If you grew up around Tulsa anytime from the mid-‘50s through the early part of the ‘70s and you were at all aware of the local music going on around you, several of the names in Tulsa native Teb Blackwell’s new book will have a familiar ring. They start with what Blackwell calls the “Tulsa Triumvirate:” Leon Russell, JJ Cale and David Gates, along with their various bands. Then there are such well-remembered acts as the Rogues Five, an outfit that seemed to be playing everywhere during my teen years in northeastern Oklahoma; the GAP Band (named after the T-town streets of Greenwood, Archer and Pine), which went national in a big way; and a group that started life as the Mariner Five in the ‘60s and went through a dizzying variety of name and personnel changes on the way to becoming the well-known Mystery Band.
Those are only a few of the hundreds of subjects you’ll find in the just-released Volume 2 of the Oklahoma Guide to 45rpm Records & Bands – 1955 to 1975, covering not only Tulsa but all of eastern Oklahoma. (Volume 1, which came out a couple of years ago, covered the Oklahoma City scene during the same time frame.) And, as you might imagine, for every Junior Markham, David Teegarden or Jimmy Karstein, there are dozens of musicians and groups that flared briefly on the scene, only to die away into obscurity – including my own Stillwater-based band from the late-‘60s and early ‘70s, the Beef Squad. (In our case, it’s certainly possible the obscurity is richly deserved.)
[pullquote]Downing, Karstein, a few others – said, ‘C’mon, Teb. Get back on it.’ So I did.”[/pullquote]Coming in at nearly 500 pages of interviews, discographies, essays, indices and photos, this spiral-bound opus looks like what it is – an absolute labor of love, assembled by someone who combines the zeal of a true fan with the research methods of a historian. (In the interest of full disclosure, let me add here that I wrote the Beef Squad entry in the book, as well as the foreword, joining my writer-musician friend Jim Downing in supplying ancillary text.) It took Blackwell, currently a Colorado resident, some eight years, tons of telephone conversations and a couple of dozen trips back to Tulsa to finally get everything down on paper the way he wanted it.
And at one point, he confesses, he came very close to throwing in the towel.
“I’m student relations coordinator for the Tivoli Student Union on the Auraria campus in downtown Denver, and I was called in on a Saturday,” he says. “I was in my office, getting ready to leave, when the students who had the information center downstairs called me. They needed to put money into the safe so they could close, but they had accidentally locked the safe, and their manager had left.
“I went down to open the safe for them, and since I was leaving, I took along my little laptop case that had my flash drive [for the book] with two years of work on it – and, shame on me, it wasn’t backed up. I set it down and went into the back to open the safe, and when I came back it was gone. Someone had grabbed it thinking there was a laptop in it.”
“Of course, I advertised and everything, but I never saw it again. So I shut down for about six months. I just couldn’t do it. And then a couple of the people – Downing, Karstein, a few others – said, ‘C’mon, Teb. Get back on it.’ So I did.”