BY THOMAS CONNER
© Tulsa World
Before going on the air, Davit Souders mentions this
band from Coffeyville that's been bugging him — in a good
way. They're called Pheb:ate, they've got a fresh debut CD
and for the last several weeks the band and its small
legion of supporters from the Kansas border have been tying
up the phone lines during Souders' late-night local music
radio show, "Home Groan," begging him to play something from
the new CD.
"These crazy kids," Souders says, "they still want to get
on the ol' radio."
So the show starts — 11 p.m. sharp, as it does every
Sunday night on KMYZ 104.5-FM — and pretty soon the phone
lines are blinking again. This time, though, one of them is
a cellular call. The producer patches it into the studio
"Look out the window!" cries a jubilant young woman
through the satellite static.
We go to the window and eight floors down in the parking
lot is a gaggle of young'uns, waving hysterically and
brandishing an acoustic guitar. For the next half hour, the
crowd grows, and the young woman on hold keeps begging to
be allowed into the studio. At one point, things get a
little loony, with the band's female fans so eager to show
their support that they show, well, more of themselves than
their mommas would have appreciated. It's one video camera
away from becoming "Home Groan Girls Gone Wild."
Souders — a true rock 'n' roll warrior, but a businessman
who enjoys at least a modicum of control — eventually
relents, and the band is ushered upstairs for a quick
on-air chat and an impromptu performance in the studio.
After the show, the whole group hangs outside and plays
guitar, confident their assertiveness has scored them a
major marketing triumph.
"That's as pure as it gets in my book, right there,"
Souders says later that night. "I mean, Jim Halsey (local
music entrepreneur) is always talking about the psychic
payoff musicians get from things like this. Boom — there it
is on those faces right there. Because when it comes down
to it, it's not really about money and girls and sales
figures, it's about getting played. It's about getting to
feel like the work you've put into something means
something, anything, to even one little radio host like
In the nearly six years he's been hosting "Home Groan," a
weekly show dedicated to Tulsa-area original music, Souders
has been buttered up by bands hoping to score a spin on his
show. They know when he's due on the air, and sometimes
they lie in wait in that same parking lot outside the
station, thrusting CDs in his hand and sometimes a pizza or
two — learning early lessons of salesmanship the hard way.
As America's — and Tulsa's — radio landscape becomes more
vanilla, monochromatic and pre-recorded, "Home Groan" has
survived as a refreshing oasis, largely due to madcap
moments like this one. More importantly, though, is the
influence the show has maintained — the impact radio airplay
(even in the worst possible timeslot, late on a Sunday
night) has on the evolutionary spark of a local and
regional artistic scene. Why else would two or three dozen
kids from Coffeyville drive an hour in the dark of night to
harass an innocent DJ?
Souders, of course, is more than a DJ. He's been
formulating fiendish local concerts as Diabolical
Productions for more than a decade, having worked
hand-in-hand for several years at the Cain's Ballroom when
Larry Shaeffer was there, and having owned and operated his
own nightclub, Ikon, in three Tulsa locations.
He's also a musician, once a member of a local band
called Lynx and currently singing for a revolving forum of
local players called D.D.S. He even makes his own kilts,
but perhaps that's another story (best told by the
His radio career began in the eighth grade in the late
'70s, when he was the voice of Tulsa Public Schools lunch
menus on KAKC. For this duty — reading the advance warnings
of tomorrow's institutional slop — he created an on-air
personality called Dr. Psycho Fanatic. Everything you need
to know about Souders (other than his obsessions with Elvis
Presley and his idol, Alan Freed) likely is summed up in
this fact: to this day, the Dr. Psycho Fanatic gig is still
on his resume.
From 1990 to 1994, Souders hosted the "Teknopolis"
electronic music show, which bounced between three
different local stations. In '96, he picked up the "Home
Groan" gig, replacing its original host, Admiral Twin
drummer-singer Jarrod Gollihare.
He has certainly made the show his own. In particular,
he has been instrumental in applying the show's brand to
occasional "Home Groan" "low-dough" concerts featuring local
bands as well as two "Home Groan" CD compilations. The former
have been especially illustrative of the show's success.
"We had a show at Cain's a couple of years ago where we
had about 500 kids," Souders said. "Of course, I emcee a la
Alan Freed, and you know I end all the radio shows with my
little catchphrase: 'I'm not evil, I'm just Diabolical.' So
I get up on stage at this show and say, 'I'm not evil, I'm
just . . .' and the bulk of the crowd shouts, 'Diabolical!'
I was blown away."
Souders hopes to one day produce another CD compilation,
probably of live performances from those low-dough shows,
but the plans to reopen Ikon are in the deep freeze.
Meanwhile, Diabolical continues bringing interesting shows
to Tulsa. But Souders is clearly in his element behind the
microphone, scratching his head underneath the trademark
bandana and directing a new band into the public arena.
