Oklahoma Historical Society Announces the Bob Wills Collection; Another Hot Oklahoma Night Opens at OSU-Tulsa


The Oklahoma Historical Society makes two announcements today. The family of Bob Wills is donating his collection to the Oklahoma Historical Society. And the popular exhibit Another Hot Oklahoma Night: A Rock & Roll Exhibit will open to the public this afternoon with a special ceremony at 1:30 p.m. at Oklahoma State University-Tulsa Main Hall, 700 North Greenwood Avenue. The award-winning exhibit previously was featured at the Oklahoma History Center in Oklahoma City.

As the Oklahoma Historical Society develops a new museum devoted to Oklahoma music and popular culture in Tulsa’s Brady Arts District, new stories and artifact collections are being researched. Today, the Bob Wills family is announcing the donation of the Bob Wills Collection to be a cornerstone for the new museum. The collection consists of more than 350 photographs, 100s of letters, documents, and promotional pieces, and numerous objects including fiddles, clothing, awards, personal items, along with a humidor of Wills’ trademark cigars. The Bob Wills Heritage Foundation is also donating a rare and unique collection of 130 WWII-era glass recordings and 35 reel to reels of Bob Wills live performances. This collection was assembled and preserved by Casey Dickens.

Bob Wills connection to Tulsa’s Cain’s Ballroom and his influence on music is an international story. These artifacts, photographs, and documents, will further the efforts of the Oklahoma Historical Society in collecting, preserving, and sharing the history of Oklahoma’s significant contribution to popular culture.

The exhibit begins with the early musical innovators like Bob Wills, Woody Guthrie, and Charlie Christian and also explores the Rock and Roll artists, musicians, song writers and producers who have called Oklahoma home. Beyond the facts of each story, the exhibit shows how growing up in Oklahoma affected the music. These stories are displayed in an innovative style to encourage visitor participation and ensure our visitors will take away a new perspective on the history of Rock and Roll in Oklahoma.

Many of the artists spotlighted in the exhibit are Tulsans or have called Tulsa home. Principal among them is Leon Russell who will be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame this year. The exhibit also features a number of Tulsans who got their start recording with Leon in Los Angeles and Tulsa during the 1960s and 70s.

Tulsa may rival other international cities as home to some of the most accomplished Rock and Roll and Pop music artists in the world. Tulsa musicians were in serious demand during the 1960s and 1970s. The multitalented Leon Russell, drummer Jim Keltner, bassist Carl Radle, and guitarist J. J. Cale collaborated with artists such as John Lennon, George Harrison, Ringo Starr, The Rolling Stones, Eric Clapton, and Bob Dylan.

These musicians headed a group that became known as the “Tulsa Sound.” Also during the 1960s, Kiowa guitarist Jesse Ed Davis played with Taj Mahal, with whom he performed during the famous Rolling Stones “Rock & Roll Circus,” and John Lennon before launching a solo career.

From the beginning of rock and roll, many artists and bands have called Oklahoma home. In the 1950s, performers such as Wanda Jackson, who toured with Elvis Presley from 1956 to 1960, Eddie Cochran, and the Collins Kids were vanguards in the Rockabilly movement that inspired the Beatles and eventually the British Punk movement of the late 1970s.

The 1960s was a period when Rock and Roll expanded beyond its Country, Blues, and Jazz roots. The sound of The Ventures displayed this experimentation, featuring Oklahomans Bob Bogle on bass and Nokie Edwards on guitar.

During the 1970s and 1980s many Oklahomans made their marks on the music charts. One of the biggest hit makers was David Gates and his band Bread. Other notable Oklahomans that produced music during the 1970s included B.J. Thomas, Boz Scaggs, Barry McGuire, Dwight Twilley, Elvin Bishop, and Moon Martin. The GAP Band from Tulsa combined R&B, Funk, and Soul, producing several best-selling albums. Many current Hip Hop and R&B artists have sampled their music.

Michael Been of Oklahoma City and Scott Musick of Tulsa formed a band, The Call, in 1980. Influenced by Woody Guthrie through Bob Dylan and The Band, Been wrote songs that combined political issues with personal introspection and became popular on College Radio during the 1980s and early 1990s.

In the 1980s, a fast-food cook from Oklahoma City, Wayne Coyne, started a band called The Flaming Lips and brought an avant-garde approach to Rock which has grown into a phenomenon in the new millennium. The Flaming Lips continue to influence the music industry worldwide through their innovation and experimentation.

Tulsa based Hanson exploded on the pop charts in the 1990s with their catchy tunes and created pandemonium among young teenage girls reminiscent of Beatlemania thirty years earlier. The three brothers continue to produce music and have matured into a critically acclaimed Pop/Rock act.

The All-American Rejects from Stillwater are a power pop group that has reached international stardom since they released their first EP in 2001. Another band with Oklahoma roots, the Kings of Leon, released their first EP in 2003 and have built a worldwide following.

Many other bands, including local garage bands, artists, and early influences are also be included in the exhibit.

The exhibit title Another Hot Oklahoma Night, from The Call’s song “Oklahoma,” loosely refers to the heat and energy of Rock and Roll that could be experienced while listening to rock and roll on the radio in your car on a summer night or seeing a concert with several hundred of your closest friends at Cain’s Ballroom.

The exhibit, located in the Main Hall Commons on the OSU-Tulsa campus, is free to the public and will be open to the public Monday through Saturday 10 am to 7 pm and on Sundays 1 pm to 7 pm.

A project of the Oklahoma Historical Society
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