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

By Gene Triplett Published: May 1, 2009

221; 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. "He helped inspire some of the early drum machines, and some of his ideas really affected the recording industry in a big way.”

Moore says other Oklahomans predating the birth of rock ’n’ roll also had a profound influence on the genre and are acknowledged in the exhibit. Oklahoma City jazz musician Charlie Christian, for example, pioneered on the essential electric guitar, Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys were the first band to tour with a drum kit, and Wills guitarist Junior Barnard is credited as "the first rock guitarist” for his string-bending style and his trick of loosening amplifier tubes to achieve distortion.

Guitarist and session man Barney Kessel influenced the production techniques of Phil Spector and played on dozens of classic albums, including the Beach Boys’ "Pet Sounds.”

"And, of course, Woody Guthrie had three chords and the truth,” Moore said. "And without that, you don’t have (Bob) Dylan, and without Dylan, you don’t have rock ’n’ roll.”

"We’ve read that the first time Paul McCartney auditioned for John Lennon, he played Eddie Cochran songs,” O’Dell said. "There was an Oklahoma connection to the Beatles at the very beginning.”

And that’s why Moore and O’Dell, both passionate music lovers, saw the need for a state known mainly for its country music lineage to be introduced to its rich rock ’n’ roll heritage as well.

"Oklahoma could be known for rock ’n’ roll,” Moore said. "It should be known for rock ’n’ roll. There’s room for all kinds of stories in Oklahoma history, and hopefully, when people leave this exhibit, they’ll see how big this really is.”

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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