By Thomas Conner
© Tulsa World
The story, as his old compadre Chuck Blackwell tells it, goes
like this: Leon Russell and his close friend, Emily Smith, were
cruising Grand Lake one afternoon looking at various pieces of
property for sale. This was around 1972, and Leon's career was
rolling. He'd been around the world with the likes of Jerry Lee
Lewis and Joe Cocker, and his most recent solo album had just
landed the revealing single “Tight Rope'' at No. 11. He was
looking for someplace to settle for a while.
The pair ran into a sand bar in the lake, and suddenly a storm
came up. What would have been a mere nuisance to any boater took on
a bit more significance to Russell.
“Was that a deal! It was storming and thundering and lightning,
and I think Leon had taken some psychedelics. He saw that lightning
storm and thought it was a sign from above that he should settle
here,'' Blackwell said.
So he did. He found a lake attraction called Pappy Reeves'
Floating Motel and Fishing Dock (“You could pull your boat right
up to your room and fish right there,'' Blackwell said), bought it,
and converted it into a recording studio. He did the same thing to
the First Church of God at 304 S. Trenton Ave., which still exists
today as The Church Studio (where everyone from Dwight Twilley to
the Tractors have recorded). He also bought a Maple Ridge estate,
the Aaronson mansion at 1151 E. 24th Place, and did what he came to
do — he settled in.
Russell had been in Tulsa before. He'd practically grown up
here, which is why many say he felt like returning for a while at
the crest of his fame. Most musicians agree, though, that Russell's
growly drawl and piano pounding had an effect on local music that
was instrumental in — possibly even the foundation of — the
creation of the “Tulsa Sound,'' a subdued blend of country and
blues. A handful remember Russell's early years cutting his chops
in Tulsa beer halls, but many more refer to his mid-'70s stay and
his Tulsa-based record company, Shelter Records, as a watermark of
Russell was born C. Russell Bridges in Lawton in 1941, but he
migrated to Tulsa when he was just 14 to explore the bustling music
“I got a lot of experience playing music. Oklahoma was a dry
state at the time, so there were no (under-age) laws, and I didn't
have any problems,'' he explains in the liner notes to his recent
greatest hits collection, “Gimmie Shelter'' on EMI Records,
written by Joseph Laredo.
Blackwell and Russell both went to Tulsa's Will Rogers High
School, but they met each other out playing music and eventually
played in some roadhouse bands together.
“I met Leon, I think, playing on a flatbed truck downtown. I
remember him sitting up at the piano on a couple of Coke boxes. He
wanted to get with me about forming a band,'' Blackwell said. “In
the early '60s or late '50s, one of the first bands we had, the
Starlighters, we'd play country in supper clubs — him, David Gates
and myself. Leon was good at playing Erroll Garner and stuff, and
then we'd rock when they were done with their meals.
“We were playing once, opening for Jerry Lee Lewis at the
Cain's (Ballroom). His band was kind of loose, and Leon was, too.
We got offered to go on the road with him, and we played for him
through Kansas, Iowa, Nebraska and Wyoming. At one Kansas gig, we
were in one of those hogwire places — this is back in the days
when things were pretty wild. Jerry had appendicitis, and the
doctor had to go out and quell the riot and tell people they could
get their money back. Leon went out there and played Jerry's
repertoire. He kicked the stool back and everything. Nobody wanted
their money back.''
The chance to play with Jerry Lee Lewis was a pivotal offer in
Russell's career. “I had a chance to go on the road with Jerry Lee
Lewis,'' he said in the best-of liner notes. “I'd just spent three
days, 12 hours a day, taking entrance examinations to Tulsa
University, and I just thought, "Well, it's a waste of time, 'cause
I have to study so many things I'm not interested in.' ROTC I had
to take, and right away I knew that I didn't want to do that. I
figured this was my chance to eat in a lot of restaurants and
travel around, playing some rock 'n' roll music, which I decided
was easier and better.''
