Editor’s note: Main Street Nashville reprints some of the best front pages from the Nashville Banner, an afternoon newspaper that published from 1876 to 1998. The pages are courtesy of the Nashville Public Library, Nashville Banner Collection.
55 YEARS AGO IN THE NASHVILLE BANNER
On Wednesday, I used this space to look back on 1961, when the latest dance sensation the Twist was taking over America.
Five years later, a riot erupted at a Kansas City auditorium after police stopped a “rock ‘n’ roll dance because of alleged obscene movements,” according to a story on the front page of the Nov. 25, 1966, Banner.
About 8,000 people were at the dance, with entertainment provided by James (Mr. Dynamite) Brown, an orchestra and a floor show.
After the crowd was told the dance had to stop, a melee ensued. Shots were fired, fists were swung and bottles thrown. About 100 officers responded to the scene. Thirty people were arrested, three officers were hurt, and a woman was stabbed.
Less than two years later, Brown was credited with preventing a riot.
On April 5, 1968, the soul singer performed at Boston Garden. Martin Luther King Jr. had been assassinated the day before in Memphis, and tensions were high. Violence tore through many U.S. cities, and Boston officials feared it would be next.
According to a 2018 Boston Globe story, when fans began to swarm Brown near the end of his show, “he first had to calm the police who, primed for a riot, tried to forcibly remove them from stage.” He then allowed the fans to dance with him but scolded them when they were slow to leave the stage.
“I asked you to step down and you wouldn’t and that’s wrong,” he told them, according to the Globe story. “You’re not being fair to yourselves and me neither ... or your race. Now I asked the authorities to step back because I thought I could get some respect from my own people.”
He got that respect and continued the show.
According to reports, there were minor skirmishes in Boston that night but not the riots that had been feared.