OKPOP and Oklahoma Historical Society Honor Musical Icon Bob Wills

Public event and concert to honor Wills; unveil Grammy Foundation project to preserve his WWII-era radio recordings

Oklahomans will be some of the first fans to experience, through new technology and contemporary artistry, the music of legendary Oklahoman Bob Wills during a live event at the Oklahoma History Center.

The Oklahoma Museum of Popular Culture (OKPOP) in conjunction with the Oklahoma Historical Society will host “Bob Wills @ the OKPOP” at 7:30 p.m., Wednesday, April 10, 2013, at the Oklahoma History Center. The event is free and open to the public, but seating is limited. Please RSVP to 405-522-5202.

The event will feature Wills’ daughter, Carolyn Wills, talking about his career followed by a concert featuring his songs by Oklahoma artists The Red Dirt Rangers and Byron Berline. OKPOP experts will also show visitors how Wills original recordings are being digitized and re-mastered so they can be enjoyed at the museum through modern technology.

In 2011, the Bob Wills family donated an extensive collection of his work to the Oklahoma Historical Society. The collection includes 130 WWII-era rare radio recordings made on glass discs, more than 350 photographs, 35 reels of live performances, hundreds of letters, and promotional pieces along with other memorabilia including fiddles, clothing, awards, and personal items. These recordings have now been restored and digitized thanks to a grant from the Grammy Foundation and will be on display at the OKPOP when the museum is constructed.

“Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys had a repertoire of some 3,000 songs in more than 50 years in the music industry, including classics such as “Take Me Back to Tulsa,” “Faded Love,” and “San Antonio Rose,” said Dr. Bob Blackburn, executive director of the Oklahoma Historical Society. “In 1935, KVOO and Tulsa became the voice of Western Swing, and the band made Cain’s Ballroom headquarters for their daily radio show. Wills became known then as the “King of Western Swing. We are dedicated to preserving and sharing this legacy.”

Contemporary musicians consider Bob Wills’ music highly influential to the music they are creating today. Oklahoma’s Red Dirt Rangers and fiddle master Byron Berline use Wills’ music today in their shows and feel strongly that Will’s has played an huge role in forming American music.

“Bob Wills is the quintessential American success story,” said Brad Piccolo, lead singer for the Red Dirt Rangers. “He was born a sharecropper and went on to have the most popular band in the country. His influences are so great, that without him American music would not be the same. He cheered us up during the Great Depression and gave us an unmistakable beat to dance our worries away. Bob’s stage presence, his sense of humor and impeccable rhythmic styles has caused many musicians to follow in his footsteps. He is to music what Henry Ford is to the automobile- you couldn’t imagine one without the other. Bob Wills is still the king.”

The OKPOP 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.

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

A project of the Oklahoma Historical Society
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