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Arrest of the Rolling Stones

The July 5, 1975, lunch stop and subsequent arrest of Rolling Stones guitarists Ron Wood and Keith Richards in Fordyce (Dallas County) is fabled in the town, and the incident became a footnote in the police record of the English rock and roll band. The quintet had cultivated an outlaw image since its early 1960s inception. According to Arkansas native Bill Carter, the Rolling Stones' attorney from 1973 to 1990, everywhere the Stones went in 1975, it was a challenge for authorities. Riot squads and narcotics units were common during the group’s twenty-eight-city, $13 million-grossing tour.

On July 4, the Stones played Memphis, Tennessee. Richards and new member Wood decided to sightsee and drive with two others to their July 6 concert in Dallas, Texas. Hours later, driving a rented yellow 1975 Chevy Impala, they stopped for lunch at the 4-Dice Restaurant and Station. Paul Holt, whose family owned the restaurant, was in Memphis, however, hoping to see one of the Rolling Stones. “Who could have thought for a second they’d be here?” he later said. Wood hit the buffet, going back for seconds on the fried chicken. Richards ordered the sixteen-ounce T-bone and tried brown gravy over his French fries on the recommendation of waitress Wanda Parnell. They left a $1.65 tip and autographs.

Soon after 3:00 p.m., the Richards-driven Impala, with Tennessee license plate IKR 160, was cited for reckless driving. Stories differ by a few miles concerning where the car was pulled over. Fordyce police officers Joe Taylor and Eddie Childers thought that they smelled marijuana, and the Impala was impounded. After getting a search warrant, police did not find marijuana but discovered less than two grams of cocaine in a briefcase said to belong to passenger Fred Sessler. Though he passed a sobriety test, Richards was cited for carrying an illegal weapon—a hunting knife.

Hundreds of people gathered outside city hall as word spread. British Embassy officials were called. Inside, the group drank soda, and Wood rode a confiscated bicycle around the halls. No one spent time behind bars. Before midnight, with Carter’s help, the group was released. Richards posted $162.50; he was scheduled to appear in court August 1 but forfeited bond. The Stones also covered Sessler.

All left by a plane waiting at the local airport. Former Stones bassist Bill Wyman mentions the incident briefly in his 1990 autobiography, calling it a “tough baptism” for Wood. Richards reputedly swore the Stones would never play Arkansas, but the band performed on November 11, 1994, in Little Rock (Pulaski County) and returned on March 9, 2006. In November 2006, thirty-one years after the incident, Governor Mike Huckabee issued a pardon to Richards for his reckless driving conviction. Keith Richards opened his 2010 memoir, Life, by recalling his arrest in Fordyce.

The Stones have other Arkansas connections. Little Rock native Jim Dickinson plays piano on “Wild Horses,” Little Rock native Robert Palmer wrote a book about the Stones, their song “Rip This Joint” references Little Rock, and many Arkansas-related bluesmen—such as Howlin’ Wolf—influenced the band.

For additional information:
Koch, Stephen. “Stones Tumble in Fordyce.” Arkansas Times, October 21, 2004, p. 32. Online at http://www.arktimes.com/arkansas/stones-tumble-in-fordyce/Content?oid=949362 (accessed February 14, 2013).

Matthews, Gerard. “Fact-Checking Keef.” Arkansas Times, March 30, 2011, pp. 10–13. Online at http://www.arktimes.com/arkansas/fact-checking-keef/Content?oid=1614881 (accessed February 8, 2013).

Richards, Keith. Life. New York: Little, Brown, and Company, 2010.

Steed, Stephen. “Jumpin’ Jack Flash(back).” Little Rock Free Press, June 9–22, 1994, pp. 8–10.

Stewart, Shea. “Chasing Keith Richards in Fordyce.” Arkansas Life (March 2011): 34–39.

Wood, Ronnie. Ronnie: The Autobiography. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2007.

Wyman, Bill. Stone Alone: The Story of a Rock ’n’ Roll Band. New York: Penguin Books, 1990.

 

Stephen Koch
Arkansongs

Last Updated 9/18/2013

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