By Thomas Conner
© Tulsa World
When Dwight Twilley released "Tulsa" in 1999 — his first
album of new material in more than a decade, his ninth in a
quarter-century — the CD garnered high critical praise (and
won him two Spot Music Awards), particularly in Europe
where critics and fans snatched up the disc indignantly,
practically scolding Twilley for being absent from
music-making all those years.
Little did they know — he was absent from the
record-store shelves but not from studios.
In the early '90s, before moving back to Tulsa from Los
Angeles, Twilley — who scored Top 20 hits with "I'm on Fire"
in 1975 and "Girls" in 1984 — recorded an album of new
material and called it "The Luck." Ironically, the album had
no luck at all. Producer Richie Podolor wasn't happy with
the offers he received for the album from record labels,
and the tapes wound up shelved, written off and eventually
Now "The Luck" is seeing daylight due to a sequence of
happy windfalls — the critical success of "Tulsa," the
formation of his own record company (the Big Oak Recording
Group, named for the most prominent feature in Twilley's
midtown Tulsa front lawn), and the addition of the Dwight
Twilley Band to the eligibility list for the Rock and Roll
Hall of Fame. "The Luck" will be released internationally on
"It's been very frustrating to have these songs
collecting dust," Twilley said in a recent interview. "I
think it's a really serious studio record."
Some of the tracks from "The Luck" have shaken off that
dust in the last couple of years, appearing on the Twilley
rarities collection "Between the Cracks, Vol. 1." The title
track was re-recorded for "Tulsa," "because I think it's a
good song and I thought it would never come out," Twilley
Fortunately, Twilley's brand of rock 'n' roll — rootsy in
the tradition of a meaty, Sun Records backbeat and classic
in the sense of the purest pop classicism a la the Beatles --
is so timeless that "The Luck" still sounds as fresh as the
day it was recorded. Even the song with Tom Petty's backing
vocals — from tapes that are much older.
"Petty's on another album of mine and he probably doesn't
even know it," Twilley chuckles. "When he came in to do
'Girls' with me (in 1984), we also cut a song called
'Forget About It Baby.' I discovered those tapes while I
was working on 'The Luck' and — since I never let a good
song go — decided to redo some of the drums. I always loved
the song but I hated what the producers did to it. Then we
redid the bass, and then this and then that. Now the only
thing remaining from the original sessions are my and Tom's
Twilley's first outing to promote the "new" album
is a doozy: on Sept. 28, he's headlining the Serie-B pop
festival in Calahorra, Spain. Other acts on the eclectic
pop-rock bill include Mudhoney, Bevis Frond, Cotton Mather
and Death Cab for Cutie.
The new band assembled for the show includes Dave White
and Bill Padgett (the Nashville Rebels behind local
rockabilly stud Brian Parton), Jerry Naifeh (original
percussionist for the Dwight Twilley Band), guitarist Tom
Hanford and bassist Sean Standing Bear. Despite the
European success of Twilley's band and solo efforts in the
past, this will be his first-ever European performance.
"We recorded over there, but we never played live,"
Twilley said. "Clive (Davis, former head of Arista Records)
had this policy not to play his acts there. And last year,
we did this press tour across the continent behind `Tulsa,'
and the first question out of every journalist's mouth was,
'When are you coming?'"
That media tour opened Twilley's eyes to the differences
between American and European music markets — as well as the rebirth of his
own popularity there. One music-industry representative in
England floored Twilley by informing him that he had named
his son after him, James for James Paul McCartney and
Dwight for Dwight Twilley.
"Sitting down personally with the press over there, it
apparent that there's still a deep appreciation for the pop
song there," Twilley said. "When I was a kid in the music
business, the philosophy was, 'I'll give 'em the record
they can't refuse.' That's all disappeared here in America.
The song is no longer the focal point. It's the packaging.
The song won't save you here anymore. The business has
gotten too big. There are great bands writing
great songs over there, and they're getting by on those
songs. And, I mean,
they're still talking about great acts like Paul Revere and
the Raiders. Who over here still knows who they were?"
One American honor has edged within reach, though. This
year, the Dwight Twilley Band — the original mid-'70s
lineup, which included the late Phil Seymour, a local pop
talent of equal stature — has become eligible for induction
into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
"There's no letter or announcement for that kind of
thing. You just suddenly
appear on the magic list. All of a sudden we were getting
tons of e-mails from people saying, 'Congratulations!' and
we had no idea what we'd done," Twilley said. "I figured no
one would remember me. I'm honored to just be on the list."
Other new eligibles include Bruce Springsteen, the Sex
Pistols and Blondie.
"Some people campaign for that, you know. They write
letters and take
out ads and really push to get inducted," Twilley said, then
paused. "I'm a little too busy for that."
