Thursday, November 6, 2008

The plans they are a coming...

The Rock and Roll Exhibit team met today to finalize some major plans for the exhibit.

We have several more bands that we are setting up interview times for, ranging from the Flaming Lips to The Evangelicals. We are also trying to set up dates at record stores and funky locations for All-Call Fan Confessionals. Hopefully everyone will come out these and get their rock experiences on film! The footage will be used in the exhibit, and so will what people have to say. For example, we will be asking what your room looked like while you were growing up...did you plaster it with band posters, have fan shirts draped over every surface, or sleep with a transistor radio by your ear like my bosses did? We want to know!!

Then we walked through the gallery space to see where and what was going in. I am super pumped that so much of what we are putting in coincides with existing gallery themes and objects. With just a bit of finangling and lots of added attitude we are going to have a killer exhibit.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Okies In Muskogee

A couple of weeks ago the exhibits team caught up with Oklahoma natives the All American Rejects as they were being inducted into the Oklahoma Music Hall of Fame. We sat down for an interview that will be part of the upcoming exhibit. During the interview the guys told us about what being an Oklahoman means to them, and how it helps keep them grounded as they play to sold out crowds around the world. We also discussed their new album "When the World Comes Down." Come see the exhibit in May at the Oklahoma History Center to watch the interview and check out the artifacts supplied to us by the Rejects. We will document their rise from a local Stillwater band, to multi-platinum selling rock stars.

-Corey (Exibits Team)

Monday, September 22, 2008

Okie Invasion of California

(This entry is guest written by Larry O'Dell, Director of Collections for the Research Division)

I learned much about the California Okie subculture in a recent research trip dedicated to “Another Hot Oklahoma Night.” Not just the artists that we interviewed had Oklahoma Ties, but many people that we encountered, including the Starbucks clerk, restaurant employees, and people on the street. The drive also reinforced to me the travails that the “Dust Bowl” migrants endured, and their cars had no air-conditioning and often broke down. It was a long drive, but the company of Jeff Moore, videographer Beau Leland, and crack audio guy Darren Dunn helped pass the time. Beaux can play a mean toy concertina, especially when Darren accompanies him on a miniature xylophone.

We interviewed several Oklahomans that have transplanted to the West Coast. The first, Shelly Dunn, one of the earliest women DJ’s for the KATT, had several interesting stories about the station’s early days and development. Among the other more interesting personalities included Danny Cooksey, who transplanted from Moore, Oklahoma, to L.A. in the late 1970s as a child performer. You might recognize him from Different Strokes and Salute Your Shorts (look him up on IMDB). In 1992 Steve Vai produced an album for Bad4Good, Cooksey’s band. Danny still performs with his band Arbuckle.

Moon Martin, an Altus native, provided us with another stellar interview. He taught guitar in Norman with Jesse Ed Davis, before he moved to California with his band Southwind. A staple in the music industry, he was the first to write and perform “Bad Case of Loving You,” which Robert Palmer later recorded. Palmer also produced one of Martin’s albums. An interesting fact is that Moon is one of the top-selling recording artists in France, where he still tours.

An integral part of the exhibit is the early years of Rock, especially the great Rockabilly acts that Oklahoma produced. On a ranch near Santa Barbara we talked to one of these early duos, the Collins Kids. If you have the opportunity, look at one of their early performances on youtube. In 1954 Larry moved around onstage appearing like a cross between Elvis and Chuck Berry before those two became nationally prominent). Laura Collins dated Ricky Nelson and appeared regularly on the Ozzie and Harriet Show. Their long career produced many extraordinary stories, which will be told in the exhibit and accompanying documentary. One is their connection with legendary guitar-maker and Oklahoman Semie Moseley of the Mosrite guitar.

The drive back east seemed even longer than the monstrous drive west. But, we survived and no one injured anyone else. All in All our Okie invasion of California turned out to be a great success.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Past Due for an Update

Sorry about the long delay guys, but so much happened so fast, and then I had to start back to school (I know, I was sad too). I want to give you a quick run-down of what has been happening in Rock 'N Roll Exhibit Land since last we talked...

