Friday, June 17, 2011

Jack Ruby Night Clubs in Dallas

According to Morty Freedman's son, the businesses run by Morty moved to the Dal-Tex Building during the 1960's. He doesn't recall the exact year that happened, but remembers the previous location as 2135 S. Lamar St., near the Corinth Street railroad tunnels and bridges across the Trinity River, leading to Oak Cliff. The first street Corinth intersects with after passing the railroads is now called Riverfront, but in the 1960s it was still known as Industrial Blvd. At that intersection there was a night club built by Dallas real estate tycoon, O. L. Nelms in about 1950 during the heyday of "western swing" music. Called the Bob Wills Ranch House, it was built to showcase the talent of the Texas Playboys and which featured other recording artists, such as Hank Thompson and the Brazos Valley Boys (Capitol Records), who appeared at the Bob Wills Ranch House in 1952.

“Mr. Nelms originally built the Longhorn nightclub for Bob Wills,” Wisener says. “At first, it was called the Bob Wills Ranch House. Jack Ruby managed it for a short time." Jack Ruby had leased this club at one time, possibly from Ocie/Ossie Nelms, or more commonly called O.L. Nelms, and the Warren Commission heard testimony that Jack Ruby had even "dated" Nelms' ex-wife. Nelms owned a wholesale company in Dallas:
DALLAS, Tex. - (NEA) — O. L. Nelms is an appreciative millionaire who believes in letting the home town folk know it. He is not one of those suddenly rich, puffed up braggarts, either. When the subject of his millions comes up he points out an ad he runs in a local newspaper
and to billboards on the approaches to downtown that state simply:
Folk who read the ad or see the signs don't know exactly how they've helped Nelms, but it gives them a warm, happy feeling just to know they've helped somebody. And he insists that if
it wasn't for the people he would never have made his pile....With $30 as capital, Nelms he opened a wholesale tobacco and snuff business in Dallas in the Depression year of 1932 and parlayed this small endeavor into his far-flung real estate holdings which skyrocketed with the coming of the shopping center.
Although his money matters have been complicated through the years, it was only recently
that he needed the help of an accountant. He has acquired several corporations, but has dissolved them to "keep things simple enough for me to understand."
An obituary May 5, 1972 in the Abilene Reporter-News stated:
 Born near Palestine, Nelms often boasted of his lack of formal education He recalled that he left school after the third grade, came to Dallas when he was 17 and entered the wholesale
drug business, he liquidated a statewide drug distributorship in 1946.
With the capital from that sale, 'he invested in Dallas real estate.
In two of the largest auctions in Dallas history, Nelms again sold his holdings—for $6 million
in 1968 and $8 million in 1970. Two years ago, he estimated his personal wealth at "some
where between $15 and $25 million."
O.L. had a brother, B.B. Nelms, who also worked with him one of his wholesale companies (Joe Smith Wholesale Co.--a candy company at 2227 Bryan)  in the mid-1940s.  Some articles say Nelms gave it to Bob Wills, whose ownership was succeeded by Jack Ruby and later by Dewey Groom. However, the only way to know the ownership is to check the deed and tax records, evidence of which has not been shown. However, Vincent Bugliosi said on page 1089 of his much-maligned book, Reclaiming History:
Bugliosi says Jack Ruby was operating two clubs at the same time--the Bob Wills Ranch House and the Silver Spur and went bankrupt in 1952, at which point he moved to Chicago for several months and returned to Dallas where he soon was building up another night club called the Vegas on Oaklawn Avenue. In 1955 he added Hernando's Hideaway at 6854 Greenville Avenue to his portfolio of clubs. With his sister Eva managing the Vegas Club, by 1960 Ruby was doing well enough to go in with other investors in another hot spot at 1312-1/2 Commerce in downtown, initially called the Sovereign Club. Losing money for several months, the private club's main backers withdrew, leaving Jack Ruby, heavily in debt to his patron Ralph Paul (owner of the Bull Pen Restaurant and the Sky Club), to transform this location into his Carousel Club, a high-class strip joint.
Backing up, the first Dallas night club Ruby ran is mentioned in the HSCA chapter about Jack Ruby's associates in a section focused on Andrew Armstrong, Jr., who, intriguingly enough, also worked both for Morty Freedman at Marilyn Belts for a time, and for Jack Ruby's Carousel Club from June 1962 until Feb. 1964. In Andrew Armstrong's testimony this club was called the Longhorn Ranch club (or Longhorn Ballroom) on Corinth and Industrial Blvd. Associated with Jack Ruby in the Longhorn was Dewey Groom, about whom an Associated Press article in the Paris News Nov. 24, 1983 stated:
Dewey Groom, 65, who has owned the ballroom for 25 years, usually sings with the house band after the first set. "Your band is still here," reads a note tacked to a wall. "We want to see you on the bandstand." The weary Groom has lived the music. "I've been crying buckets of tears all day, and I've buckets more to cry before I'm through," he said in 1978, the day after a wife he married twice was shot and killed in another man's bedroom. Wilson Wren, the Longhorn's manager since 1974 and a janitor at the ballroom 10 years before that, says simply, "Mr. Groom is country. In his heart."... "I dressed flashy," he said. "I had all my clothes made in Fort Worth. I didn't have no money, but I had some fine clothes."
Groom sang and played with several bands over the next few years, but said he could not make a decent living at entertaining and opened a nightclub on his friends' urging. He called it the Longhorn Ranch. In 1952, he joined the late Jack Ruby and Chicagoan Hy Fader at the Longhorn Ballroom's predecessor, known as the Bob Wills Ranch House. After leaving the club over a dispute, he reopened the Longhorn Ranch, then left the business entirely for two years. He became a barber.
Whether it was the same club or another at the same intersection is hard to discern, although the Guthrey Club was also mentioned in an FBI report  was then located at that same intersection (214 Corinth). Dewey Groom was also the proprietor at this club, also called Guthrie.

Once you pass that intersection, there is a long bridge on Corinth, and the next street that intersects is Eighth, which, coincidentally, was the location of a mattress factory where the employment commission sent Lee  Oswald on an interview in 1963, the Burton-Dixie Corp. at 817 Corinth. Following 8th Street to the northwest will bring you to N. Beckley Avenue, only two blocks from Lee Oswald's rooming house at No. 1026.

Small world.


Joash de Cabin said...
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Rachel said...

AS Usual.. Good Job.. The interesting mention of the DUO, and the Dal-Tex.. Must have been a stock scam.. Nelms made alot of money fast.. Ever find anyone employed by him during the old days to ask about the Wholesale Drug Company?