In addition to Blackwell (who currently plays in Tulsa's
Fabulous Fleshtones) and Gates (who went on to form the band
Bread), Russell was playing with and absorbing the influences of
other Tulsa musicians, including J.J. Cale and Ronnie Hawkins, a
native Arkansan who was a big Tulsa presence at the time. But Lewis
had an effect on Russell that's evident in the first singles
Russell recorded in Tulsa, “Swanee River'' and “All Right,''
leased to the Chess label in 1959.
The year earlier, though, Russell headed west to find work where
all hungry musicians went: Los Angeles. He started selling some
songs, and in no time, he was working as a session player for the
likes of Phil Spector. Throughout the 1960s he racked up an
impressive list of studio credits, playing on recordings for the
Ronettes, Herb Alpert, the Righteous Brothers (“You've Lost That
Loving Feeling''), Paul Revere and the Raiders, the Byrds (on their
classic cover of Dylan's “Mr. Tambourine Man''), even Frank
By 1969, he had hooked up with British producer Denny Cordell
who took Russell to England to work on Joe Cocker's second album,
from which Cocker scored a big hit with Russell's “Delta Lady.''
That year, Russell led the band for Cocker's notorious Mad Dogs and
Englishmen tour, a veritable circus of nearly three dozen players
that included one-time Russell girlfriend Rita Coolidge and pals
Delaney and Bonnie Bramlett.
On a trip through Detroit with Cocker et al., Leon ran into old
Tulsa pals David Teegarden and Skip Knape, who were playing the
area as Teegardan & Van Winkle. (Drummer Teegarden's Grammy-winning
association with Detroit's Bob Seger would begin a bit later.)
“We were inspired,'' Teegarden recalled in 1994. “We thought,
"Leon likes that gospel sound, so let's write our own gospel
tune.'' The song they came up with was “God, Love and Rock &
Roll,'' a 1970 single that became the duo's only Top 40 hit.
At the same time “God, Love and Rock and Roll'' was riding
up the charts, Russell's solo career was taking off. 1970's
self-titled debut included some of his best songs (“Delta Lady,''
“Shoot Out at the Plantation,'' “Hummingbird'' and the
now-standard “A Song for You''). The follow-up, “Leon Russell and
the Shelter People,'' heralded both the foundation of Shelter, his
record label, and the return to Tulsa. A few songs are backed by a
group of Tulsa musicians Russell called the Tulsa Tops, though the
song “Home Sweet Oklahoma'' (with the chorus, “I'm going back to
Tulsa just one more time'') was recorded with “friends in
At the height of his success, Russell came back to Tulsa. In
July 1972, he bought the Grand Lake property, and by 1973 his
land-buying spree had included 54 different pieces of property,
including lots near 61st Street and Madison Avenue, in the 1600
block of South Boston Avenue and at the corner of 16th Street and
The lake retreat was the crown jewel, though — 7 1/2 acres on a
point so secluded that many lake residents didn't even know the
five buildings (sound-proof studio, 3,500-square-foot house,
swimming pool, guest apartments) were being built. It soon became
affectionately known around the lake as “the hippie place.''
The house in Maple Ridge was the scene of parties of all sorts.
Instead of the rock 'n' roll bashes you might expect, Russell's
fetes usually were warm gatherings of friends. In June 1973,
Russell's close friend (and still a Tulsa resident) Emily Smith was
married at the house in a festive ceremony; Russell himself married
Tulsa singer Mary McCreary a couple of years later. In July 1973,
Russell hosted a benefit party to help the Maple Ridge Association
raise money to pay the legal debt it tallied while blocking
construction of the proposed Riverside Expressway.
The church studio quickly became home of Shelter Records, the
label Russell founded in Los Angeles and moved to Tulsa shortly
after he returned.
A lot of noted musicians came through to use Russell's studios,
including Bob Dylan and J.J. Cale, but neither was built with
money-making opportunities in mind; rather, they were simply
retreats from the distractions of Los Angeles. An associate of
Russell's at the time was quoted in the Tulsa World saying, “Leon
just wants a place where he can record any time he feels like it.''
