A ‘Playboy’ Prescription

Millions of baby boomers, myself included, grew up with the rock ’n’ roll hits of Gary Lewis and the Playboys rolling out of our car speakers and transistor radios. Such enduring oldies as “This Diamond Ring,” “Save Your Heart for Me,” and “She’s Just My Style” (all arranged and sometimes co-written by Leon Russell) will forever be important parts of the soundtracks of our lives.

Lewis’s induction into the Army, coming in the midst of his musical successes, was well known to his fans at the time. Less well known, however, is what he did after he got out of the service and began actively trying to better himself as a musician and performer, a quest that took him to Tulsa and a band called Medicine.

Gary himself gives us the scoop on his Medicine days in my latest column for OKLAHOMA Magazine, which you can find right here.

Getting to Know a Monster

Hayden Rorke is undoubtedly best known for his role as the blustery Dr. Bellows in the baby-boomer favorite TV show I DREAM OF JEANNIE. He was, however, a fine character actor who did a lot more than that — including a turn as a ghostly presence in one of my all-time favorite horror movies, THE NIGHT WALKER. 

In 1971, thanks to my friend Steve Olim, I got to talk to Hayden about THE NIGHT WALKER, and that visit is the subject of my Halloween-themed column this month in OKLAHOMA Magazine. You can find it HERE.

Nice People for Friends

If you can indeed measure a person’s wealth by the number of friends he has, then the longtime Oklahoma music figure Ray Bingham is an exceedingly rich man. In my latest column for OKLAHOMA Magazine, Ray talks about how friendship has informed his life as a booking agent and talent manager over the past decades, emphasizing his relationship with several country-music legends.

As one of Ray’s friends for many years, I’m especially happy to be able to share his story. You can find it HERE.

Oklahoma-based agent, producer and manager Ray Bingham has booked some of country music’s biggest stars.

A Black Hole… in a Good Way’

I have no idea how many stories I’ve written about the Red Dirt Rangers, the trailblazing band that continues to show the world what Red Dirt music is all about. I do know my first Rangerspiece came out in the TULSA WORLD in 1991, when they first brought their act from Stillwater to Tulsa. I also know that my latest can be found HERE, straight from the pages of the August OKLAHOMA Magazine.

Going Solo in the Red Dirt

I’ve been enjoying Brad James’s work as a guitarist, singer, and songwriter for many years, so I was happy to see that Horton Records was bringing out a new disc — in both CD and vinyl — that brings him into the spotlight with his band. For my latest OKLAHOMA Magazine column, I spoke to Brad about the record and his years in the business. You can find the store HERE.

A Racial Separation of Paths/Neighborhood Influences

As many of you know, I was honored and privileged to work with the great New York Yankees pitcher Ralph Terry on his as-told-to autobiography, RIGHT DOWN THE MIDDLE (available on amazon.com in a variety of formats). This month in OKLAHOMA Magazine, I get to tell the story of one of his boyhood friends from Chelsea, Oklahoma, Gerome Riley, who played in those segregated days not only in pickup games with Ralph, but in a semipro black team called the Claremore Clowns. You can read the column HERE.

Plus, in the same issue, my interview with screenwriter and producer Micah Fitzerman-Blue, the former Tulsan who’s one of the main movers and shakers behind one of the most anticipated features of the year, A BEAUTIFUL DAY IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD. Find it HERE

A Musical Testament to Steinbeck

Drummer, composer, and bandleader Jared Johnson’s affinity for John Steinbeck’s work isn’t just a fan thing. He’s actually created a full-blown jazz concert inspired by Steinbeck’s GRAPES OF WRATH. To find out more about Jared and his GRAPES OF WRATH PROJECT, check out my newest OKLAHOMA Magazine column, HERE.  

Inspired by one of John Steinbeck’s books, musician Jared Jordan created the Grapes of Wrath Project with local musicians.

The Tulsa Zeitgeist

Maybe you’ve asked yourself why, of all the great music acts to come out of  Oklahoma, Leon Russell seems to be the one who still inspires the most intense emotion. When I asked myself that question, I came up with my latest OKLAHOMA Magazine column, which you can find HERE.


It was somewhere around 15 years ago that my longtime chum Robert A. Brown started sending me letters, usually a page or so long, written with a manual typewriter on authentic 1930s air-mail stationery — and sent with real old air-mail stamps. Something like this might have been surprising coming from anyone else in my life, but I knew how much Robert delighted in reaching into the past, pulling out things that captivated him, and sharing them with others. He was, and is, one of a kind, a great man with a fascinating and unique angle of vision.

In the letters, Robert took on the persona of a writer for the the WPA Folklore Project, sent to the hills to collect stories from old-timers There, he finds himself neck-deep in mystery, murder, and, ultimately, a big nest of witches and their animal familiars.

It took me some time to realize that these letters could be the foundation for a book (which might have been Robert’s idea all along), and a damned scary one at that. It took us many more years to figure out how to do it, set aside the time to do it right, and hammer it out to each other’s satisfaction.

Now, finally, the first one’s done. Thanks to another great friend and fellow writer, Bill Bernhardt, SEVENTH SENSE has just been published by Bill’s Babylon Books. SEVENTH SENSE is the first volume in the trilogy, and I’m happy to say we’ve been getting some swell reviews on Amazon.

I’ll be launching SEVENTH SENSE on Wednesday, May 27, at Tulsa’s Magic City Books, 221 E. Archer Street. The event runs from 7 p.m. until 8:30 p.m. Of course, I’d love to see you there. If you can’t make it, though, please check it out online and/or consider ordering it from the store of your choice.

Thanks, Magic City. Thanks, Robert. Thanks, Bill B. And thank you all for reading — not just this blog or my new book, but anything.


Coming Full Circle

The first time I interviewed bassist Dean DeMerritt, following his return to Tulsa from Atlanta four years ago, he told me he’d read and enjoyed GHOST BAND, my spook novel set in the world of touring musicians. Of course, that made me happy, but I guess it was kind of logical, since Dean spent a significant amount of time on the road with one of the most relentless of all the touring groups, Asleep at the Wheel. He also did lots of work in Fort Worth, playing with acts from blues bands to the city’s symphony orchestra, before heading to Atlanta and putting together a successful group called the Dean DeMerritt Jazz Tribe.

Back in Oklahoma, he’s continued his musical quest to make new converts to his music. As he puts it in my new OKLAHOMA Magazine column, “I want people who don’t normally like jazz to listen and say, `Hey, I guess jazz is okay after all.’” To that end, he’s been gigging regularly with a variety of top players and recording discs, including a fine new one with guitarist Sean Al-Jibouri and vocalist Sarah Maud called COMPARED TO NOW.

You can read more about it, and about Dean himself, right here.