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Exhibit: ‘Hot Oklahoma Night’ honors state’s role in rock music

By Gene Triplett Published: May 1, 2009
Rock ’n’ roll memories and ghosts of radio past, shows under summer stars, in smoky bars and echoing arenas, and music made by native sons and daughters — that’s what "Another Hot Oklahoma Night: A Rock & Roll Exhibit” is all about.

The Oklahoma History Center celebrates this unique look at the rockier side of Sooner State music Saturday with a grand-opening bash featuring 14 bands, do-it-yourself tie-dye fun, rock star makeovers, "Guitar Hero” (the game), rock star photo ops, and costume contests to pick the best ’50s, ’60s, ’70s and ’80s outfits.

It’s a free-for-one-day-only chance to explore 50 years of homegrown, guitar-driven history "from Wanda Jackson to Wayne Coyne,” as exhibit curators Jeff Moore and Larry O’Dell like to put it.

"Oklahoma has such a central part in the rock ’n’ roll story that hopefully you can tell we’re excited about it,” said Moore, director of exhibits at the center. "Hopefully, the exhibit will reflect our excitement and enthusiasm and match the honor and validation that the stories deserve, because there’s a bunch of these guys that deserve to be in halls of fame or whatever it is that people do to honor greatness.”

The "Hot Oklahoma Night” exhibit spreads through four major galleries of the museum with displays of artifacts and memorabilia representing not only the artists and their music but the culture, technology, venues and fan experiences of the Oklahoma rock scene, and the radio and television programming that put it all out over the air.

"We’ve done about 150 interviews that cover the whole history of Oklahoma rock ’n’ roll,” said O’Dell, director of collections for the museum’s research division. "We’re collecting these kind of snapshots of music from Wanda Jackson to Wayne Coyne to the Uglysuit, to some of the newer groups right now.”

People ranging from local DJs and record producers to players both famous and obscure shared their stories for interactive features placed throughout the exhibit and for a documentary to be assembled later. So, visitors entering the artists’ portion of the exhibit in the E.L. and Thelma Gaylord Gallery can see rockabilly queen Jackson’s pink sequined stage dress and hear the Maud native talk about the days when she wore it and toured with mentor Elvis Presley.

A few short steps away, the Collins Kids, another pioneering Oklahoma rockabilly act, are honored with a display containing the custom-built double-neck Mosrite guitar Larry Collins was playing like an ace at age 10 while performing with sister Lorrie on "Tex Ritter’s Town Hall Party” TV show in the late ’50s. The Nudie outfits they wore and an early publicity photo of the smiling siblings are on view as well.

Around the corner are the spacey glasses and shoes worn by ’70s Okie singer-songwriter Moon Martin, who wrote the Robert Palmer hit "Bad Case of Lovin’ You (Doctor, Doctor).” Mementos from the Tulsa power-poppers 20/20 and Norman alternative rockers Michael Been and the Call fill an adjoining case, and down the aisle is a tribute to Chickasha glam-punk band Debris, who were together long enough to perform four live shows and record one album in 1975 before disbanding, only to become cult heroes credited by no less than Sonic Youth and Mudhoney as a major influence.

"Their drummer (Johnny Gregg) used to wear women’s underwear and baby powder,” O’Dell said.

"There were fights that broke out because they didn’t fit locally,” Moore added.

Across the way is the requisite exhibit of Oklahoma City’s psych-pop kings the Flaming Lips, composers of the state’s new official rock song, "Do You Realize??” Carefully hung for fans to marvel over are Lips leader Wayne Coyne’s alien costume from the film "Christmas on Mars,” and the Long John Silver’s fry cook uniform that he wore for 11 years while his band was struggling to make it.

Elsewhere, master tapes from Leon Russell’s legendary Church Studio in Tulsa, containing tracks recorded there by Eric Clapton and George Harrison, can be seen near the lectern-sized, 40-track machine on which Russell captured their music.

"Leon Russell and Queen, they were the two artists that were really pushing the (technological) boundaries (in the early ’70s),” Moore said.

See online coverage with Assistant Entertainment Editor George Lang.

Grand opening: "Another Hot Oklahoma Night”
→Where: Oklahoma History Center, 2401 N Laird.

→When: Music, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, featuring John Moreland & the Black Gold Band, Crocodile, The City Lives, The Oh Johnny! Girls, Mike Black and & the Stingrays, Ali Harter, Unmarked Cars, Camille Harp, Wes Reynolds, The Romantic Disaster, The Gunship, Rainbows Are Free, The Undecided, All But 1.

→Admission: Free this Saturday. All other times, admission is $5 adults, $4 seniors, $3 students and free for children younger than 5.

→Information: 522-0765 or

E.L. and Thelma Gaylord Special Exhibit Gallery

→Artifacts, clothing, musical instruments and rare albums belonging to Oklahoma musicians famous and obscure.

→Garage-band setting where visitors can jam on instruments.

Inasmuch Foundation Gallery

→KOMA control room as it looked when the 50,000-watt AM station covered the western half of the continent at night.

→Record store recreation.

→Recording studio display featuring equipment from Gene Sullivan’s and Leon Russell’s studios.

→Period teenager’s bedroom recreation.

Samuel Roberts Noble Gallery

→Rock ’n’ roll fashion and hair.

→Oklahoma venues (Cain’s Ballroom, Brady Theater, Zoo Amphitheatre, The Bowery).

→Concert memorabilia (The Dave Clark Five, The Moody Blues, Led Zeppelin, etc.)

Kerr-McGee Gallery

→Oklahoma funk and soul (The Burtons, The Gap Band, Soule Messenger, etc.).


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