Russell chose not to utilize his fame only to lure big talent to
town; he frequently used his musical muscle to push Tulsa musicians
into the national limelight. Tulsa hitmaker Dwight Twilley got his
first break through Shelter Records, as did the Gap Band, which
Russell used as his backing band on his 1974 album, “Stop All That
Les Blank, a California documentary filmmaker, got to see and
document the parade of talent through Russell's studios during that
time. Blank got a call in 1972 from Cordell, Russell's producer,
who pitched him the idea of hanging out with Russell and his
teeming bunch of hangers-on, filming the whole scene all the while.
Blank, whose grants on other films had run out, jumped at the
project and spent the next two years in Tulsa, shooting film of the
“It was kind of a continuous party,'' Blank said in an
interview from his current California home. “There were recording
sessions that would go all night long. There was a constant influx
of people coming and going. I think the people were excited to have
all the new play toys — things like computerized mixing panels.
There was this sense of momentum that seemed to be feeding on
itself as a result of the records and concerts doing really well
... People just felt like they were in the right place at the right
Blank's cameras followed Russell's entourage nearly everywhere,
from a weekend jaunt to see the mysterious spook light in
northeastern Oklahoma to Russell's recording sessions in Nashville.
However, you probably won't see the film that resulted from all
that footage. Although Russell approved the project's beginning,
when the film was finished he decided not to approve of its
release, and Blank said he has yet to receive a concrete
explanation why. Blank is allowed only to show a 16mm copy of the
film for no profit. He showed it at the University of Oklahoma in
“People, I guess, who have an image to protect are sensitive to
how it's presented and perceived,'' Blank said.
That's Russell to a tee. Rarely giving interviews (requests for
this story went expectedly unanswered), Russell has guarded his
privacy fiercely. In fact, though he returned to Tulsa to escape
the bustle of Los Angeles, he ended up leaving Tulsa again because
the pressures of fame were just as weighty here.
Russell sold the Maple Ridge home in 1977 and moved back to
California, but in two years he was back, telling the Tulsa
Tribune, “I've decided I like Tulsa a lot ... I've got a lot more
friends in Tulsa than I do in California, so I'll be spending a lot
more time here.''
But he left again because of incidents like the one reported in
the Tulsa World on Oct. 19, 1979. The headline read, “Top Rock
Star Turns Tulsa Courthouse On,'' and the newsworthiness of the
story seems quaint on reflection. All Russell had done was go to
the courthouse to renew his passport. However, the story says, “No
sooner had he taken off his mirror-lens sunglasses Thursday
afternoon and sat down at a desk when gawkers gathered outside the
glass-walled office. Bolder ones walked in quickly, asking for
In a 1984 Tulsa World story, Russell reflected on that aspect of
Tulsa living: “Tulsa wasn't used to my sort of reality. I went to
the bank to borrow $50,000 and that prompted a story studying the
finances of people in the music business.''
By then, Russell had moved to Nashville, a town that better
suited him as a home and a musical headquarters. Russell always had
drifted in and out of country, recording a straight-up country
record under a pseudonym Hank Wilson in 1973 and a duet album with
Willie Nelson in 1979. After a Hank Wilson sequel album, Russell
laid out of the spotlight until a 1992 comeback with the Bruce
Hornsby-produced record “Anything Can Happen.''
He still lives near Nashville today, but he comes back to Tulsa
— just one more time — every year near the first of April for his
annual birthday concert. This year's show, the fifth such event,
took place April 11 at an old haunt Russell knows well, the Brady
Theater (fellow Tulsa-native musician Bill Davis opened the show).
Russell's son, Teddy Jack, now plays drums in his band.
What Russell does next is anybody's guess.
