John Fullbright is coming back to the Blue Door, or as he calls it, “My Point A.”
“It's kind of a launching pad more than a home base, just because I don't have a home base right now,” the Bearden-based singer-songwriter said by phone from the road in Wyoming. “But when I play the Blue Door, it's a hometown crowd ... and careerwise, that was Point A. And now we're at Point Something-Else. But it definitely was instrumental in launching me into this craziness.
“I would be a very different artist if I didn't kind of start out there.”
The Grammy-nominated singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist is playing a sold-out three-night stand this weekend in honor of the fabled listening room's 20th birthday.
Others playing during the Blue Door's anniversary month include house favorites Jimmy Webb, Kevin Welch, Michael Fracasso and the Red Dirt Rangers.
“I'm trying to become an institution before they put me in one,” joked Blue Door proprietor Greg Johnson, who also manages Fullbright.
“There's just something really special about a live show that's really intimate, and when you're at the Blue Door, the worst seat is 60 feet away.”
Johnson calls opening the Blue Door a “happy accident.” In 1993, he had just moved home to Oklahoma City from Austin, Texas, was doing a little freelance journalism and even had a job interview at the Nashville newspaper The Tennessean.
Instead of moving east, the Oklahoma City native learned through his sister, Fran Derrick, that their musician pal Mary Reynolds was getting ready to relocate to Austin herself. Reynolds, who called Texas home for six years before crossing back to Oklahoma, was living and hosting a few shows in a humble rent house she had dubbed “Hotel Bohemia.”
“Mary kind of bequeathed me the Blue Door,” said Johnson, who eventually bought the building. “I was kind of missing all my songwriter buddies from Austin, so she said, ‘I've got this place over on McKinley; maybe you can bring some of your friends up.'”
He brought in Fracasso for a January show at the venue, which wasn't yet called the Blue Door, and 50 people turned out.
“I said, ‘Wow, this is easy,'” he said with a laugh. “Little did I know that I would love many, many nights to have 50 people at the Blue Door.”
Jimmy LaFave, Ray Wylie Hubbard and the Red Dirt Rangers played some of the first shows at the listening room, he said.
Reynolds still was getting moved out when Welch performed the first official Blue Door concert in May; she recalls the fellow singer-songwriter helping her haul her belongings out of the large, main room of the house.
“I'm very much happy to have been a part of it. It is a remarkable place, and there aren't very many places like it in the world. It's a great thing for this town. It has sparked interest in that kind of music around here that would not have been there otherwise,” said Reynolds, whose duo Miss Brown to You will open Fracasso's May 25 show.
While he gets constant calls from singer-songwriters all over the country wanting to play his place, Johnson said there aren't many listening rooms like his left. Over the years, he has hosted legendary singer-songwriters like Arlo Guthrie, Ellis Paul and Lucinda Williams.