Leon Russell makes appearance in Tulsa to support OKPOP Museum


Kim Moyer
Office (405) 605-2003
Cell (405) 249-6070

Oklahoma Historical Society announced Tuesday a collection of Leon Russell memorabilia intended for display at the future museum

TULSA, Okla. – Grammy Award-winning Oklahoma rock music legend Leon Russell made an appearance in Tulsa, Okla. on Tuesday to help announce that a collection of items featuring him and his work has been acquired by the Oklahoma Historical Society (OHS) for display at the future Oklahoma Museum of Popular Culture (OKPOP).

During the announcement, Russell reminisced about his early years in Oklahoma and talked about the honor of being included in the OKPOP Museum.

“When I was a youngster, I saw Jascha Heifetz at the Municipal Theater in Tulsa, now known as ‘the ol’ lady on Brady,’” Russell said. “I also saw different inspiring shows like Clyde McPhatter, Lloyd Price, Chuck Berry, Ruth Brown and Jerry Lee Lewis. It was my pleasure to go on the road with Jerry Lee a couple of years later.

“When I first went to California at the age of 17, there was no home cooking like fried catfish or iced tea to be found anywhere in the state. In later years, Mayor Dewey Bartlett was a partner in the company that designed and built a home and recording studio at my Grand Lake estate.

“And now the good people of Oklahoma want to build a magnificent museum to honor me and others like me. God is good, amen and amen.”

The collection contains more than 4,500 items related to Russell’s historic musical career, including photos, audio recordings, video, record albums, CDs, concert tickets, shirts, posters, magazines, books, articles and more. The collection was provided by an anonymous donor, and its value has not been disclosed. Several pieces from the collection were on display for the announcement Tuesday at the Hardesty Arts Center in Tulsa’s historic Brady District, where the museum is planned to be built.

“It is such an honor for the Oklahoma Historical Society to be able to add this collection to the list of impressive examples of Oklahoma’s musical and cultural talent that will be on display in the OKPOP Museum,” said Dr. Bob Blackburn, executive director of OHS. “It is an even greater honor to have Leon with us here today to celebrate this occasion. We are truly grateful for his support.”

OHS was joined for the announcement Tuesday by fellow OKPOP Museum advocates Tulsa Mayor Dewey Bartlett; Senate President Pro Tem Brian Bingman; Senate Minority Leader Sean Burrage, D-Claremore; Tulsa Councilman Blake Ewing; representatives from George Kaiser Family Foundation; the Tulsa Regional Chamber; the Brady District Association and other museum supporters.

“The Oklahoma Historical Society has 32 museums and historic sites in Oklahoma, but none of the museums and sites are in Tulsa,” Bartlett said. “The OKPOP Museum is the perfect project for the city of Tulsa and the state of Oklahoma, and we need both private and public partners to work together to make this museum a reality.”

The OKPOP Museum will not be built without the Oklahoma Legislature’s approval of a $42.5 million bond issue to help fund construction of the museum. It will be located in the Brady Arts District of Tulsa on land that is currently a surface parking lot on the southeast corner of Archer Street and Boston Avenue. Bank of Oklahoma has offered to donate the 90,000-square-foot block, contingent on the authorization of the bond issue by the Legislature and the construction of an adjoining parking garage by OHS.

“This museum is another opportunity for Oklahomans to put ourselves on the national stage and show the world that we are a growing, thriving state, not just because of our economic successes, but our cultural ones, as well,” Bingman said.

“To not build this museum would be to decline an opportunity for economic growth in our state,” Burrage said. “Oklahoma has a wealth of artistic talent, and all we need is a venue to showcase that talent. This museum is that venue.”

The museum will be a 75,000-square-foot, four-story building dedicated to the creative spirit of Oklahoma’s people and the influence of Oklahoma artists on popular culture around the world. The underlying theme of this innovative and interactive museum will be “Crossroads of Creativity,” whether it is in the field of music, film, television, theatre, pop art, comic books, literature or humor.

“OKPOP is an opportunity to help our city and our state to continue to grow our economy,” said Mike Neal, president and CEO of the Tulsa Regional Chamber. “It’s estimated that in one year of operation, this museum would create more than 700 jobs, it would generate $3.7 million in total taxes and fees and the total output of the museum would be $61.2 million. A bond issue is the smartest, best approach to finance construction of this museum, and I urge the Oklahoma Legislature to support it.”

George Kaiser Family Foundation, a major supporter of the arts in Tulsa, has committed a $1 million challenge grant to help raise funds for the museum.

“This collection is yet another incredible representation of Oklahoma’s creativity and talent,” said Ken Levit, executive director of George Kaiser Family Foundation. “We look forward to the collection being available to the public at the OKPOP Museum when the Legislature approves the bond issue. This is an opportunity we cannot miss.”

Born in Lawton, Okla., Russell began his musical career in Tulsa before moving to Los Angeles, Calif. He has worked in a variety of musical genres as a songwriter, collaborator and performing and recording artist. He has performed and collaborated with other notable artists throughout his career, including George Harrison, Ray Charles, Eric Clapton, The Beach Boys, Willie Nelson, Frank Sinatra, Bob Dylan and The Rolling Stones. His song, “This Masquerade,” won a Grammy for Record of the Year in 1976, and he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2011. He was recently on tour with Elton John to promote their album, “The Union.”

With approval of the bond issue, the OKPOP Museum could open as early as 2017.

A project of the Oklahoma Historical Society
© Copyright 2021 • All Rights Reserved.   Site Map | Contact Us | Press Room