When most folks track the U.S. map for places that have played an integral role in the country's rich musical history, their thumbtacks typically land on cities like Seattle, Austin and New Orleans, or regions like the East Coast and the South.
But Tulsa and Oklahoma are equally as important as the aforementioned locales, and an exhibit hosted by the Oklahoma Historical Society is proving that point.
The Oklahoma Historical Society recently opened its exhibit Another Hot Oklahoma Night: A Rock & Roll Exhibit at Oklahoma State University-Tulsa, 700 N. Greenwood Ave., in the Main Hall Commons.
The exhibit, which was previously displayed at the Oklahoma History Center in Oklahoma City, celebrates Oklahoma's musical history by charting its origins and tracing its evolution to modern day. The exhibit features memorabilia and artwork that explores every facet of Oklahoma music, from its artists to its fans, venues, recording studios, record stores and radio stations.
Representatives from the Oklahoma Historical Society have said it goes beyond just the facts of these people and places' existences to explore how growing up or living in Oklahoma affected them and affected the music.
Even Oklahomans may be surprised at, not just how many famous musicians hail from Oklahoma, but also at how their work influenced the music industry. The exhibit begins with the early musical innovators like Bob Wills, Woody Guthrie and Charlie Christian, and it explores the rock 'n' roll artists, musicians, song writers and producers who have called Oklahoma home.
Also featured are '50s performers such as Wanda Jackson, who toured with Elvis Presley from 1956 to 1960; Eddie Cochran; and The Collins Kids, who were vanguards in the rockabilly movement that inspired the Beatles and eventually the British punk movement of the late '70s.
Next, the exhibit explores the '60s, a period when rock and roll expanded beyond its country, blues and jazz roots. The Ventures, featuring Oklahomans Bob Bogle on bass and Nokie Edwards on guitar, were at the forefront of this experimentation.
During the '70s and '80s, many Oklahomans making the charts included B.J. Thomas, Boz Scaggs, Barry McGuire, Dwight Twilley, Elvin Bishop and Moon Martin. The GAP Band from Tulsa combined R&B, funk, and soul, producing several best-selling albums and influencing current hip hop artists.
Many of the artists spotlighted in the exhibit are Tulsans or have called Tulsa home at one time or another. Principal among them is Leon Russell, and the exhibit also features a number of Tulsans who got their start recording with Leon in Los Angeles and Tulsa during the '60s and '70s.
Other notable Tulsans featured in the exhibit include drummer Jim Keltner, bassist Carl Radle and guitarist J.J. Cale, who collaborated with artists such as John Lennon, George Harrison, Ringo Starr, The Rolling Stones, Eric Clapton and Bob Dylan.
The exhibit also explores the more recent music to come out of Oklahoma, like Oklahoma City's The Flaming Lips and Kings of Leon, Tulsa's Hanson, and Stillwater's The All-American Rejects. Local bands are also featured.
The exhibit does two things really well: It showcases Oklahoma's unique music history, focusing on the state's cool factor and proving that it has one. It gives Tulsans and Oklahomans another reason to be proud by proving Oklahoma has played a vital role in the music industry, and, without its participation, the industry wouldn't be the same.
It also takes the boring out of history. It tells Oklahoma's past from a different perspective, one people perhaps haven't heard before and almost certainly can relate to.
Additionally, it makes the case for the Oklahoma Pop Museum.
To be located downtown on Brady Street, the Oklahoma Historical Society's Oklahoma Pop Museum, which is in the planning and fundraising stages, will be dedicated to showcasing Oklahoma's contributions to music and popular culture. Knowing that "Another Hot Oklahoma Night" displays just a few of those contributions, one could certainly expect a museum lauding all of the state's musical and cultural accomplishments to take up more than the proposed 45,000 square feet.
In fact, at the opening reception for "Another Hot Oklahoma Night" at OSU-Tulsa, Bob Blackburn, executive director of the Oklahoma Historical Society, announced that the family of Bob Wills and the Bob Wills Heritage Foundation is donating his collection, which consists of more than 350 photographs; hundreds of letters, documents and promotional pieces; and many other pieces of memorabilia, including fiddles, clothing awards and other personal items, to the new museum.
The building design will draw influences from Hard Rock Café, Hollywood and Times Square. There will be a 50-foot by 80-foot LED video screen at the front of the building for video presentations and announcements.
The project will cost $33 million, with $28 million coming from the state and another $8 million from the private sector. The Kaiser Family Foundation has already donated a $1 million challenge grant. OHS hopes Oklahoma Pop will be open to the public by summer of 2013.
Another Hot Oklahoma Night: A Rock & Roll Exhibit is free and open to the public Monday-Saturday, 10am-7pm, and Sunday, 1-7pm. More information is at anotherhotoklahomanight.org.
At the Galleries
•The Tulsa Performing Arts Center gallery, 110 E. Second St., is hosting "Emerging Light: New Works by Byron Shen," for the remainder of this month. A Hong Kong native, Shen teaches art at Holland Hall Upper School.
In his artist's statement, Shen writes: "My paintings are emotional landscapes, places to be traveled internally. In many of them, it is where the horizon is far away and it is the journey that leaves its mark upon the viewer.
"The driving force behind my painting is in the process, which resides in an intuitive and spiritual nature. In order to interpret some of these sojourns, I have attempted to formulate a way of painting that translates these passages. Hopefully, the viewer will have a way of entering into a dialogue with the work and that is both seen but more importantly, felt."
The exhibit is free and open to the public, and the gallery is open Monday-Friday from 10am-5:30pm and during Chapman Music Hall events.
•At the M.A. Doran Gallery, 3509 S. Peoria Ave., local artist Christopher Westfall will exhibit new works through May 1.
Westfall is best known for his land and cityscapes of Tulsa. Perusing his paintings, it's likely one will come across a scene he or she walks by every day. His portraits of downtown Tulsa are especially popular.
M.A. Doran is open to the public Tuesday-Saturday from 10:30am-6pm.
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