To start, we interviewed Hanson!! Now I know there are a lot of skeptics out there who say that they aren't rock because they aren't played on rock radio stations. I even used to be one of them. I was a part of the age group most affected by the Hanson craze (yeah, yeah I am a youngin) but even back then I was not a huge fan. But going back and listening to their music now, old and new albums, I can see that what they have produced and continue to produce is their own brand of pop rock. And frankly, you have to give them credit for writing ALL of their own music (MmmBop was written completely by them). They are their own creative geniuses, and that in and of itself is impressive. They have even created their own record label, a huge accomplishment in the world of music. But more important than any of the above is that they are Oklahomans, proud to be Oklahomans, and they continue to live and work in Oklahoma. This makes them an important part of Oklahoma's rock history, and the perception of Oklahoma across the nation.

Woody Guthrie Fest

Part of our team headed out to Okeemah in early July to the Woody Guthrie Folk Festival that occurs annually in his hometown. It is more of a folk festival than anything, but
since Woody is one of the three rock influences we are focusing on in our exhibit (as well as Charlie Christian and Bob Wills) it seemed important to head out there and see what Okeemah had to offer. We got some great interviews with artists and rock fans, including a very interesting female Australian songwriter who got extremely excited when told we were going to interview the Collins Kids! Many artists performing at the festival reappeared at Dfest, so it was good to get an early jump. If you are ever in Okeemah in July, the Woody Guthrie Folk Festival is well worth your time, if only just for the great people-watching.

And now, what I consider the highlight of the summer--DFEST!!! Now, remembering that I am from Texas and this was only my second trip to downtown Tulsa, I was so impressed with the Blue Dome District. It reminded me so much of what I love about Fort Worth (my hometown) in terms of the culture, the music scene and the fun and quirky atmosphere. When you add in how incredible Tom and Angie are and how amazing their festival is, it is an event that I will miss when I no longer live in Oklahoma. Dfest, for those who do not know, is an annual music conference and festival. This means that at the conference artists can learn the ins and outs of the industry while rubbing shoulders with music heavyweights and then the selected artists showcase their talents by playing at multiple venues throughout the Blue Dome District. This year there were three outdoor stages and eight indoor venues that played host to artists all across the music spectrum (country to heavy metal, folk to pop).
Like I said, Tom and Angie were incredible and made sure that we had our own interview room at the conference so we could interview local bands during the day and then head out on the town once the festival kicked off to get footage and live interviews. We got some absolutely amazing stuff from the interviews, footage and stills. Dfest has been great at helping display the huge range of musical talent that Oklahoma fosters, and Tom and Angie (as artists themselves) want to make sure that the world knows about Oklahoma's huge influence on music. It has been a great partnership to work with them.

For those of you out at Dfest, I hope you stopped by our booth at the outdoor Oklahoma Stage and got your picture taken at our photo op and picked up some info about the exhibit. We talked to so many people that we were all hoarse at the end of the day, and handed out so many stickers (and sometimes put them on people who didn't want to put dow
n their beer to grab one) that we fell into bed in the mornings completely worn out. It was such a great feeling though to go to breakfast and see our stickers adorning the furniture and even trashcans at the restaurants, and have people asking us for more! Don't worry, we still have plenty left for the rest of you!!!!

And did I mention that I got to see my new favorite band, Congress of a Crow and then later at our booth I got to meet the lead singer and bassist. I have such a girl crush on Danelle.

More to come soon...

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

On the Road Again...

Before we all took a long weekend to celebrate apple pie and fireworks, Jeff and Larry and I journeyed up the turnpike on one of many trips to Tulsa. We headed up to do some work on the intro video for the website (which launches THIS WEEK---check it out at,to meet with the founders of Dfest, and various and sundry other meetings.

When we first arrived (after a hilarious journey in the mysteriously shaking Taurus that is like a massage chair for everyone in the car) we had lunch at a fabulous restaurant called "The Brook" in Brookside. Let's just say that we were all jealous of Jeff's humongous salad with its heaps of parmesan chicken. There, we met with Davit Souders, who hosts the relaunched iROK Radio. Davit is a radio broadcaster, the owner of Diabolical Productions, was the talent/media buyer and production manager for Cain's Ballroom for many years, and still has time to perform himself. He regaled us with stories about Oklahoma rock across the past few decades as well as background to the many roles he has served in the Oklahoma rock scene. He gave us several contacts and some good stories; we will set up an interview with him soon to get the stories on film (we must remember to ask him about his favorite Hanson Song...).

