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Seems like yesterday

Tulsa Sound legend David Teegarden inducted to Oklahoma Music Hall of Fame

David Teegarden Sr. in his studio

Greg Bollinger

Among Tulsa’s most prominent recording artists, Grammy Award-winning musician and producer David Teegarden Sr. has always been in good company. From the epoch of rock in the ‘60s to this century’s raw, earthy Red Dirt movement, Teegarden and his colleagues shaped the unique fusion of rockabilly, jazz, country, gospel, and blues in the musical thread forever known as the Tulsa Sound.

On June 14, Teegarden was inducted into the Oklahoma Music Hall of Fame in Muskogee in recognition of his lifetime achievement in the music industry.

“Looking back, I reflect on Bob Seger’s lyrics, ‘I’m older now, but I’m still running against the wind,’” Teegarden said.

Beginning in his childhood in the 1950s, Teegarden studied and performed music at Immaculate Conception School in North Tulsa.

When Elvis Presley played his brand of swaggering rock ‘n’ roll at the Tulsa fairgrounds in the late 1950s, 12-year-old Teegarden was awestruck.

“I saw the power of music on audiences and wanted to be a part of that,” Teegarden said.

He began playing as drummer in numerous BYOL drinking establishments and bars around town while still underage, developing his shuffle style of rock, blues, swing, and jazz.

In the early ‘60s, at J.J. Cale’s behest, Teegarden joined another Tulsan, the soulful neo-Gospel, hippie-country composer and keyboardist Leon Russell in Hollywood when Russell was playing with session players known as “The Wrecking Crew.” In 1966, Teegarden returned to Tulsa frustrated—at 18 years old he was unable to work in L.A. clubs.   

In the late ‘60s, he and fellow Tulsan Skip Knape (aka Van Winkle), a talented organist and vocalist, formed Teegarden & Van Winkle. Independently, both had played on the flip side of J.J. Cale’s “After Midnight” when it was first released in ‘66.

In 1968, band manager Jim Cassily invited Teegarden and Knape to Detroit. Teegarden had always been drawn to the music powerhouses of the Motor City and there they cut several albums.

Swept up in the early ‘70s activist and peace movement, Teegarden, Knape, Bob Seger, and guitarist Mike Bruce were invited to perform at the John Sinclair Freedom Rally along with John Lennon, Stevie Wonder, poet Allen Ginsberg, Bobbie Seal of the Black Panthers, and others.

At this juncture, Seger lined up with Teegarden and Van Winkle. After touring for over six months together, they recorded Smokin’ O.P.’s (1972) with Bruce. The album, released on Punch Andrew’s Palladium Records (Billboard #63), consisted mostly of covers and scored a hit with Tim Hardin’s “If I Were a Carpenter” (#76 US). The record peaked at 180 on the Billboard 200.

But even after all that, Oklahoma called the rock drummer home. He built a home production company just outside Tulsa, near Beggs.

“I found a farm, which was ideal to use as a recording studio, and made my home,” Teegarden said.

Today, he owns and operates Teegarden Studios, located just down the street from Leon Russell’s old Church Studio, at 1431 E. 3rd St. in the Pearl District. There, he’s equipped with vintage microphones, a piano, and a Hammond B-3 organ, plus state-of-the-art sound panels and software.

“I’ve had recording studios my whole life,” Teegarden wrote on his website. “Music is my life. Being able to share my experience and passion with a variety of talented artists from diverse genres is most gratifying.”

Over the years, he’s worked with many Tulsa-based musicians and established national artists, including guitarist and vocalist Paul Benjaman, local legend Steve Pryor, legendary blues and country-style singer and songwriter Don White, guitarist Charles Tubberville, bluegrass multi-instrumentalist Randy Crouch, blues player Dustin Pittsley, and bands Whirligig, Local Hero, Freak Show, Henna Roso, and Hanson, as well as Tulsa high school and professional jazz bands, including jazz master Dave Brubeck.

“Tulsa is my hometown and I’m very familiar with the local music community. I was born and raised here and there are plenty of good musicians and good music,” Teegarden said.

Of the OMHF award, Teegarden said, “I deeply appreciate the respect and incredible honor to be bestowed this award that very few receive in their lifetime and the pleasure of the moment in the presence of my wife, children, and grandchildren.”