“Predictability,'' he has said, “is not one of my strong
With Dwight Twilley, and Gary Busey as Buddy Holly
When 7:30 p.m. Saturday
Where River Parks Ampitheater, 2100 S. Jackson Ave.
Tickets $10, available at The Ticket Office, Dillards and the Brady Theater
By Thomas Conner
© Tulsa World
In France, they're lauded with headlines like, “Hanson ...
groupe de l'heure!!!'' In Germany, the boys show up on shows like
“Geld Oder Liebe.'' In Portugal, it's, “Hanson!! Hanson!! A banda
que e sucesso no mundo inteiro!''
In Tulsa, the hometown public hasn't laid eyes on them in nearly
That's because once the Hanson album hit the shelves in the
spring, these three youngsters hit the road (well, boarded the
plane) and haven't looked back.
With “Middle of Nowhere'' and its
hot-agent single “MMMBop'' still resting comfortably in the Top 20
in a majority of the world's time zones, who needs to go home?
Europe is absolutely batty for them, and this week the boys are
sowing the seeds of their adoration on the western edge of the
Indeed, these three tykes from Tulsa have gone from zero to hero
faster than Disney's Hercules himself, and while Tulsans shouldn't
get their hopes up about a hometown performance probably in this
century, the boys' bubblegum sounds are certainly taking over the
world. Here are some curious bits of news about Hanson's
It Ain't Me, Babe
Early in July, the Tulsa World received this desperate plea
through e-mail from a teen-ager in Australia: “I have had mounting
annoyance at the people that think I am Jordan Taylor Hanson. I
have been receiving faxes, e-mails and so forth at all times of day
and night. Due to this I am totally distressed and hope that Hanson
go away! Nothing personal, but I'm furious. What do you suggest I
His name is J. Taylor Hanson.
Not only does he share the name with Hanson's soulful,
androgynous, 14-year-old singer, but this Hanson also happens to
hail from Tulsa. He's in Australia for six months, and the rabid
fans have tracked him down via the Internet thinking he's the
When J. Taylor left Tulsa, the Hanson touring schedule was still
a list of private parties in south Tulsa. Now the group is an
international phenomenon, much to J. Taylor's dismay.
“The trouble really began when "MMMBop' went to No. 1,'' J.
Taylor said through an Internet interview last month. “It was
really weird. People would ring — mostly of the female gender --
and I'd be like, "Who is this?' and they would be going, "Is this
Taylor Hanson?' and I'm like, "Yeah. You are?' but they'd usually
hang up. I had no idea what was happening.''
Then his e-mail address was mentioned in Hanson online circles
as the famous Taylor's personal address, and the messages began
pouring in “hundreds at a time,'' he said. Messages like this one:
“Hi! Oh my god, i can't believe this is your e-mail!!! I love u
sooooooo much, you're sooo SEXY!!! I LUV ALL OF UZ!!! I LUV your
music 2!!! So yeah, if you're not 2 busy E-mail me!!! I luv u
J. Taylor has had to change his e-mail address twice and his
phone number once.
“When I'm in a good mood, I just laugh at most of them,
although there were a few insulting ones which I found scary,'' he
It Ain't Me, Babe, Part II
Last week a woman phoned the Tulsa World also pleading for help.
She claimed that MTV had broadcast the wrong phone number for the
local Hanson hotline. Instead, Hanson fans from around the world
were dialing her parents' west Tulsa home at all hours of the day
Lackeys at MTV could not confirm whether or not they had ever
broadcast a phone number in relation to Hanson, and officials at
Mercury Records said they were 99 percent sure that a phone number
— correct or incorrect — had not been given out.
The phone at the Hanson home in southwest Tulsa features a
regularly updated recording with information on the trio's current
events. Kids may be misdialing the number and getting this woman's
“It's been going on for two weeks,'' she said. “They've got
Caller ID, and they're seeing numbers flash up with area codes from
around the country and all over the world. I had no idea.''
