Iconic entertainment magazine Rolling Stone is currently publishing a series of articles featuring a “look at eight cities where live music has exploded.” I don’t want to give too much away, but, spoiler alert: Tulsa is one of the eight cities.
It’s a great article in which Rolling Stone journalist Jonathan Bernstein captures the history, spirit of cooperation and diversity that characterize Tulsa-area music. I recommend checking it out on rollingstone.com. Although I didn’t learn anything I didn’t already know about Tulsa music, I did have two realizations while reading the article: 1) Jonathan Bernstein definitely reads Searching for the Sound, and 2) If Tulsa is one of eight cities where live music has exploded, I must have a lot to talk about in this column. Turns out, I was right. About the second one at least, so let’s get to it.
Tulsa Music Awards
Another indication that Tulsa music is blowing up is the number of nominees for the Third Annual Oilfire Tulsa Music Awards. Album of the Year, one of 30 categories, had more than 50 nominations, as did Single of the Year. New Artist and Breakout Artist of the Year both had dozens of nominations, a sign that Tulsa music’s stock is still rising.
As impressive as the list of nominees is, it can be a bit overwhelming when trying to cast a vote. Fortunately, each category has been narrowed down to a more manageable five finalists. Vote during the month of March at tulsamusicawards.com to recognize your favorite band, songwriter, venue (large, medium and small), concert, DJ, music video and more of 2019.
Jimmy LaFave Songwriting Contest
If you just went and checked tulsamusicawards.com and were disappointed to not see your name among the list of nominations, here’s an opportunity to change that for next year.
The Jimmy LaFave Songwriting Contest, free and open to unsigned Oklahoma songwriters, is currently accepting entries. One winner will receive $500 and the opportunity to join the lineup of Bob Childers’ Gypsy Café music festival on April 29.
The Jimmy LaFave Songwriting Contest highlights the spirit of mentorship and musical discovery that have become hallmarks of the Gypsy Café festival. Previous winners include Ken Pomeroy in 2018, and Dallas Parker, aka Faux Draco, last year.
In addition to the cash prize, another $500 will be donated in the winner’s name to Red Dirt Relief Fund. I’ll have more on Red Dirt Relief Fund and the 9th Annual Gypsy Café in the April installment of SFTS.
Linda Wolf Book Signing
One of the all-time great rock & roll tours is about to turn 50. It was March of 1970 when Joe Cocker recruited Leon Russell to put together a band and embark on the Mad Dogs and Englishmen tour. The 10-piece band with a 10-piece choir was short lived, but left an indelible mark on the rock & roll landscape, and gave Cocker his first hit with The Letter. The legendary collaboration is still with us in the form of both a live album and a film documentary.
Also capturing the historic event was Tour Photographer Linda Wolf, who recently released “Tribute: Cocker Power,” an archive of her time with the band during the tour. Released as a celebration of the 50-year anniversary of Mad Dogs and Englishmen, Wolf’s book is two volumes of visually stunning photographs, as well as stories and quotes from over one hundred musicians and crew members, including Leon Russell.
Wolf will be at Harwelden Mansion April 2 from 4:30 – 7:30 p.m. for a book signing experience. The event will include an exhibit of Wolf’s original tour photos, as well as live music, wine and hors d’oevres. For more information and tickets, visit thechurchstudio.com.
R.I.P. Jim Paul Blair
I must end this month’s column on a sad note, as I’ve just received news of Muskogee musician/entertainer Jim Paul Blair’s passing.
Blair was a pillar in the music community. A former executive director for the Oklahoma Music Hall of Fame, he also served on the board of directors for Oklahoma International Bluegrass Festival, Red Dirt Relief Fund and Muskogee Medical Center Authority.
The son of a Grand Ole Opry performer and Texas Playboys member, Blair spent all 58 of his years emursed in music.
He was a multi-instrumentalist with a knack for portraying Hank Williams in his tribute band Hankerin 4 Hank, and Buddy Holly in the Muskogee Little Theatre productions of “The Buddy Holly Story.” His talent and generosity will be missed by the entire Oklahoma music community.
I met Blair a few years ago at the Oklahoma Music Hall of Fame in Muskogee. He was helpful and generous with his time and seemed to be so full of life. It’s hard to believe he’s no longer with us. With Searching for the Sound, my goal is to spread the joy of Tulsa music and deliver something uplifting and inspiring to the reader. Occassionally, however, it’s necessary to diverge from the joyful news, as it is imperitive that we honor people like Jim Blair who are responsible for building and maintaining the robust music scene that we all enjoy. It’s because of people like Blair that we don’t have to leave our home town to keep searching, keep listening.