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Block party

Mary and Jamie Oldaker’s MOJOFest returns to Tulsa’s East Village

Mary and Jamie Oldaker

Greg Bollinger

When Mary Billings wed Jamie Oldaker last April, the couple decided to have a rather unique wedding reception. 

“Mary and I used to come to [Bohemian Pizzeria in the East Village] and we knew we were going to get married, we’ve known each other for over 30 years, but we didn’t know where we were going to do it,” said Oldaker, a Tulsa native and former drummer for Leon Russell, Eric Clapton, Bob Seger, and Peter Frampton—among many others. “So I said, ‘How about here? We can get married up on that little stage there and just have a real tight group.’ And then we thought, ‘Where will the reception be?’ and we walked out onto Third Street and said, ‘Well, how ‘bout right here?’ This area has a great feel to it, like a Little Italy or something. It just felt right.”

But the reception was more than just a block party. Oldaker was ready to play. So after the customary first dance, Oldaker stepped behind his drum kit and counted off with his former band from high school, The Rogues Five, putting the reception in party mode. And instead of wedding gifts, the couple asked that attendees bring a small monetary donation for the Tulsa Day Center for the Homeless. 

This year, for their first anniversary, Mary, who took the Oldaker name, and Jamie will host another street party/concert, dubbed MOJOFest (their shared initlals are now MOJO), on April 22 in the East Village. 

“I’ve been fortunate to make a living playing music, which is difficult to do, and I’ve never not been appreciative of that. Now it’s time to give something back,” the Oklahoma Music Hall of Famer said. “And that feels good. I’ve lobbied for the OKPOP museum—I’ve worked really hard for that project. I’m doing some work teaching ensemble playing for the Woody Guthrie Museum. Now Mary and I are putting on MOJOFest and helping some people out locally, and that is what it’s all about right now for me.”

While Jamie has lined up the talent, Mary has been instrumental in the fundraising side of the festival. 

“It was important for us to have a cause,” Jamie said, explaining the decision to donate 100 percent of the proceeds from the festival—tickets are $20—to the Day Center for the Homeless. 

“You know people see someone on the side of the road with a cardboard sign and they think, ‘Oh, that’s a homeless person,’ but that’s not always right. You go down to the Day Center for the Homeless and you see families and children, you see people that maybe have lost their jobs, you even see some people that have jobs but they just don’t make enough to live without help. And I don’t care what anybody says, nobody in this country should have to be without a place to live. That’s a basic need.”

While Mary is the driving force behind the philanthropic side of the event, Jamie handles the entertainment side. 

Jamie started playing drums professionally as a teen and was a fixture of the Tulsa scene early on. He watched The Beatles play the Ed Sullivan Show and knew then that he wanted to live the life of a professional musician. Through musician friends in town he worked his way into gigs with J.J. Cale, Leon Russell and The Gap Band. When legendary Tulsa bassist Carl Radle came calling, Oldaker and his friend, pianist and keyboardist Dick Sims, joined up with Eric Clapton as his backing band post-Derek and the Dominos. Oldaker has shared the stage and recording studio with too many acts to mention, but through it all, even when he played to over two billion people at Live Aid, he never lost his head. 

“I never took it that seriously,” Oldaker said. “Cale taught me that years ago and I’ve lived with it like that all of my life. I mean, if people like what I do and I can play and make music for a living, fine. I’ve been lucky. I told my wife the other day, I’m exactly where I thought I’d be at this age and I’m right back here where I’m from.”

Oldaker’s first band, The Rogues Five, will open the event again this year. 

“We’re all still alive,” he joked. “We’ll play the same set list as we did when we were kids. We opened up for The Doors and Hendrix and I was only 13 back then.”

Oldaker’s vision for MOJOFest reaches a little further than his own backyard. While there will be a wealth of local talent, including the closing finale from midnight until 2 a.m. with many people from the Tulsa scene performing, Oldaker wanted to bring an international flare to the main stage.

“We decided we’d like to bring in different types of music that people aren’t always exposed to, different genres. So I got a call from a friend of mine, Tommy Malone, and he sings for a New Orleans Band called the Subdudes. They’re a stable icon in that scene,” Oldaker said. “And I ran into the guys from Gaelic Storm and they said they’d be on board with helping us raise some money, so they’ll be on the main stage as well.” 

During breaks or set changes on the main stage, American Theater Company, Bohemian Pizzeria and Girouard Vines will host performances. In addition to music there will be food trucks, local beer, and art from the Day Center for the Homeless for sale.

The newlyweds see their festival as a win-win. 

“You pay 20 bucks and you get to enjoy world-class musicians and help out a program that is doing amazing things in our community,” Oldaker said. “I’m grateful to be in this position. I always have been thankful for the people of this town and the people of this state who have supported me over the years. My life has done a 180 and I’m back home and in a position to do some good things.”

Second Annual MOJOFest
East Village – 3rd and Lansing
April 22
Gates 5:30 p.m., music 7:00 p.m. to 2 a.m.
Tickets are $20 and are available at the gate, at mojofest.net

For more from Beau, read his article on the Woody Guthrie Folk Festival.

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Block party

Mary and Jamie Oldaker’s MOJOFest returns to Tulsa’s East Village