A version of this story appears in Monday’s Your Life section of The Oklahoman.
“Rhythm & Routes”: Virtual Oklahoma music trail preparing to launch
Through May 31, the public is invited to submit photographs, videos, stories and memorabilia related to the 43 people and places chosen as the initial honorees on the online trail.
From Ada to Yukon, Oklahoma’s diverse musical history blazes a trail all over the map, with artists as wide-ranging as All-American Rejects, Reba McEntire and Jimmy Webb providing notable landmarks.
And a new music trail soon will give music fans the chance to virtually trace the state’s eclectic sounds — and then visit the sites that helped spawn them.
The Oklahoma Tourism and Recreation Department is preparing to launch “Rhythm & Routes,” a virtual Oklahoma music trail running through a section of its highly trafficked TravelOK.com, and officials are hoping Oklahomans will share their photographs and videos, memories and memorabilia, to make the online trail a more complete musical roadmap.
“The idea is to give each honoree a page on the music trail website … and through their page be able to explore photos and videos and content that you can’t really find in other places,” said Lindsey Flowers, Oklahoma Film & Music Office deputy director and acting music trail coordinator.
“It’s not like what you would find on Wikipedia,” added Leslie Blair, public information officer for the tourism department. “We want to go a little deeper.”
The tourism department has been working with the Oklahoma Historical Society, OKPOP and Oklahoma Music Hall of Fame to pave the way for the “Rhythm & Routes” website, which is projected to launch July 1.
In 2010, the passage of Senate Resolution 129 established an Oklahoma music trail inspired by the Mississippi Blues Trail, a statewide series of markers at historical sites related to the birth, growth and influence of the blues.
“People who love music feel very passionately about it, and I think each decision came to a crossroads,” Flowers said during a recent lunch meeting.
Just narrowing the master list of 466 possible people, venues and sites to the 43 honorees included in the trail’s first phase was a huge challenge. Other speed bumps included how to pay for markers for a physical trail and how to decide where the markers would be placed. For instance, Garth Brooks was born in Tulsa, raised in Yukon, attended college in Stillwater and lives in Owasso.
“Then, it was ‘OK, well, is it markers? And what do the markers look like?’ and then trying to raise money for them,” Blair said.
“And we went ‘You know what, let’s look at this from a different angle. Let’s put this online and make it a virtual trail and focus on tourism … so that people can plan an itinerary of their favorite artists and see where they grew up, what was important to them, places they used to play.’”
“Rhythm & Routes” is designed to highlight places of significance with respect to Oklahoma’s musical heritage as well as the lives and achievements of musicians who were born, raised or spent a significant part of their careers in the state.
“It’s not just country music. It’s not just rock ‘n’ roll. We’ve got Broadway and opera and gospel and blues – because that’s Oklahoma’s music history. It’s all over the map,” Blair said.
Musical historians as well as tourism experts selected the first phase honorees, including country music Blake Shelton (of Ada), Carrie Underwood (Checotah), Roger Miller (Erick), Vince Gill (Norman), Toby Keith (Moore), Ronnie Dunn and Roy Clark (both of Tulsa); rockers Kings of Leon (Oklahoma City), Leon Russell (Lawton/Tulsa), Wanda Jackson (Maud) and JJ Cale (Tulsa); folk icon Woody Guthrie (Okemah); Broadway leading ladies Kristin Chenoweth (Broken Arrow) and Kelli O’Hara (Elk City); jazz men Chet Baker (Yale) and Charlie Christian (Oklahoma City); opera diva Leona Mitchell (Tulsa); gospel standout Sandi Patty (Oklahoma City); and bluesmen DC Minner (Rentiesville) and Elvin Bishop (Tulsa).
“We’re trying to talk to as many of the artists and their folks as we can, you know, ‘Tell us about Oklahoma. Where did you get started playing? What were some of the most important places to you growing up? Did you travel and vacation in Oklahoma? What were some of your favorite places to go?’” Blair said. “We’re trying to get some of that more personalized info to really build an itinerary.”
The intial list of honorees also includes six places: Deep Deuce and the Zoo Amphitheatre in Oklahoma City, Cain’s Ballroom and The Church Studio in Tulsa, the Muskogee Civic Center and The Farm in Stillwater.
“You can kind of trace the Red Dirt movement back to The Farm … but the house isn’t there anymore. But the Red Dirt Rangers lived out there for so long, so you ask ‘Well then, where in Stillwater did you play? Who were some of the bands that came out of that scene? Why is this site important?’ And we go from there,” Blair said. “We were just in Stillwater the other day and took pictures of Dupree and Willies and the Tumbleweed.”
Reaching into her bag Blair carefully removes an old black-and-white photo featuring music promoter/songwriter Mae Boren Axton and her young son, future country star Hoyt Axton. She got it from a family friend from her hometown of Frederick, where the Axton matriarch once taught school.
It’s the kind of memento “Rhythm & Routes” organizers would like to see more of, she said.
Through May 31, the public is invited to submit video footage (concert footage, interviews, music clips), audio recordings (interviews, music samples, radio recordings), photos (yearbook photos, family pictures, concert photos), memorabilia (ticket stubs, show posters or programs, set lists), along with personal letters, trivia and memories related to the Phase 1 honorees at www.travelok.com/rhythm-routes-submission-portal.
“These communities where these people are from or where they went to high school or where they were married or whatever, those communities don’t have to do anything to draw people with this. So if anybody stops through, it’s an economic benefit,” Flowers said.
“Rhythm & Routes” submissions
To submit photographs, videos, stories and memorabilia related to the 43 people and places chosen as the initial honorees for “Rhythm & Routes,” the online Oklahoma music trail, go to www.travelok.com/rhythm-routes-submission-portal. The deadline is May 31.