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...