Right across the street from The Brook, Jeff saw Angelene Wright go in the front door of a shop that turned out to be her store "Ida Red." Jeff and Larry made a lot of fun of me for not knowing what the reference was--but once they explained it made total sense. Feel free to google it. The store, recently opened, is a cool mix of Cain's Ballroom merchandise (t-shirts, golf shirts, belt buckles, floor tiles, books, etc.) and a cafe-type space with artwork that is also for sale, vintagey chairs and tables, glass bottles of myriad sodas like Dublin Dr. Pepper and old-school sweets like Moon Pies and Squirrel Nut Zippers. It is a cool place to find clothing, including a table of earth-friendly organic shirts, kitschy hand-made jewelry and a cool place to hang out and listen to a wide assortment of music chosen by Angeline herself.

Jeff and Larry compared stories with Angelene about musicians who lived/used to live in Tulsa and Tulsa venues for at least an hour. It was a meeting of kindred spirits--people who absolutely love music, and especially the part Oklahoma has played in the nation-wide music scene.

We finally tore ourselves away after buying a copy of almost every CD the store stocked and headed out. We stopped at Starship Records so Jeff could relive his teenage years spent in the store and so I could wander through the racks and racks of music. We hoped to pick up a few things to add to Collections for the exhibit, but had no luck. Then we headed over to Cherry Street for coffee at a coffee shop (and yet another meeting) that I could easily live in I loved it so much. This was my first time in these parts of Tulsa, and I must say that it is stunning!!

Later in the afternoon, we headed downtown. We passed Black Wall Street (which I have only ever read about) and stopped finally at Cain's. After reading and learning so much about the venue, it was amazing to see the stars on the sidewalk and look up at the marquee that I have seen so many pictures of. People kept disappearing inside the bar that was at the end of the strip (I kept wondering what was so exciting that so many people were going to that I wandered down to check it out). Larry and Jeff were taking video and stills of the exterior of Cain's to be used in the introductory video on the exhibit website. Larry got some sweet shots of Jeff on his back on the scorching hot sidewalk to get the perfect angle. After Cain's, we drove over to the Brady Theatre to repeat the process. By this time my 4 inch heels were killing me (I hadn't planned on going to Tulsa when I dressed that morning) and so I stuck to the air-conditioned car and watched them run around in the heat.

Our last stop before we hit the road back to OKC was at the Crowne Plaza downtown to meet with Tom Green and Angie Devore-Green, the husband-wife team that founded Dfest and continue to organize the ever-growing music festival. We talked to them about our space at the festival around the Oklahoma stage and all sorts of other little details. By the way, the Crowne Plaza is where we will be staying along with all the other conference and concert attendees and they just redecorated the interior--I did not want to leave the awesome sitting area we were meeting in! Eventually, we had to let Angie and Tom go to their volunteer meeting and we got back in the car to go back to the History Center.

We left the city pumped about what we had accomplished. We are all set to go to Dfest (come meet us there and nominate a song for the Official Rock Song of Oklahoma and get your picture taken with all your friends at our rock band photo op), we got a lot done for the intro video, and we made many new and exciting contacts. All the way home we listened to the press conference about the Sonics court case (Jeff and Larry are sooooo happy the team is coming NOW and not in two years), and I complained about being hungry until Larry stopped at McDonalds to shut me up. We finally made it home exhausted but totally excited.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Interview with B.J. Thomas

Larry, Jeff, B.J., Me, and Beau
Men In Action

It has been a few weeks since we journeyed down to Arlington, TX to interview B.J. Thomas, but better late than never, right?

Well, I am sure everyone, no matter how young or old, has heard the songs "Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head," "Hooked on a Feeling," and "I Just Can't Help Believing." I knew the songs, but didn't know that they were sung by an amazing artist who lived only a few hours away from the Oklahoma History Center. B.J. Thomas was born in Hugo, Oklahoma, raised in Houston and now lives in Arlington, Texas.

On June 3rd, Larry(the research guy), Jeff (the exhibit guy), Beau(the video guy), and me (general flunky) saddled up all the video equipment and headed down I-35 to Arlington. What would have been a simple journey--if the native Texans had been allowed to navigate--became a huge ordeal when the native Oklahomans (who had the directions in their car I might add) got us turned around a LOT. And only one time was because of construction....

We finally got to B.J.'s gorgeous house in Arlington once Jeff and I took over the lead. His house is fabulous--and not in the ostentatious, I am a music star way that he could have. The art, obviously chosen by the family because of it's heavy emphasis on portraits and the like, was fantastic (you will be able to see several pieces in the documentary because Beau filmed him in front of a really cool sculpture). B.J. has 5 Grammy's, but they are on the middle shelf of a display case on the side of the living room. It was awesome to walk around and just marvel at the fact that I was in the room with 5 Grammy's, much less the man who earned them!!