Happy Birthday, Tulsa
Organizers of the city's “Take Me Back to Tulsa'' centennial
homecoming festivities originally had Hanson inked onto the big
weekend's schedule. They were going to do a show Sept. 20 at the
River Parks Amphitheater, but the boys have backed out in favor of
yet another jaunt to Europe.
A friend of the Hansons' father contacted the homecoming
committee and proposed some kind of live satellite remote for the
day while the band was in Ireland, but according to Paula Hale, the
centennial coordinator, the project would not be feasible for the
“It's unfortunate because we really wanted to have something
for the younger kids to enjoy during this celebration,'' Hale said.
“We've got something for every other age group, and we were trying
to different things. This just wasn't feasible.''
Perhaps they'll drop us a line for the state's centennial in
Happy Birthday, Sis
Ah, the life of a superstar. Ever the close-knit family, the
Hansons still manage some quality time while touring the world. It
just requires a bit of cloak-and-dagger to pull off.
While in Australia last week, the Hansons stole away to a
private room at the Sydney Planet Hollywood so they could celebrate
Hanson sister Jessica's ninth birthday. In order to divert the wild
throng of fans, an announcement was made that the boys would be
visiting the Sega World theme park that day. Psyche!
Taking Tulsa to the World
They may not come home much, but simply being from Tulsa has
helped spread the city's name around the world — a nice treat for
our centennial year.
Tom Dittus, owner of the Blue Rose Cafe in Brookside — site of
a Hanson patio performance that helped secure their record deal --
has been basking in the glow of Hanson's stardom.
“We've gotten a lot of mileage out of this,'' Dittus said.
“Entertainment Weekly did a big story on them and mentioned us,
and we were mentioned on Casey Kasem's "Top 40 Countdown' show. The
story gets embellished a little bit each time, but I'm not
Feature stories and photos of the boys in Tulsa media, from
yours truly to several Urban Tulsa stories, have been reprinted in
fanzines — online and otherwise — across the world. Urban Tulsa's
Jarrod Gollihare and I now have the creepy distinction of having
our work appear without permission on a Danish web site dedicated
to Hanson drooling.
And everywhere they go, in every other breath in every
interview, the boys say “Tulsa.'' After they went on at some
length describing Tulsa as an oil town in a recent interview for
French radio, the translator piped in with this: “The only real
attraction in Tulsa are the Hanson now. You are the new oil.''
What was that Dittus said about things getting embellished?
Taking the World to Tulsa
With Hanson causing major prepubescent hysteria in Europe,
journalists from the mother continent have begun taking an interest
in writing about every possible detail of the boys' existence and
history. That means coming to Tulsa to check out the hometown and
report the local color. How Tulsa will translate through, say, the
Dutch media is anyone's guess.
Last month, a German journalist showed up out of the blue in the
Tulsa World newsroom. Claiming to represent a series of
publications with a circulation of 6 million, he was after all the
information he could scrape up on the boys — knocking on the door
of their house, quizzing locals who knew them and some who didn't,
and snapping photographs of Tulsa World editors, for some reason.
Five other European media organizations have called to determine
whether it would be worth their time and effort to travel here and
write about Tulsa. Be prepared to give directions to someone with a
Think this talk of Hanson's international hype is just that --
hype? Here's where the boys' product stands on international charts
this week, 14 weeks after the first release, according to Billboard
No. 3 in Germany
No. 20 in the U.K.
No. 9 in France
No. 7 in the Netherlands
No. 1 in Australia
No. 3 in Sweden
No. 3 in Denmark
No. 5 in Norway
No. 1 in Japan
No. 11 in the United States
“Middle of Nowhere'' album
No. 6 in Germany
No. 5 in the Netherlands
No. 6 in Australia
No. 5 in Finland
No. 14 in Japan
No. 4 in Malaysia
No. 7 in Canada
No. 6 in the United States
The second single, “Where's the Love,'' has begun its climb,
Also, watch for the boys on a CBS broadcast Aug. 24 and in a
milk advertisement this fall.
