How It All Began

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A Brief History of The Church Studio

Circa 1915 before stone facade was placed in 1950's.

Circa 1915 before stone facade was placed in 1950's.

The historic church became a recording studio and home office for Shelter Records in the early 1970s. At the beginning of 1915, it started as Grace Methodist Episcopal Church and was one of the earliest churches built in our new city; even later, it survived the race riots of 1921. By 1928, 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-1950s.

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, Jimmy Buffett, Georgie Fame, Eric Clapton, Willie Nelson, Stevie Wonder, Asleep at the Wheel, Michael Bolton, The GAP Band, Kansas, Mary McCreary, Freddie King, Jimmy Markham, Dwight Twilley, Phoebe Snow, Peter Tosh, Jamie Oldaker, Walt Richmond, David Teegarden, Wolfman Jack and many more hung out or 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.

Circa 1953

Circa 1953

With the latest owners Ivan Acosta and Teresa Knox, Tulsa Sound, and Leon Russell fans, the focus is on restoration and rehabilitation first; and then recording studio, audio engineering school, museum, and event space; second. The renovation was completed in 2022.  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 Church Studio Archive as well as rare and unique collections that support the foundation’s mission.
  • Engage the general community through music programs, festivals, education, video, film, recording, and activities.
  • Showcase the brotherhood, diversity, and evolution of “The Tulsa Sound.”


Just a small sampling of many who played or recorded

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The Gap Band

Willie Nelson


Tom Petty