Same Space, Another Time: Tulsa Artists Go Back to Paradise, Pay Tribute to Okie Music

“Can’t tell the bad from the good,
I’m out in the woods.”

– Leon Russell

OKLAHOMA SONGS: The newly released album, Back to Paradise, features 17 tracks written by Oklahoma songwriters and performed by local musicians. It’s available on vinyl, compact disc and digital download at

According to legend, a combination of psychedellic mushrooms and a lightning storm on Grand Lake convinced the late great Leon Russell that he had stumbled across a significant place in space and time.
As the master of space and time, Russell knew how to recognize such noteworthy outcrops in the spatio-temporal continuum.
This particular space and time, Pappy Reeves’ Floating Motel and Fishing Dock in 1972, marked the beginning of what is now widely known as Leon Russell’s Cove on Grand Lake.
Russell’s career was soaring in 1972. After several years of establishing himself as one of the elite studio musicians while working in Los Angeles’ famed Wrecking Crew, the Tulsa Sound icon was fresh off the hugely successful Mad Dogs and Englishmen tour with Joe Cocker, and was making a name for himself as more than a session pro with the release of his fourth album, Carney, featuring the hit single Tightrope, which reached #11 on the Billboard charts.
That success gave Russell the opportunity to return to northeast Oklahoma, where he eventually found himself on Grand Lake in a lightning storm, which brings us back to Paradise.
After purchasing the property, Russell, to the surprise of nobody, immediately constructed a recording studio on the seven and a half acres of secluded waterfront property, and gave it a name worthy of its surroundings: Paradise Studio.
From 1973-78, Paradise Studio hosted recording sessions for some big names in the music industry, like Bob Seger and Freddie King, as well as Russell.
In addition to the studio, Russell built apartments on the property so artists could come to record and stay for a few days, creating a musicians’ retreat out in the woods.
In 1979, Russell returned to Los Angeles and would later sell the Grand Lake property, ending an era that had seen Pappy Reeve’s Floating Motel and Fishing Dock transform into what became known affectionately as, “the hippie place.”
Tulsan Rick Husky has owned the property for the last 30 years, going to great lengths to restore and maintain this gem of Rock & Roll history. That effort has led to the first album being recorded at Paradise Studio since 1978.
Return to Paradise dropped on Aug. 28 and is available at The collaboration features 17 tracks written by Oklahoma songwriters and performed by 20 Tulsa-area musicians, including one of the last bands to record at Paradise in 1978, The Gap Band. The R&B Funk ensemble named after three streets in the Greenwood district (Greenwood, Archer and Pine), bridges the generation gap (pun intended) with the track “I Yike It,” by Charlie Redd and Briana Wright, which is absolutely on fire!
The album runs the gamut, from more obscure songs associated with the Tulsa Sound like the Gap Band’s contribution, to the more widely known hits like JJ Cale’s Ride Me High, performed by Paul Benjaman and Hoyt Axton’s Jealous Guy by John Fullbright.
Also featuring Branjae, Dustin Pittsley, Sarah Frick, Jesse Aycock, Jacob Tovar and more names than I have room to list, this might be the best collection of Tulsa talent to date, with all due respect to the New Tulsa Sound, Vols. 1 & 2 (also available at
But there’s more going on here than just talented individuals playing music. There is a connection to history and a vibe to Paradise Studio that resonates with today’s artists.
“Walking into the studio for the first time was like walking into a time capsule,” said Jessee Aycock, who has two tracks on Return to Paradise. “The good energy that once filled the room was left floating in the air. All that we had to do was breathe it in. Historically, players from this part of Oklahoma seem to have a different approach to music, the same way that Muscle Shoals, Memphis Chicago, Detroit, Austin and Nashville are known for having a sound. I think Leon and J.J tapped into a unique pulse in this area and I would like to think that it’s still vibrating today.”
The entire two-LP album was recorded over the course of four days – mostly live, with very few overdubs, and produced by Jason Weinheimer & Them Tulsa Boys.
“This is a project that we’ve all wanted to do for more than a decade,” said Executive Producer Brian Horton. “We think we’ve captured some of the spirit and energy that happens around town when you go to a live show. These musicians love our regional history so much. This is a document of them paying tribute. We want people to check out today’s musicians, but we also want them to appreciate the Oklahoma musicians that have made it possible to have a relevant music scene today.”
Well said, Brian. That could be the mission statement of Searching for the Sound as well.
I give this album my highest rating and encourage every one of you to buy it immediately. If I sound overly enthusiastic, it’s because 2020 has left me starved for good news and things to look forward to. This album satisfies my hunger for both, and allows me, from the comfort of my COVID-safe home, to keep searching, keep listening.

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