After the jaunt to Spain, Twilley said he hopes to begin
recording a proper follow-up to "Tulsa." The album won Best
National Album and Twilley won Artist of the Year at the
first Spot Music Awards.
Jacob Fred negotiating six-CD contract
BY THOMAS CONNER
© Tulsa World
It's a warm October night in Manhattan, and whenever the
doors open at the Irving Plaza a swirling racket spills
into the street, turning heads on 14th Street and in Union
Square. A light crowd is milling around inside the Cain's
Ballroom-sized music hall. They're New Yorkers, they're
cool, sophisticated, surprised by nothing and amused by
everything. But the poker faces are falling, and the kids
are — gasp! — dancing.
"Jesus!" exclaims one young man the second he lays his
eyes on Brian Haas, who's wincing as if he's just been
stabbed and pounding out his pain on his poor Fender Rhodes
piano. "What the (heck) is his problem?" he asks. Thing is,
the man's smiling as he asks this — wonderment rather than
annoyance — and for the next half hour he hardly moves a
muscle, riveted by the sonic freakout on stage.
His girlfriend catches up to him midway through the set,
her face contorting in horrible confusion. Her little
mental label-gun is misfiring, unable to classify the data
flooding her aural inputs. She stammers for a moment, then
says, to no one in particular, "That's . . . that's . . .
crazy. My God . . ."
"What did he say? What are they called?" the man asks,
with a hint of desperation, afraid to let the moment slip
away without obtaining some kind of quantifiable
"That," I interject, proudly, "is the Jacob Fred Jazz
• • •
Back in Tulsa, just two weeks ago. The
living room floor of Brian Haas's house is lined with six
slumping sacks full of provisions procured from Wild Oats
Market. The coffee table is stacked with nutritional
supplements, organic soaps and plastic bottles labeled
"herbal liquid." It's almost midnight, and the band needs to
blow Tulsa by 3 a.m. in order to make tomorrow's gig in
Indianapolis. They've been home a day and a half.
Haas sighs. "There's still cooking to do, too," he says.
He points to the herbal liquid bottles. "That's the fuel
of the Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey right there," he says, in
perfect earnest. "It's all about nutrition. We eat well, we
keep ourselves healthy while we're on the road — that's what
keeps us getting along, keeps us happy."
On the dashboard of the band van is a dog-eared copy of
The Tofu Tollbooth, a book detailing the location of every
health-food store in America. Turning debaucherous rock 'n'
roll road myths on their heads, when the Jacob Fred Jazz
Odyssey boys hit a new town they make a beeline for the bee
pollen, throwing back wheatgrass shots at the juice bar
instead of whiskey shots at the beer hall.
"We're wheatgrass connoisseurs now," chuckles bassist Reed
Mathis. "We can tell the difference between sun-bloomed and
They've even written two new songs about their daily
focus: "Daily Wheatgrass Shots Burned a Brand-New Pathway
Through My Brain" and "The FDA Has Made Our Food Worse Than
"They're instrumentals, of course, but they still get the
message out about healing yourself," Haas says. "Goes hand in
hand with music, right? Especially ours."
• • •
The Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey certainly couldn't be
healthier. Two years ago the band trimmed down from a
seven-piece to a trio before signing a management contract
that's kept them jogging around the country constantly ever
since. The incessant touring has paid off in supple, sinewy
new tunes — and a new recording contract. The band is
currently in negotiation with the independent Shanachie
Entertainment label for a six-CD contract.
The trio these days comprises two founding members — Haas
and Mathis — and a new drummer, Richard Haas, younger
brother of Brian. Richard joined the group in April,
replacing original percussionist Matt Edwards, who's now
making films in the Tulsa area. (The band's name comes from
Brian's CB handle when he was a tot. Alas, there is no
The two brothers have played together off and on since
grade school — in fact, the first-ever incarnation of the
Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey was this trio jamming at the Haas
home after homework had been completed — and Brian credits
the "spiritual unity" of playing with his lil' bro with the
bigger and bigger crowds showing up to Jacob Fred shows
around the country.
"Richard is so simple, so primal. He comes out of that
African school of drumming where the role of the drum is to
get you dancing," Brian said in a recent interview. "It has
really freed Reed and I to get into this free-jazz
freakout, but at the same time, everybody's dancing. We've
finally mastered the best of both worlds."
The crowds are, indeed, growing. Some clubs, including
the Irving Plaza, ask all patrons who they've come to see
each night; that way they can determine whether or not the
opening act was a significant draw. At that October show,
there were 15 people who'd come especially to see the Jacob
Fred trio. When the boys returned to the same venue four
months later, the tally was 130.
