Andy on the Road

5 February 2009

Substantive Due Process, Dress Codes, and Rock ‘n’ Roll

Filed under: gdublaw,laughs,music,thecommonlaw — Andy @ 2:32 pm

1Ls here at GWU Law have spent the better part of the past month writing motions and memos for summary judgment based on a ficticious case of a boy expelled from school because of his long hair with blue streaks. Half the class, as plaintiffs, have been arguing that the nature and manner of his expulsion offends the First and Fourteenth Amendments (allegations of freedom of speech, religion, equal protection, substantive due process, and procedural due process). The other half, as defendants, have argued that hair length and color are not protected rights, and even if they were, the school had a valid interest in restricting them under various scrutiny standards.

A critical case to one of these claims is the 1968 case of Ferrell v. Dallas Independent School District (for those of you playing at home: 392 F.2d 697 (5th Cir.), cert denied 393 U.S. 856 (1968)). The facts are almost identical to every other case like it (and there are a lot of them): there is a school dress code banning male students from wearing hair past the collar of their shirts, the students wear their hair longer, the students get expelled, and the students claim a constitutional issue. In this case, however, there is the added twist that the boys are in a band: Sounds Unlimited. They claim that not only do they have a right under the Fourteenth Amendment, they would be forced to breach their contract with their managing agent, who requires:

[The band] shall maintain their dress and personal appearance in conformity with accepted STANDARDS and CUSTOMS OF ROCK & ROLL GROUPS, COMBO’S [sic] & BANDS including so called BEATLE TYPE HAIR STYLES. 329 F.2d at 698 n.2.

The Fifth Circuit, on appeal, notes fairly tounge-in-cheek that such a a contract would not be enforcable against minors, and proceeds to rule that there is no constitutional right to long hair. This marks the beginning of the Fifth Circuit’s highly conservative stance on the issue. To date, the Circuits are almost perfectly split as to whether the right to keeping one’s hair at any given length is protected under the “liberties” of the Fourteenth Amendment.

As a fascinating historical footnote (aside from the above, quite literally fascinating historical footnote) is the story of the protest song these boys in Texas wrote upon their expulsion from school. As the Fifth Circuit describes it:

At the conclusion of the [expulsion] conference in the principal’s office, the boys left the school building and proceeded to the sidewalk on the west side of the school grounds where the three boys and [manger] Mr. Alexander held a press interview, and pictures, motion pictures and sound tapes were made.

Later the three boys went to a recording studio to write and record a ‘protest’ song about the matter. The recording was completed and the record entitled ‘Keep Your Hands Off It’* was first played on the air Friday morning, September 9. For several days thereafter it was played numerous times on several radio stations. 329 F.2d at 700.

Naturally, in addition to scrutinizing the case for the purposes of my memo, I also endeavored on a quest to find “Keep Your Hands Off It” by Sounds Unlimited. I’m happy to report today that I found the elusive recording.


Sounds Unlimited – Keep Your Hands Off Of It

* – reports vary as to whether the song is properly titled “Keep Your Hands Off Of It” or “Keep Your Hands Off It.” The chorus would certainly suggest the former, but I can’t say for sure.

Update: I noticed this found its way to the Dallas ISD Daily Dish. Hello, Dallas!

Update: A former member of Sounds Unlimited claims I got the wrong Sounds Unlimited in the picture I had above. I took it down, and hope to replace it with a shot of the Texas band soon.


  1. you complete me. or at least my memo experience.

    Comment by meredith — 5 February 2009 @ 5:04 pm

  2. They look like trouble-makers, I’m glad they got kicked out of school. The strange thing is, the hair was unacceptable, but apparently the pants were ok. Also, are they the only group in history to have two bass guitarists?

    Comment by Jeremy — 5 February 2009 @ 8:35 pm

  3. You noticed that too, eh Lieutenant? I can think of a few bands (King Crimson comes to mind), but that certainly is a rarity. Maybe they used the basses because they thought they looked “cool”?

    Comment by Andy — 5 February 2009 @ 8:38 pm

  4. Even international fashion giant Stanley Marcus (of Dallas retailer Neiman-Marcus fame) got involved in this case, taking the young men’s side. Citation information for at least one article on the case, written after Marcus’ death in 2002, can be found in his Wikipedia article (

    Comment by Andrea — 6 February 2009 @ 11:25 am

  5. […] that the kid might be i-dosing.  I would hate to see i-dosing be this generation’s PMRC or ban on Rock-and-or-Roll music.  I can certainly understand the pedagogical concern of having faking dosers disrupting […]

    Pingback by Digital Drugs « Andy on the Road — 14 July 2010 @ 6:36 pm

  6. To Whom It May Concern:
    The people pictured above are NOT the band, “Sounds Unlimited.” –at least not the the band we are talking about. I repeat– the band pictured is not the Dallas band kicked out of school (W.W. Samuell) for having long hair. How do I know? I know because I was the lead guitar player and lead singer for Sounds Unlimited in 1966 when the recording, “Keep Your Hands Off Of It” was released in the Dallas area. I also wrote and sang ,”About You,” the B side of the single.
    One comment touched on the album picture by offering the observation that the band had two bass players–and it is unlikely any band would have Two bass players. The band did not have two bass players. It had two guitar players, (Ron Davis/Steve Webb) one bass player, (Phil Ferrell) One keyboard player, (Paul Jarvis) and two different drummers at different times. (Chuck Hodges / Ron Mears) –and were not trouble makers. The info I have just offered is true. Any info to the contrary is untruthful.

    Comment by Ron Davis — 13 September 2010 @ 11:57 am

    • Hey Ron,

      Thanks for the comment. The photo error is completely my mistake. Do you have a suitable photo I could replace it with?


      Comment by Andy — 13 September 2010 @ 11:59 am

      • Thanks Andy-
        I do, but I do not have a way to electronically get it to you. Please contact Steve Webb–he should be able to help you.



        Comment by Ron Davis — 13 September 2010 @ 12:17 pm

  7. Andy,
    My name is Paul Jarvis and I was one of the three guys kicked out of DISD with the Sounds Unlimited. Our lead guitar player Ronnie Davis sent me your information and I want to forward a picture of our group from 1966-67. If it does not attach please send me an email and I will forward it to you. Thanks, Paul

    Comment by Paul Jarvis — 18 September 2010 @ 4:15 pm

  8. Andy–
    Ron Davis here.
    Give me a good email address and the Sounds Unlimited pic will be on the way.

    Comment by Ron Davis — 18 September 2010 @ 4:51 pm

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