POSTED ON MARCH 12, 2008:
Take Me Back to Cain's
Grab a seat. Today's lesson is Bob Wills' Birthday Celebration
Some things I'm just not comfortable doing. I'm not a superstitious person, but there is no chance I am playing those mysterious numbers from television's Lost in the Oklahoma lottery. Yeah, I watch it. You won't catch me skydiving; heights greater than three feet greatly intimidate me. I've tested it. I'm also not going to be getting my navel pierced anytime soon. It's the pain. A diamond would do a lot to accent my abs. I just can't take the pain.
It's not a lengthy list, so when Mr. Bob Fjeldsted of Tulsa's Round Up Boys used the tried but true method of triangulation to suggest I attend the 102nd Bob Wills' Birthday Celebration, I couldn't say no. The concert would include performances by The Round Up Boys, Chuck Hayes Swing Revue, and The Texas Playboys.
I am looking for ways to learn about Tulsa, so attending an event that honors one of Tulsa's most historic people seemed like a decent educational opportunity. And, thankfully, it didn't involve cursed numbers, heights, or belly button jewels.
Bob Wills and I have few things in common. The only noteworthy similarity is that our mothers share the same first and middle names. The similarities seem to end there. Bob was raised by a family who taught him music. The result was a legendary musician. My father played catch with me and dreamed of a Los Angeles Dodger son.
Unfortunately, my mother's genes didn't cooperate. Weak rotator cuffs run on her side of the family. The result was not a professional baseball player or even a world class musician, but I'm okay with it. Baseball bores me. I do love music, but I've decided to deal with the hand I've been dealt and I'm kind of lazy when it comes to learning an instrument.
Three years ago, on my first visit to Green Country, my girlfriend introduced Bob Wills and his birthday celebration to me. History suggests it was the 99th bash, but to me it felt like the 100th. I could have sworn I ate cake.
I learned the two-step, even if it was a novice's version. As we fumbled around the original Cain's Ballroom floor, which at that time more closely resembled the Appalachian Trail than a dance floor, our peers gracefully glided across the rugged terrain. I fully expected a tumble, twisted ankle, or at the very least a slip, but the gliding continued.
Since the 99th bash, the historic 84-year-old floor has been replaced and the old floor recycled into picture frames. This year's crowd handled the new, perfectly level floor as spryly as the 2005 attendees. It was the first scootin' the new dance floor had seen since installation earlier this year.
On the night of the concert, the doors were to open at 6:30pm. For every concert I have ever attended, if you were to arrive at the venue when the doors were scheduled to open you would be doing a fair amount of standing (and waiting). For the Bob Wills' show it was the exact opposite. If you weren't in the door by 6:45pm, or had a good friend holding a seat for you, you would be spending the evening on your feet, which most the evening. For newcomers this concert's directions would be: Attendees and their partners are to scoot on the dance floor for their selected favorites and return to their home seat for a beer, water or a shared memory about Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys during their lesser favorites.
I was one of the younger members of the audience. Being in attendance at the concert was a much different feeling than any other show I have ever attended. It was history. Tulsa's music history.
Flashback, Flash Forward
As I sat in the back of the ballroom, I wondered how the scene may have differed had I been sitting in the very same seat in 1935. The faces may have been more youthful and smoking possibly permitted, but I doubt the '35 crowd enjoyed the evening any more than the '08 crowd.
The woman to my right brought her grandchildren to share the history with them. Presumably, her beloved memories of Bob Wills, Cain's Ballroom and her youth. Each time I looked her way she was smiling. Her smile was always the biggest when one of her grandkids was enjoying the music. Her grandchildren were well-behaved and seemed to be having their own kind of fun, but not always because of the music. It wasn't their music. They didn't fully understand. Had they been older maybe they would have asked her to dance. I can only imagine the smile that would have ensued.
What kind of music will I share with my grandchildren? I can only hope it will be something as rich and important as Bob Wills.
The days following the Bob Wills' Birthday Celebration at Cain's were to feature the music of NOFX and Bone Thugs ~N~ Harmony. A testament to the wide array of talent Cain's offers Tulsans. The music of the Bob Wills' tribute, NOFX and Bone Thugs ~N~ Harmony makes for three very different evenings for Tulsa music lovers. The Bob Wills' annual party would, no doubt, be the outcast in the threesome.
As the evening was drawing to a close I saw Bob of The Round Up Boys shaking hands and making his rounds. He stopped by to say hello and to share with the five of us the fact that were sharing a bench he had pulled it out of the trash several days before and restored. He winked and said something about sitting on a piece of history.
The thought offered about six seconds of relief to my pained ass. After three plus hours even the most beautiful wood becomes hard. Next year, Bob, could you pull some historic cushions out of a dumpster somewhere, too? That and mastering my two-step are the only improvements I could have made to the celebration.
Send suggestions and comments to firstname.lastname@example.org
URL for this story: http://www.urbantulsa.comhttp://www.urbantulsa.com/gyrobase/Content?oid=oid%3A20237