"We've refused to dumb it down or do anything the music
industry has asked us to do, and yet people keep coming
out," Brian said, with no small amount of wonder at his
• • •
It's not all luck, though. The Jacob Fred formula — if
there could possibly be a construct to the band's free-form
musical journeys — takes the strength and will of Medeski,
Martin and Wood and spreads it like seedy, all-fruit jam
(organic, of course) across the improvisational landscape
terraced by jazz pioneers from Mingus to Monk. The word
"unique" is often applied lightly in music, but these
wide-eyed, intense young men fashion songs and shows that
attract all the benefits of that word and none of the
It's paying off, too — the record deal, the booking
contract with the London-based Agency Group, numerous
high-profile opening slots (most recently Tower of Power,
Mike Clark, Project Logic), an average of 200 mp3 downloads
daily from band's web site, and nominations for Artist of
the Year at the Spot Music Awards every year thus far. But
more than physical gains, these three musicians are high on
their own creative energies.
"Remember the song 'Good Energy Perpetuates Good Energy'
from the 'Live in Tokyo' CD?" Brian asked. "For the first
time, we're realizing that every single night. But then,
playing 25 shows a month from coast to coast kind of forces
your music to evolve. Really fast."
Funny thing about that old CD, too, the "Live in Tokyo"
set. It was recorded here in Tulsa — at the Eclipse, no less
— but the band soon might actually make it to Japan.
"I started noticing this Japanese couple at every one of
our shows," Mathis said. "In New York and in California, it
turns out they flew out to see us. They were flipping out,
they loved us. They said, `We've got to get you guys to
Japan.' We're supposed to have distribution (for the CD)
over there by next spring, and these are people who've
brought other bands over before. They were shocked to hear
we hadn't been before. They heard `Live in Tokyo' and
The band's current CD of new material is "Self Is Gone,"
its title swiped from a Tulsa World headline about the
disembarking of a University of Tulsa coach. Also available
is "Bloom," a compilation from the band's early albums
spanning '96 to '98, plus several previously unreleased
JACOB FRED JAZZ ODYSSEY
with And There Stand Empires, the Mad Laugh and Brad
James and the Organic Boogie Band
When 8 p.m. Friday
Where Curly's, 216 N. Elgin Ave.
Admission $7 at the door
Sean Layton: Walking before daylight
BY THOMAS CONNER
© Tulsa World
He was the quiet one, but the silence he has left behind
has carved a cavern in the Tulsa music scene that will not
be easily filled.
Sean Layton, 29, an immensely talented Tulsa drummer,
died last weekend, ending a career that invigorated the
creative spirits of countless local musicians and music
A funeral took place Monday morning, but the real
tribute occurred that night at Living Arts of Tulsa when
dozens of Layton's friends and fellow musicians — one and
the same, in most cases — conducted a drumming circle in
Layton was the first drummer for the Jacob Fred Jazz
Odyssey. After leaving the band in '99, he joined Steve
Pryor's Neighbors, which also included Jacob Fred bassist
Reed Mathis (who is already planning a retrospective
tribute CD of Layton's songs). Until several months ago,
Layton was ubiquitous in the Tulsa music scene, providing
the pulse for projects from Mummy Weenie to Leslie Brown.
I have interviewed Layton maybe a half dozen times. He
rarely spoke up, but when he did, it always mattered. It
was usually the last word on a particular subject. I
remember a typically circuitous interview with all seven
members of Jacob Fred, a discussion of the band's reasons
for recording all of its records live. Layton seized a rare
pause in the harangue and said, "We're just a live band and
there's nothing we can do about it." End of discussion.
For Layton, that's how life and music was — a spiritual
compulsion. He spoke little about his art, choosing to
channel all those things he couldn't do anything about into
his drumming and singing. His work on kits for the
Neighbors was certainly enough, but in that band he began
to expand his talents into composing and singing. His voice
was unmistakable — a lot of Leon Redbone and a little
Charlie Brown. He sang beautiful lyrics capturing his awe
at everything from the majesty of a forest to the dancers
It's those positive messages his friends will remember
"I went and looked at my bookshelf after I heard that he
died," said Jacob Fred keyboardist Brian Haas this week.
"There are at least 30 titles in there that he gave to me.
He spread so much knowledge and goodness in his life. He
also introduced me to so many people I know in the Tulsa
music scene. He affected my life in ways that will always
be remembered and deeply, deeply appreciated."
As a mere listener, I am cautious about claiming that a
musician affected my life as deeply as he did a fellow
player. Then again, those of us in the crowd are who
they're making the music for, and it is their mission to
affect us. Layton never failed to lift my spirit, and I
rest easier believing at least that his is now lifted as
high as it can go.
These online "clips" reproduce a self-selection of my journalism (music etc) during the last 20+ years. It's a lotta stuff, but it only scratches the surface. I do not currently possess the time or resources to digitize the whole body of work. These posts are simply a bunch of pretty great days at the office.