HOW IT ALL BEGAN
A Brief History of The Church Studio
The historic church was turned into a recording studio and home office to Shelter Records in the early 1970’s. In the very beginning—1913, it started as Grace Methodist Episcopal Church and was one of the earliest churches built in our new city; even later, surviving the race riots of 1921. By 1929, it had become the First United Brethren Church, and remained so until at least 1946. In 1948, it began appearing in city directories as the First Evangelical United Brethren Church until 1961, when it was the First Church of God. Originally a brick church, the current “castle” stone was placed in the mid-1950’s.
Leon Russell purchased the church in 1972 and The Church Studio was conceived. The mysterious-looking stone structure served as a creative workshop for songwriters, musicians, engineers, and singers. Successful and award-winning talent such as Leon Russell, Tom Petty, JJ Cale, Georgie Fame, Michael Bolton, The GAP Band, Kansas, Mary McCreary, Freddie King, Jimmy Markham, Dwight Twilly, Phoebe Snow, Peter Tosh, Jamie Oldaker, Walt Richmond, David Teegarden, Wolfman Jack and many more recorded in the studio.
After Leon’s time in the church, a few of the artists that recorded included The Tractors, Dustin Pittsley, Wink Burcham, Hanson, Roy Clark, Freddy Fender, Carmen, Ronnie Dunn, Red Dirt Rangers, Paul Benjaman, Admiral Twin, Jesse Aycock and even Leon Russell himself, were inspired in The Church Studio under the ownership of either Steve and Charlene Ripley or Randy and Debbie Miller.
With latest owners Ivan Acosta and Teresa Knox, Tulsa Sound and Leon Russell fans, the focus in on restoration and rehabilitation first; and then recording studio, museum, and community space; second. The renovation is scheduled to be completed in late 2020 Being caretakers of Leon’s legacy is of the utmost importance to the new owners, while establishing a collaborative space and entertainment network.
The mission of The Church Studio Music Foundation is to support the understanding, appreciation, and advancement of music.
Objectives of Mission:
- Propel legacy of Leon Russell.
- Establish the studio as a legacy landmark.
- Collect, arrange, preserve, and make accessible the permanent items of the The Church Studio Archive as well as rare and unique collections that support the foundation’s mission.
- Engage general community through music programs, festivals, education, video, film, recording, and activities.
- Showcase the brotherhood, diversity, and evolution of “The Tulsa Sound.”