click to enlarge
July 5, 1975, began like any day in Fordyce. But soon the town would be on the lips of broadcasters around the globe, and it would become a footnote in the police record of the self-proclaimed "world’s greatest rock band," the Rolling Stones.
Today, the notion of the Stones being dangerous is laughable. But an outlaw image was cultivated by the British quintet in the early 1960s.
According to Arkansas native Bill Carter, attorney for the Rolling Stones from 1973 to 1983, "In 1975, everywhere the Stones went, it was a challenge to the authorities." Riot squads and narcotics units were common during the 28-city tour.
The Stones have other tenuous Arkie connections. Little Rock native Jim Dickinson plays piano on "Wild Horses." "Rip This Joint," from probably the most lauded Stones album, "Exile on Main Street," references Little Rock, and many Arkansas-related blues musicians influenced the band, such as Howlin’ Wolf and Robert Johnson. The weirdest? The 1975 Saturday lunch and subsequent arrest of guitarists Ron Wood and Keith Richards in Dallas County.
On Friday, July 4, the Stones played Memphis; the next show was Dallas, on Sunday. In the cradle of the blues music they loved, and after a stormy flight two days earlier from Washington, D.C., Richards and new member Wood decided to drive and sightsee with two others from their entourage.
Hours later, the four, driving a rented yellow 1975 Chevy Impala, stopped for lunch at the 4-Dice Restaurant and Station. Making a play on the name of the town, the building featured four tumbling dice painted on its front.
Wood hit the buffet, going back for seconds on the fried chicken. Richards ordered the 16-ounce T-bone and tried brown gravy over his french fries on the recommendation of the waitress. About 3 p.m., the group departed, leaving behind a $1.65 tip and autographs. Soon after, the Richards-driven Impala was stopped for reckless driving.
From here, details are less clear. Stories differ by a few miles over where the car was pulled over, and whether the alleged recklessness happened before or after lunch. A search warrant was granted after an officer said he smelled marijuana. Police didn’t find any, but did find less than two grams of cocaine from a briefcase said to belong to one of the non-Stones along for the ride. The car was impounded. Richards was also cited for carrying an illegal weapon, a hunting knife. He passed a sobriety test.
Fans gathered outside city hall as word of the arrest spread. By night’s end, the crowd was said to number in the hundreds; the news was carried around the world. Inside, the group drank cola and Wood rode a confiscated bicycle around the halls. They didn’t spend any time behind bars. Before midnight, thanks to their Arkansas lawyer, the group was released. The tour, which grossed $13 million, was back on track when Richards posted his $162.50 bond. He was scheduled to appear in Fordyce court Aug. 1, but forfeited bond. It was said Richards swore the Stones would never play Arkansas.
Still, on Nov. 11, 1994, the Voodoo Lounge tour came to Little Rock’s War Memorial Stadium.
Today, the 4-Dice Restaurant (it seems to have dropped its "Station") has been remodeled, but owner Paul Holt can point to the area where the guys ate. Holt’s family owned the restaurant then, but he wasn’t there when it happened. A fan, Holt was in Memphis, hoping to see a Stone.
"Who could have thought for a second they’d be here?" Holt asks, still sounding understandably frustrated.
There’s more about the Rolling Stones’ "Fordyce incident" on this week’s "Arkansongs," heard Fridays at 6:40 a.m. and 6:20 p.m. on KUAR-FM, 89.1, in Little Rock. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org