Rite of Passage
Some of Tulsa music’s finest share first concert memories
We’re proud of our city’s rich musical history, and this month we’re celebrating the sounds of Tulsa (not the beeps of construction equipment; not those late-night train whistles). We asked local music industry folks about their intro to live music—here are their reflections on their first dips into the baptismal font.
Musician, booking manager at The Colony
Who: Rammstein. Some friends and I did the classic Detroit Rock City thing—lied to our parents, told them we were at each other’s houses.
Why was this the first? There was the grunge thing at that time—Edgefest, Birthday Bash, Reggaefest, a ton of festivals. The Edge was a big deal. We were still calling in and requesting songs, sitting there listening for the next hour to see if they’d play them. Radio was a big deal.
How was it? I became hooked on live music. They had these pyrotechnics—there was a metal mask beak thing shooting flames, there were flames on the guitar. I’ll never forget it.
What impact did it have on you? It was the start of the path I took to get me here today, and I work at the Colony now, so I guess it stuck with me.
Producer, photographer, and videographer
Who: It was a jams fest. It had Three 6 Mafia and Trina. I really don’t remember who else was there at all because those two acts pretty much took over.
When: I was young. That was back when Three 6 Mafia had all the songs that would make people fight. It had to be ‘94, ‘95.
Where: Birmingham, Alabama
Why was this the first? I probably went to a Christian concert with my mom before … probably a revival or something. But I guess my cousin wanted to take us. The radio was real big in Birmingham. That’s who brought the concert to the city. And it was all-ages. So, I went with my cousin Terry.
How was it? It was so packed. That was the first time I could see how music influenced people directly. It was cool until they started playing their song, “Put ya sign in his face, gang sign in his face, make ‘em fight.” Everyone was throwing their signs up, their flags up, and there was a fight. I was like “Damn! That’s exactly what the song just said to do.” So that right there let me know that music can get you messed up.
What impact did it have on you? Knowing how influential music is. It led me to be interested in music. We can literally talk over a beat and make someone want to do that, or feel that way, or console them. Music is, I feel like, one of the most important things we know about in the universe. As far as what people can convey through music, it’s one of the most powerful things. It hits your spirit different.
Jazz vocalist, interdisciplinary artist
Who: My first big one was Steely Dan.
When: I was 15 or 16.
Why was this the first? Went with my friend Audrey Downing, now Audrey Frampton. My brother lived there, my parents drove, and we all went. Audrey and I got away, and an older Italian stallion offered us beer.
How was it? Really fun. The sound was great, and the musicians were amazing. It sounded just like the album, which was impressive. I particularly remember “Razor Boy” and “The Boston Rag.” I was flippin’ out over that one. Audrey and I had short hair, and everyone thought we were a couple.
What impact did it have on you? It was really awesome. I definitely wanted to be a Steely Dan backup singer. That was my big dream as an adolescent. I don’t know that the show brought me any epiphanies, but I think I realized I was basically one of the only people my age who liked Steely Dan. People in their 40s to their 60s were ruling the roost. The other thing I was into was big band, so my music-loving peers were all either 80 or 60.
Owner, The Church Studio
Who: Elton John
When: I was thirteen, so that would’ve been 1982.
Where: It’s the Cox Business Center now, but back then I think it was called the Tulsa Assembly Center.
Why was this the first? Well, I had an opportunity to go with a friend. I was exposed to him when I was eight. I had his Goodbye Yellow Brick Road piano book. I played it with my flute and I memorized the entire book. It’s a fantastic album. It was so cool. And to this day it’s probably one of my favorite albums. I played it for years and still have the book.
How was it? It was really good. It was when he had a different album out. Different from his previous rock sound. He played old and new songs. He had a different look then, too. He’s such an amazing performer and one of my favorites of all time.
What impact did it have on you? It really set the standard high. I’ve been to hundreds of concerts since then. It had a huge impact. Seeing a performer live and getting to engage with them from a live audience perspective was profound for me. To this day I see a lot of concerts. Music is a critical part of my life. To see someone as amazing as Elton for your first concert really inspired me. And his relationship with Leon Russell—that made it that much sweeter. I saw them together in 2010 at the BOK Center. And I already have tickets to Elton’s concert in February 2019.
Producer; songwriter, guitarist, and vocalist, The Tractors; former Bob Dylan guitarist
Who: The Dave Clark Five
When: I was 14 or 15—‘64, ‘65.
Where: The old Municipal Auditorium in Oklahoma City
Why was it first? Slightly complicated answer because [before Dave Clark] I look to what was really a dance at the OSU Student Union [as my first concert]. My mom took me to see Jim Edgar and The Roadrunners. Jim Edgar was from Perry. Fifty-plus years later, I still believe Edgar was one of the greatest singers ever from Oklahoma. Fabulous band. It was more of a ‘concert’ to me than a dance. That night changed my life—at least a little.
How was it? Girls screamed. The sound seemed perfect. The opening act [for The Dave Clark Five] was an Oklahoma City band called Jerry Fisher and The Nightbeats—an R&B sort of band with horns. They opened the whole night with a horn-based instrumental called “Virginia Woolf.” Blew my mind (so to speak). Fisher was also a phenomenal singer and eventually sang lead with Blood, Sweat and Tears.
What impact did it have on you? That night was life-changing. It just couldn’t have been better. Dave Clark Five’s song “Bits and Pieces” is hard to beat, still. The Nightbeats were an entirely different thing, but also life-changing, and probably at the heart of why I wanted a horn presence with The Tractors.
Guitarist and vocalist, Cherokee Maidens and Sycamore Swing
Who: Sanders Family Bluegrass Festival—it would have been Bill Monroe and the Osborne Brothers.
When: I must’ve been in third grade.
Why was this the first? I always loved music and sang along with my mom in church. My dad would always sing Bob Wills songs to me and would make sure I could sing them correctly. They gave me a guitar and started to take me to festivals.
How was it? This was a great one. The festival was on a mountain, in a real pretty spot in McAlester.
What impact did it have on you? After, I wrote, in my third grade handwriting, the titles of songs Bill Monroe sang. I just wanted to learn them. Now I have the Western swing band the Cherokee Maidens & Sycamore Swing with Shelby Eicher, and we do those old songs. What you do for your kids early in life makes a difference.
Owner and producer, Teegarden Studios; drummer and vocalist, Teegarden & Van Winkle
Who: There were two—one was Elvis Presley. Then Dave Brubeck.
When: Elvis Presley: 1956. Brubeck was a little after that, I think.
Where: Elvis was at the Tulsa Fairground Pavilion; Brubeck was at the Tulsa Convention Hall, which is now the Brady Theater.
Why was this the first? For Elvis, I suppose because my older sister had an extra ticket, and my mother was a single parent. My father passed away just before I was born, so I was left with my sister to take care of me after school. It was probably a Thursday night. My mother worked at Vandevers, in the book department, and I think on Thursdays it was open later. So my mother wouldn’t come home until evening, and I suppose my sister was stuck with me.
How was it? Elvis Presley was pretty amazing. Hard to hear the music for all the screaming. Dave Brubeck was incredible. I loved it.
What impact did it have on you? Elvis Presley: It was ironic because he had a trio backing him up—bass, guitar, drummer—and Scotty Moore was a guitar player I worked with in later years with Teegarden & Van Winkel. Dave Brubeck: I fell in love with jazz hearing him with his infamous quartet.