Horton Records and an All-Star Lineup of Local Musicians Celebrate a Tulsa Legend

Courtesy Horton Records
STEVE PRYOR: The blues guitar legend who passed away in 2016 from injuries suffered in a motorcycle accident will be celebrated by friends and band members on Dec. 28 at Shrine on 18th Street and Boston Avenue.


“Gene Autry stepping off an UFO with a stratocaster in his hand and an Elmore James song in his heart.”
I don’t know to whom I attribute that quote describing the late great Steve Pryor. It’s often referenced passively, as in, “it has been said of Pryor…” And while, as a writer, I dissaprove of the flagrant use of passive voice, as a Steve Pryor fan, I couldn’t agree more with the characterization.
Nor could I agree more with blues legend Muddy Waters, who told a 19-year-old Pryor who was his opening act at Cain’s ballroom, “Don’t ever put that guitar down!”
Fortunately for us, he never did put that guitar down.
His career took him all over the world, playing with heavy hitters in the music industry like John Lee Hooker, Albert King, Buddy Guy, B.B. King, Bonnie Raitt, Greg Allman, Dr. John and Johnny Winter.
After graduating from Nathan Hale High School, Pryor left Tulsa for Los Angeles where he was able to land work as a session musician in the film industry.
In the early 1980s, he moved from the West Coast to the East Coast to join up with the late Paul Butterfield’s blues band, which he played with until 1984.
In 1989, Pryor and his band, consisting of songwriting partner Scott Hutchison, drummer Pride Preston, bassist David White and keyboardist David Busey (brother of actor Gary Busey) returned to Los Angeles and, in 1991, released the album “Steve Pryor Band,” on the Zoo/BMG Record label.
Reviews of the album were favorable, with Billboard magazine comparing Pryor’s guitar playing with that of Stevie Ray Vaughan and announcing to its readers, “Look out fret fans, here’s your new hero.”
It appeared that Pryor was on his way to stardom, as the band followed up the album with a tour with The Fabulous Thunderbirds.
However, whether due to creative differences or personal demons that Pryor struggled with at the time, the relationship with Zoo/BMG never proved to be that launch pad.
Shortly after the tour with The Fabulous Thunderbirds, Pryor returned to Tulsa before heading to Ireland to work and tour with singer Andrew Strong of the Committments.
On the eve of the tour in Dublin, Ireland, Pryor was attacked by skinheads, suffering broken ribs, a broken ankle and a concussion. He did manage to gut out the first show of the tour, but was on the plane headed home before the second.
During the last two decades of his life, Pryor played multiple gigs around town on a weekly basis. Along with bassist Matthew Kohl and drummer Rick Heck, the three piece blues/rock band known as Steve Pryor and the Mighty Kingsnakes were a staple of the Tulsa music scene thoughout the 1990s and 2000s.
He was a bridge from the old Tulsa Sound, playing with the likes of Jimmi Markham and Don White in the 1970s, to the new Tulsa Sound, serving as mentor and inspiration to newcomers like Paul Benjaman and Dustin Pittsley.
The life of the Tulsa-born guitarist and member of both the Oklahoma Blues Hall of Fame and the Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame ended in a motorcycle crash on North Denver Avenue on May 6, 2016.
That life will be celebrated on Dec. 28 at Shrine on 18th Street and Boston Avenue with a tribute concert featuring many of Pryor’s friends and band members.
Hosted by Horton Records and Paul Benjaman, the concert features an all-star lineup, including Damon Daniel, David “Skintight” White, LD Price, John Hoff, Scott Mariner, Brad Absher, Jesse Aycock, Dustin Pittsley, Connor Culpepper; plus a reunion of the Mighty Kingsnakes.
Tickets for the 8 p.m. show are $10 in advance, $12 at the door. To purchase tickets, visit venueshrine.com.

About Horton Records
Horton Records, LTD is a non-profit, volunteer-based music organization in Tulsa dedicated to the cultivation and development of Tulsa area artists and building on the region’s great tradition, while fostering and strengthening community through musical endeavors.
Horton provides support and tools in terms of band management, promotion, booking, merchandising, and distribution in order to help local and regional musicians fulfill their artistic goals and further promote local and regional music on a broader scale.
I’m still on a cloud from Horton’s last event, the Folk-n-Rock-n-Chili Cookoff, and I expect this to be every bit as good. Check out hortonrecords.org and Horton’s Facebook page for more information, and for locally-sourced holiday gifts, like Brad James Band’s recent album, “At Fellowship Hall.”

To all my readers, Happy Holidays and thank you for supporting local music in 2019. I’ll be back for more in 2020, because we have the best music scene in the country. And just as Steve Pryor never put his guitar down, I’m never putting Tulsa music down.
In other words, I’m going to keep searching, keep listening.

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