Once we finally got settled in and Beau got everything set up (well, as much as he could since several light cables decided to jump ship and stayed at the History Center all cozy in some dimly-lit corner) Larry jumped into the interview. B.J. talked about his brief, 2 week, stay in Oklahoma as a newborn and the many ways he is trying to rediscover his roots. We found out that B.J. has had as many, if not more hits, in Brazil as in the United States. That is pretty astounding since he has had 15 Top 40 Pop/Rock hits, 10 Top 40 Country hits and many gospel hits. In fact, B.J. is the only artist to have ever had the "Song of the Year" on the pop, country and gospel charts. There are numerous other awards and accomplishments---it is pretty easy to say that B.J. has had a fabulous career, and it is nowhere near being over.

He is still recording and putting out music. In fact, he tours all the time, both in the states and abroad. That is pretty impressive when you consider that he has been performing since he joined the Triumphs in 1966.

All in all, it was a great visit. Darrell, B.J.'s manager, took a few shots of us with B.J.--those are the pics that are up at the top.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Exhibit Team Meets with proto-punk band Debris from Chickasha

The exhibits team here at the Oklahoma Museum of History is in the beginning phases of developing an exhibit about Rock and Roll in Oklahoma. So far, the process has been exciting!

An Oklahoma Representative and Senator sponsored legislation so we could run a nomination/voting process to choose the official Rock song for the state of Oklahoma! So far, we have had 1389 nomination for 258 songs. If you want to nominate a song by an Oklahoma artist or songwriter, visit our site!

Current nominations run the gamut from All American Rejects to Wanda Jackson, from The Flaming Lips to Conway Twitty. Since this is will be the official rock song of the state of Oklahoma, we need YOUR input to help us decide. Nominations will close at the end of July and the field narrowed to ten finalists that will be voted on by YOU this fall!

As part of the exhibit development process, we are looking at all aspects of the project. To start, we are developing an exhibit-specific website that will give even more information about the exhibit as it develops. You will be able to hear from Jeff Moore, the creative genius behind the exhibit and his amazing team, learn tidbits about artists and venues that will be featured in the exhibit, and keep up with all the places our street team will be travelling to (D-Fest and Rocklahoma to name a few). I will keep you updated on that as more information rolls in!

Another part of developing an exhibit is collecting the artifacts to be included in the exhibit and scheduling interviews with as many artists as possible. This has required us to get in contact with as many artists as possible in any way possible. To no one's surprise, myspace has been the absolute best way to reach musicians. Check us out at Another Hot Oklahoma Night. We are busy friending Oklahoma bands, artists and venues to keep up with the Oklahoma Rock scene.

Through myspace, we contacted Debris, a proto-punk band from Chickasha that was a vanguard of its time. In 1976, they released their LP (actually Prisoner of Rock 'n Roll) but that became known as Static Disposal. They battled "redneck hostility" in small-town Oklahoma, but persisted in their artistic vision, creating a new sound that was only heard in 4 live concerts before the band broke up. Only a few months later, the record they had mailed all over the states bore fruit and they were approached to play at CBGB--it was their chance to make it big too late. The band reunited only recently, playing at The Conservatory in 2005, followed by a 2007 reprint of their original LP by Anopheles Records, and playing at the Norman Music Festival in 2008.

We had a chance to sit in on a jam session of Debris over the Memorial Day weekend as they gathered back in Chickasha. Intermingled with beer, cigarettes and impromptu musicality, they answered questions about the year-long existence of Debris, their previous projects like Victoria Vein and the Thunderpunks (using the word punk years before it became the label of the genre), the lives of the members since, the new additions and losses, and the role of music in their lives. They lingered over regrets and celebrated the triumphs of Debris while at the same time making us laugh with their punk rock antics which don't seem anachronistic even though some of the men are now grandparents. They laughed over pranks and promised to spill secrets about Oklahoma rockers and radio personalities. If you get a chance to meet Jeff, ask him about the pink boa, manicures at French market, baby powder costumes, guitars that won't break and the backstage trailer, because the stories are just that much better in person (or even in the exhibit!).

Debris also gave us a guitar used for the original recording in '76, an original LP and a copy of the 2007 CD reprint. These, along with many other artifacts, will be included in the exhibit. The guitar is "so punk rock" according to Jeff because it has only 3 strings and is missing a knob. You play with what you've got...