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—circa 1913-1915—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 song-writers, 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 complete in late 2018. Being caretakers of Leon’s legacy is of the utmost importance to the new owners, while establishing a springboard for young musicians to take the “Tulsa Sound” and inspire the creation of new and different styles and sounds.
The mission of The Church Studio is to establish the studio as a legacy landmark as the shelter for the “Tulsa Sound,” paying tribute to the musical pioneers; inspiring the next generation of musicians.
- Honor initial vision and strategy of Leon Russell
- Display museum-quality exhibits, memorabilia, and decor for all to enjoy
- Get listed on the National Register of Historic Places (approved September 8, 2017)
- Develop a world-class analog recording studio emulating what Leon created in 1972; adding modern-day digital technology and capabilities
- Create small theater/screening room for educational and music-related films
- Add professional culinary kitchen and posh bar and lounge
- Build collaborative space for music professionals
- Produce a video documentary capturing the restoration of the church
- Foster community engagement through tours, educational programs, and events