Central Arkansas venues have a full week of commemorative events planned
Out of all of his noteworthy life experiences — the sold-out shows, the Jack Daniels-fueled benders, the drugs and debauchery, the jam sessions with Muddy Waters and other guitar legends, the 1969 show at the Altamont Speedway where a fan was beaten to death by the Hells Angels — Keith Richards picked the tiny town of Fordyce and what happened there in the summer of 1975, to lead off his new book, “Life.”
The story has become somewhat of an Arkansas rock legend. Richards, Rolling Stones guitarist Ronnie Wood and two others were pulled over in Fordyce on July 5, 1975, after a late lunch at the 4-Dice Restaurant. The police found some cocaine and a hunting knife, along with a trunk full of booze. Richards and Woods were detained and a media frenzy ensued until the charges were whittled down to reckless driving and the Stones hopped a plane to Dallas for their next show.
It’s been written about ad nauseum in local and national publications and the tale makes up considerable portions of personal biographies, including that of former Rolling Stones lawyer and Arkansas native Bill Carter. Ronnie Wood also wrote about the incident briefly in his book, “Ronnie.” All of these accounts share a certain amount of continuity.
Now we have a first-hand account from Richards himself. His version stacks up well with previous accounts, although the Rock ’n’ Roll Hall of Famer adds a few details here and there. But some questions remain about what exactly happened that day in Fordyce, who’s telling the truth and whether or not it makes any difference.
“And here we were driving back roads in a brand-new yellow Chevrolet Impala,” Richards writes. “In the whole of the United States there was perhaps no sillier place to stop with a car loaded with drugs — a conservative, redneck southern community not happy to welcome different-looking strangers.”
Bill Carter had warned Richards and Wood not to drive through Arkansas at all and to stick to the interstate highways if they did. Rebellious as they were, they didn’t listen. Carter wrote about Richards’ stay in Fordyce extensively in his book “Get Carter.” Even today, the thought of the whole fiasco draws a big belly laugh from the retired music industry lawyer, now 75.
“There are some things [in Keith’s book] that are maybe not quite as accurate as things I said in my book,” he said. “But that was the way he saw it. And I wouldn’t challenge his view of it. I just think — and remember he’s a huge rock star — that the world through his eyes is a bit different than it is to the rest of us.”
Richards visited Carter in 2008 to go over the details of what happened, refresh his own memory and swap stories. Carter said Richards’ recollection of what happened at the city hall in Fordyce is, for the most part, accurate. It’s what happened before they got to city hall that might be a little bit fuzzy. Richards describes pulling into the 4-Dice Restaurant:
“So we drove and Ronnie and I had been particularly stupid. We pulled into this roadhouse called the 4-Dice where we sat down and ordered and then Ronnie and I went to the john. You know, just start me up. We got high. We didn’t fancy the clientele out there, or the food, and so we hung in the john, laughing and carrying on. We sat there for forty minutes. And you don’t do that down there. Not then. That’s what excited and exacerbated the situation. And the staff called the cops.”
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