The Church Studio

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The Church Studio
The legendary The Church Studio in Tulsa, Oklahoma home to Leon Russell's recording studio and Shelter Records.jpg
The Church Studio in November 2016
The Church Studio is located in Oklahoma
The Church Studio
The Church Studio is located in the United States
The Church Studio
Location304 S. Trenton Ave.,
Tulsa, Oklahoma
Coordinates36°09′23″N 95°58′11″W / 36.1565°N 95.9696°W / 36.1565; -95.9696Coordinates: 36°09′23″N 95°58′11″W / 36.1565°N 95.9696°W / 36.1565; -95.9696
NRHP reference #100001595[1]
Added to NRHPSeptember 8, 2017

The Church Studio is a recording studio housed in an old church in Tulsa, Oklahoma. During the 1970s it became closely associated with its owner, recording artist Leon Russell, and with the genre of music known as the Tulsa Sound.[2]

The building was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on September 8, 2017 due to its significance to American music culture and being the heart of the Tulsa Sound. [3] [4]

Originally built in 1915 as Grace Methodist Episcopal Church, the stone structure located at 304 South Trenton Avenue in Tulsa's Pearl District was converted to a recording studio in 1972 by Leon Russell, who bought the building and adjoining properties for his diverse recording activities and as a home for Shelter Records, the company he had earlier started with partner Denny Cordell.[5][6]

Numerous musicians recorded at The Church, including Willie Nelson, Eric Clapton, Bonnie Raitt, Dwight Twilley, Dr. John, JJ Cale, The Gap Band, Freddie King, Phoebe Snow and Peter Tosh. Tom Petty, with his early band Mudcrutch, signed his first record deal with Shelter Records there.[7][8]

Leon Russell ultimately was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, Songwriters Hall of Fame, and Oklahoma Music Hall of Fame. In 2010, the Pearl District Association and the city of Tulsa collaborated to rename as "Leon Russell Road" the section of East Third Street where the church is located.[9] After he died in 2016, flowers, paintings, memorabilia, and notes left by fans covered the church steps as a memorial.[10][11]

Russell eventually sold the building. Tulsa musician Steve Ripley, leader of The Tractors and partners bought it in 1987.[12] Ripley sold it in 2006.[9] In 2009 new owners Jakob and Randy Miller declared their intention to revive it as a music facility.[9][13] In 2016 the building was purchased by Tulsa entrepreneur Teresa Knox and her husband Ivan Acosta. [14] They have said they intend to renovate the building (in a process that will take about two years), seek registration on the National Register of Historic Places, and use it as a recording studio and community facility.[15]


  1. ^ "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. July 9, 2010.
  2. ^ Julie Wenger Watson, "Leon Russell Has Home Sweet Oklahoma on his Mind", July 28, 2015.
  3. ^
  4. ^
  5. ^ "Oklahoma Music Trail: The Church Studio - - Oklahoma's Official Travel & Tourism Site".
  6. ^ "A sanctuary of sound - TulsaPeople - September 2013 - Tulsa, OK".
  7. ^ "Conversations With Tom Petty".
  8. ^ Paul Zollo, "Tom Petty: Purity and Passion", American Songwriter, November 1, 2005.
  9. ^ a b c "The Making of Leon Russell Road", This Land, May 9, 2012.
  10. ^ "Renowned Tulsa musician Leon Russell has died".
  11. ^ "Remembering Leon Russell memorial at Church Studio".
  12. ^
  13. ^ Chris Howell, "Tulsa's Church Studio to Reopen and Revive Historic Musical Roots", KOTV-DT, December 8, 2009.
  14. ^
  15. ^ Jerry Wofford, "With new owners, The Church Studio aims for recognition", Tulsa World, October 27, 2016.