Built in 1924, Cain’s Ballroom began life as a garage, which was then purchased in 1930 by Madison W. “Daddy” Cain. Cain turned it into a dance academy, but soon branched out into the world of live music. Today it’s one of the preeminent music venues in the U.S., with a rich history spanning from Bob Wills to the Sex Pistols and beyond.
The first performer to leave a large impression on the history of the venue was Bob Wills, the American Western swing musician, songwriter and bandleader. Wills was a regular at the ballroom from 1935 to 1942, and the venue became known as “The Home of Bob Wills” (who himself became known as “The King of Western Swing”).
Then, during the 1960s, Bob Wills suffered a series of heart attacks. At the same time, rock and roll was sweeping the nation. Cain’s Ballroom, for a while at least, was in limbo, and largely fell off the map as a music venue. The revival began in 1976, when rock concert investor Larry Shaeffer purchased Cain’s Ballroom. It reopened the following year with a show by American blues and rock musician Elvin Bishop.
A year later, and in stark contrast to the bluesy Bishop, the Sex Pistols came to town. Dealing with Johnny Rotten and co. was never an easy task, but Cain’s caught them at a particularly bad time. Their U.S. tour was imploding because, well, they were the Sex Pistols, and Sid Vicious was more irritable than normal.
Vicious famously lost his cool in Cain’s and punched a fist-sized hole through the wall, inadvertently creating a treasured piece of punk rock history. The hole, which upon its creation was located in the wall of the green room, was later framed. The green room is now the ballroom’s main office, but the hole has been carefully preserved, complete with explanatory plaque.
Since the Sex Pistols, Cain’s has gone from strength to strength, and is frequently listed among the top club venues worldwide for ticket sales. The 1,200-capacity venue has hosted a huge amount of big-name sellout concerts in recent years, including Beck, The Smashing Pumpkins, Jack White, Fleet Foxes and many, many more. And most of these big names request to play at Cain’s despite its small size, knowing they’ll have a passionate crowd at a genuinely historic venue.