Tulsa Sound

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The Tulsa Sound is a musical style that originated in Tulsa, Oklahoma.[1] It was a mix of rockabilly, country, rock 'n' roll, and blues sounds of the late 1950s and early 1960s. Tulsa Sound artists include JJ Cale, Rocky Frisco, Leon Russell, Elvin Bishop, Roger Tillison, Jack Dunham, Gene Crose, David Gates, The Tractors, Steve Ripley, David Teegarden, Dickey Sims, Dwight Twilley, The Gap Band, Jim Byfield, Clyde Stacy, John D. Levan, Bill Pair, Chuck Blackwell, The Zigs (previously The Notions), Gus Hardin and Don White.

History[edit]

The first appearance of note by a Tulsa Sound musician was Rocky Frisco's Columbia Harmony vinyl album "The Big Ten" under the name "Rocky Curtiss and the Harmony Flames." The album was recorded in New York at Columbia's studio at 33rd and 3rd Street in 1959 during a time when Rocky lived in Pennsylvania. Clyde Stacy was one of the first, if not the first, Tulsa Sound musician to score a nationally charted record, {Hoy Hoy b/w So Young}. This was actually a double sided hit released by Candlelight Records in 1957. Don Wallace, a popular Tulsa disc jockey, was instrumental in landing the recording contract for Clyde. Members of the NiteCaps during that period were John D. Levan, Rick Eilerts and Bill Torbett. John D. Levan was one of the first Tulsa lead guitarist having played for both Clyde Stacy in 1955, and Gene Crose 1956, then again with Stacy in 1957. Levan was inducted into the Rockabilly Hall of Fame in Aug. 2004 along with Tulsa Radio Personality "rockin' John Henry.[2] Another Tulsan, Billy Reynolds Eustise, scored a hit with his 1957 recording of "Cherry Pie."

A note from Rocky Frisco: It's my opinion that the real roots to the Tulsa Sound lead to Flash Terry and his band. Flash played at the Flamingo Lounge, on Greenwood. In 1957, Flash invited me to the weekly jam, on Tuesday nights, so I showed up and sang a few songs. I told Cale and Bill I had enjoyed the visit, so the next time I went, they came too. As time passed, more of the guys came and played. I was with Cale at a radio station in California when he said, "There really isn't a 'Tulsa Sound;' we were just trying to play the blues and didn't know how."

Leon Russell was the first member of the Tulsa scene to make inroads into the L.A. music scene, playing for Ricky Nelson along with James Burton. He then joined Phil Spector's Wrecking Crew and then produced Garry Lewis and Jan & Dean. Russell brought many Tulsans out to Los Angeles including Jimmy Karstein, Bill Raffensperger, Tommy Tripplehorn, Carl Radle, and Larry Bell. Russell was later co-owner of the Church Studio in Tulsa and of Shelter Records, which signed a number of significant Tulsa Sound artists.[3][4]

Influence[edit]

Eric Clapton was the most prominent non-Tulsa artist associated with the Tulsa sound. For ten years, Clapton's band consisted of Tulsans Carl Radle on bass, organist Dick Sims and drummer Jamie Oldaker. During that time, Clapton was a frequent performer at a variety of venues in the Tulsa area. In his review of Clapton's 1978 album Backless, critic Robert Christgau wrote, "Whatever Eric isn't anymore . . . he's certainly king of the Tulsa sound."[5]

In addition to Clapton, Cale's influence has been cited by Mark Knopfler, among others. His songs have been recorded by many artists, including Clapton, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Deep Purple, The Allman Brothers Band, Johnny Cash, The Band, Kansas, Santana, Captain Beefheart, Widespread Panic, and Bryan Ferry. The songs of Tulsan Elvin Bishop have often been covered by other artists, including Starship. Taj Mahal had two Tulsans in his band: Chuck Blackwell and Gary Gillmore, and one Oklahoma City native, Jesse Ed Davis.

Music journalist John Wooley and others have noted that the Tulsa Sound has directly and indirectly contributed to various other genres of music, including genres outside of rock music like alt-country and Red Dirt music.[6][7]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Wooley, John. "You know it when you hear it: Put that dictionary down: The Tulsa Sound is hard to define but easy on the ears," Tulsa World, January 2, 2004.
  2. ^ Rockabillyhall.com (accessed October 8, 2013)
  3. ^ Joshua Kline, "Past and Future Sound", This Land Press, June 23, 2010.
  4. ^ Mike Easterling, "Feels Like Religion: Jesus and Leon might have left the building, but almost 30 years later, the Church Studio resurrects its legendary music and religious past." Urban Tulsa Weekly, November 11, 2009.
  5. ^ Robert Christgau, Rock Albums of the '70s: A Critical Guide (Da Capo Press, 1990), ISBN 978-0-306-80409-0, p. 82. Excerpt available at Google Books.
  6. ^ John Wooley, From the Blue Devils to Red Dirt: The Colors of Oklahoma Music (Hawk Publishing Group, 2006), ISBN 978-1-930709-61-4.
  7. ^ Thomas Conner, "Getting Along: Woody Guthrie and Oklahoma's Red Dirt Musicians" in Davis D. Joyce & Fred R. Harris, eds., Alternative Oklahoma: Contrarian Views of the Sooner State (University of Oklahoma Press, 2007), ISBN 978-0-8061-3819-0, p. 92. Excerpt available at Google Books.

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