie football captain at a bonfire.

In all, 27 plate-glass windows were smashed, the concession stand and the ticket booths were demolished, and the total damage to the facility was $2,000-$3,000. If that doesn’t sound like much, remember the cost of the tickets back then-$2 a head.

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