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.

THE CLEANSING: BOOK I

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.

A Band Roped into Success

The first of the Red Dirt acts to crack the national charts, Stillwater’s Great Divide has persevered for a quarter of a century. Read their story in my latest OKLAHOMA Magazine column, HERE.

 

I’m happy to report that the first volume of THE CLEANSING trilogy, my collaboration with longtime pal Robert A. Brown, is now on Amazon. It’s called SEVENTH SENSE, and Robert and I would be grateful to have you check it out.

 

More Than the Wills Boys

Tulsa’s Caravan Swing Band may have been the best unrecorded band in the history of western-swing music, with ex-Texas Playboys like Glenn “Blub” Rhees. Tommy Perkins, and the incomparable Eldon Shamblin on its roster. In fact, however, it was informally recorded at least once, in 1981, on reel-to-reel tapes during a live show. Now, producers Darrell Dowty and Linda Freeman have put together the best of those recordings onto a new disc. Read all about it HERE, in my latest Oklahoma Magazine column.