Tommy Lokey: Consummate Jazzman at The Church Studio

Although few in the current Tulsa music community would know his name, but in his day, Tommy Lokey was a local legend. Today, you can find a few 1970’s Shelter Records publicity photos of a seven-man funk band that included him. Tommy is the sole white guy, with a wild mane of dark hair and…

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Charlie Wilson to Receive a Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame

Charlie Wilson to Receive a Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame Tulsa, Oklahoma native funk and R&B artist Charlie Wilson, a powerhouse vocalist and pianist with the Gap Band and later a solo career, and an original Shelter Records artist, will be recognized with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame on January…

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Tom Petty’s Journey at The Church Studio

The most important years during the Leon-era history of Tulsa’s Church Studio were 1972–1976. During that time, a wide variety of artists recorded there, some important in music history, others less so. Tom Petty has a story at The Church Studio before he and The Heartbreakers found worldwide success. Both Denny Cordell and Leon Russell…

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Casii Stephan Records “A Song For You” at The Church Studio

Casii Stephan, a soul pop/rock artist originally from Minnesota and now based in Tulsa, Oklahoma, is known for her emotive vocals and intricate melodies. Casii’s music, often compared to artists like Florence Welch and Fiona Apple, is characterized by its theme of hope. Her success includes multiple awards and recognition in the music industry, and…

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The Fairchild 660 Audio Compressor at The Church Studio

The Church Studio, with its rich history and legendary recordings, has long attracted musicians seeking high-quality sound. To elevate this sacred space even further, we’ve included a vintage piece of analog audio gear, the Fairchild 660 Audio Compressor, known as the “holy grail” of outboard gear. Originally, a church built in 1915, The Church Studio…

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BONUS: MEET THE “FROM THE CHAMBER” TEAM

We are proud to introduce the first episode of our very own podcast “From The Chamber.” Inspired by the rare and exquisite subterranean echo chambers housed beneath the legendary Church Studio. We’ll be taking a deep dive into everything music with all of your favorite recording artists, producers, engineers, and other notable music connoisseurs. Our mission is simple: to deepen our listeners’ understanding and appreciation of brilliant music and the masterful art of capturing it! 

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The Benefits of Recording in a Professional Studio

In today’s music industry, recording has evolved significantly. With the rise of home recording, many artists now have the opportunity to create music in the comfort of their own homes. However, there are undeniable advantages to recording in a professional studio. Let’s explore the benefits of working in a professional studio setting and why it…

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The Top 10 Shelter Records Artists You Need to Know

Shelter Records holds a significant place in music history, having launched the careers of numerous talented artists and contributing to the development of iconic sounds. Founded in 1969 by Leon Russell and Denny Cordell, Shelter Records quickly became known for its diverse roster of musicians and its commitment to nurturing artistic creativity. In this blog…

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The Tulsa Sound: The Definitive Definition by Ann Bell

The Tulsa Sound: The Definitive Definition by Ann Bell I was privileged to be born in 1950, in the Great State of Oklahoma, and the Great City of Tulsa. Growing up I learned very quickly just how blessed I was to be an Okie and for many reasons. The people are such loving, laid-back, God-fearing…

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JJ Cale Finds Shelter

After shopping around for more than six months, Audie Ashworth and JJ Cale decided to sign with Leon Russell and Denny Cordell’s Shelter label, probably on June 5, 1971. This was the same day that Cale re-recorded a new version of “After Midnight” (at Cordell’s request, some say Ashworth’s), and also added “Don’t Go To…

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Leon Russell: The Early Childhood Years

Most of us know about Claude Russell Bridges playing the piano by ear at 4 years old and hitting the honky tonks around Tulsa at 14 – but not a lot is recorded about his formative childhood years. Who was young Claude Russell Bridges?

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Volunteer Spotlight: Sharon Johnson Caskey

Sharon Johnson Caskey Magnolia Meadows

Volunteers rock at The Church Studio! We love and appreciate the valuable role they play in our operations. Sharon Johnson Caskey is one of our talented volunteers. She not has a knack for arranging flowers and choosing trees for Magnolia Meadows, but she’s wonderful in our retail store, serving clients and giving tours. Learn more…

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Steve Ripley’s Red Dirt Roots Part 1

Steve Ripley: 1950-2019 Oklahoma Music Legend, Owner of The Church Studio, member of The Tractors It’s comforting to know that after you’re gone, a part of you will remain. Steve Ripley left behind an artistic legacy that will have an impact long after his passing. Many people were impacted by his compassion and ingenuity. Red…

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GUEST BLOG: Rusty Russell’s Recording Studio Experience

The genesis of our project at The Church Studio was a bit different than most; four high school friends from Wichita (classes of ’73, ’74), and ’75) had spent years in the big music-center cities of Nashville & L.A. Between us, we’d toured with many “name” artists, recorded a great deal (as players and/or engineers),…

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THE CHURCH STUDIO NAMED TO NATIONAL REGISTER

  Less than a year after the devastating passing of Leon Russell, The Church Studio has earned a respected, unique and highly desired designation to the National Register of Historic Places. The designation became effective Sept. 8, 2017 as reported by the National Park Service. Although it wasn’t certain, It was expected after its National…

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Play it Back: A Private Tour of the Church Studio

The stone building at 3rd and Trenton first caught my attention in December of 2019. I had just moved into an apartment on the east side of downtown Tulsa, and I began to regularly pass by what is now (or rather, again) the Church Studio. During that time amid restoration, each subtle change prompted me…

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The Showman’s Hats

Leon Russell’s distinctive style, both vocally and instrumentally, made him one of the great singer-songwriters of all time. A unique pianist, composer, singer, song craftsman, and showman. He collected a lot of items and the most well-known were his canes and of course his hats. Those items certainly became a big part of his great…

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Q&A with Johnny “Blues” McDonnell

We met with Johnny Blues McDonnell; New Yorker, old-school LeonLifer, die hard Leon Russell fan, and The Church Studio supporter and promoter to talk about all things Leon! Johnny! Can you tell us a little about yourself? I’m a New Yorker! I was in retail for 38 years and have been retired 10 years. I’m…

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A CHURCH, A CHAIR, A BOY AND A PRAYER

There comes a time in life when one is moved to reflect upon major events in his or her life as old friends, relatives, family members “cash in their chips” and depart the game of life. As the days, months and years come and go, the hectic responsibilities of life take the greater majority of…

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Leon, J.J., and the Super Dupers

Having grown tired of the fourteen-hour days in the recording studio playing on other people’s records, Leon Russell decided in 1965 to work for legendary producer Snuff Garrett, who was starting his own independent production company and record label, Viva Records. Snuff hustled the business and Russell handled the production chores, which included arranging, producing…

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Leon Russell: ‘Going Back To Tulsa One More Time’

Every once in a while, you get hit with something big that you never saw coming. Such is the case with my discovery of Leon Russell. As I’ve come to find out, Leon’s music has always been part of my life. I just didn’t know it. And I’m not alone. Each year, I’m fortunate to have the…

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EPISODE 6 – “DANNY BOY,” DANNY O’CONNOR

Today we are talking with Danny O’Connor, aka “Danny Boy.” You may recognize him from the 90’s hip hop group House of Pain whose smash hit “Jump Around” put them at the top of the charts in 1992. Since then, there has been no shortage of ups and downs from his addiction struggles to his rise to a social media marketing mogul. 

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Rock of Ages: Tracing the Roots of the Tulsa Sound

By JOHN WOOLEY As nearly as anyone can tell, the Tulsa area first started rocking to live local guys back in early 1956, when Gene Crose put together a little group and played the rockabilly tunes “Blue Suede Shoes,” “Baby, Let’s Play House” and “I Forgot to Remember to Forget” for the Cadet Capers show…

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OKIES ON RECORD #1

By Steve Todoroff We are starting a new monthly series here on the Church Studio Blog, where we will cover some of the early releases from the past where Oklahoma musicians appeared together in the studio, more often than not on other artist’s records. Starting us off is a popular rockabilly artist and songwriter from…

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Rock of Ages: The Race for Rock

Tulsa’s early rockers were black and white, and no one cared – as long as the racial mixing was on the stage By JOHN WOOLEY “I’m tellin’ you, I didn’t know segregation back then — in the Flamingo Club for sure,” states multiple music hall of famer and bluesman Flash Terry. Terry worked in that north Tulsa…

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2021: Things are Rockin’ at the Church Studio

The Church Bulletin We’re getting so close, the wait is nearly over!  Drywall is up, the greenspace to the west has a landscape plan, 22 miles of wiring is in place – every board is screwed into position – no nails for The Church Studio!  The oversized elevator will hold your grand piano, and several of your…

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THE BILL DAVIS INTERVIEW

By Steve Todoroff It’s a late September night at the Sunset Grill, a combination cafe/night club in Tulsa where eager fans begin to cram themselves around tables near the vicinity of the dance floor. As they mingle about, a party-like atmosphere maintains them until that moment the band squeezes onto the tiny stage and starts…

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Pamela Thompson Pickett: You Will Be Missed!

By:  Ann Bell Nicholson Pam was born to parents, Eula Mae and Jeff Thompson. They were Tulsa residents. She was an only child. She was born on December 31, 1951 in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Pam graduated from Bishop Kelley High School and then the University of Oklahoma. While a student in Norman OK, Pam joined a…

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LEON RUSSELL PERFORMS AT DUKE UNIVERSITY in 1971

Leon Russell 1971

We absolutely love our Church Studio family and the fantastic stories they share with us. In this photo series, we are featuring a series of photographs taken by photographer, Ric Carter. Our good friend, American Roots musician, and Leon Lifer; Bill Lyerly, introduced us to Ric. Thank you, Bill! Why are these pictures special? Well,…

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VOLUNTEER SPOTLIGHT – BILL AVERY

Bill Avery, Leon Lifer and a Church Studio volunteer, is a dedicated, knowledgeable, and fun-loving ambassador for the Church and for Leon’s legacy. Although he lives in New Jersey, we have been fortunate to have Bill travel to Tulsa, Oklahoma, and assist with concerts and book signings. Tell us about yourself. My name is Bill…

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TWENTIETH-CENTURY HONKY-TONK – Q&A with John Wooley

Music writer John Wooley is at it again! This time bringing us the incredible story of the historic Cain’s Ballroom‘s first 75 years with his new book, TWENTIETH-CENTURY HONKY-TONK.  The Church Studio had the opportunity to catch up with John last week and chat about the new book. Read our quick Q&A below!  CS: Why…

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Rock of Ages: Birth of the Beat

Rock ‘n’ Roll Rode into Tulsa on a ‘Mystery Train,’ and Local Teens Turned the Beat Around to Make Their Own Sound By JOHN WOOLEY     In the beginning Tulsa swung. But it did not rock. Then, onto our stages stepped Gene Crose, followed by Clyde Stacy and Bobby Taylor, Wally Wiggins and David…

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