By Thomas Conner
© Tulsa World
My head is splitting in two and my eyes feel swollen. For about
two hours, I've been staring at several dozen web sites dedicated
to Tulsa's own sugar-pop export, Hanson. It's an exercise that,
while eventually mind-numbing, is actually quite funny and
The World Wide Web is a sticky wicket in which the ratio of
trivial nonsense to actual useful information fluctuates around 9
to 1. Where Hanson information falls into that equation is a bit
But these days, young fans of pop bands do more than create a
fan club and titter together at slumber parties. They learn HTML
programming and set up a “tribute'' site on the web. The Hanson
album hasn't been out for two months, and there are easily 100
Hanson sites ready for search engines to snag. Most of them have
the same photographs and the same, misspelled pre-teen gushing
about how cute the boys are, and a few are informative,
entertaining and goldmines for any sociology student studying mass
Vicky, a youngster in New York, gets things rolling by swooning
all over her page, Vicky's Salute to Hanson
with the ritual photo of the boys on the grass, she introduces her
page with this statement: “I dedicate this page to the greatest
band in the world (Hanson!). Even though they are already very
special, hopefully this page makes them recognize it even more! Luv
ya guys!'' If you're brave enough to click on her dedication page,
you'll see several paragraphs of unmitigated groveling, including a
sentence found on most Hanson sites: “I just wanna say I LOVE YOU
GUYS SOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO MUCH!!!'' Actual number of o's varies
from page to page.
Vicky's site includes some important FAQs (frequently asked
questions) about the boys, including “Are any of the Hansons
looking for a girlfriend?'' The answer — sorry, girls — is no.
Isaac already has one, she reports, and Taylor and Zac say they're
too busy to bother. Vicky says that “millions of girls would get
down on their knees to go out with one of the AVAILABLE Hanson
brothers,'' and, well, I'll leave that one alone.
One of many sites titled The Unofficial Hanson Page
(http://www.geocities.com/NapaValley/5657) coordinates a running
poll of your favorite Hanson brother. As of Tuesday, Zac was ahead
with 128 votes, Taylor had 110 and Isaac had 102. Perhaps some of
these voters should tune into Lisa's Hanson Page
(http://members.aol.com/LMW3/lisa/hanson/hanson.html) and read some
of her biographical information, which goes beyond the basic
favorite color blather and includes things like “hidden talents.''
Isaac's hidden talent is an ability to imitate Kermit the Frog,
Bullwinkle and Butthead. Zac's hidden talent is an ability to speak
while belching. Taylor is a cartoonist.
That probably explains why, despite that one poll, Taylor is the
clear choice for young girls' hearts and web sites. He has numerous
sites dedicated strictly to himself. The Taylor Hanson Page
(http://www.geocities.com/RainForest/7320) features a spot where
you can post your own declarations of Taylor's cuteness for all to
read. The site's author herself writes that when she first heard
“MMMBop'' on MTV, she thought “the music was like nothing I had
ever heard before.'' In addition to her comparison of Taylor to a
young Kurt Cobain, this site serves as a painful reminder of just
how old the rest of us are.
There's also a Taylor Hanson Fan Club
(http://members.tripod.com/~Hanson161411/hansonHITZ.html) and a
Taylor Hanson Cult (http://members.aol.com/Shelly737/TayCult.html).
If it's actual information you want, look to the official
Mercury Records site
epage.html) or the officially sanctioned Hanson site, where the
boys receive most of their e-mail (http://www.hansonline.com).
Another fan site, Weird's Hanson Page
(http://www.geocities.com/SunsetStrip/Palms/1307) also has daily
updates on the band's media appearances (a thorough listing of
magazines — Tiger Beat, Teen, Sixteen, Seventeen, even Bop) as
well as some current articles and tour information. This site even
has its own Hanson theme song.
A Bartlesville fan put up a Hanson site, Landon's Tribute to
Hanson (http://users.aol.com/nadaace/hanson.html), which includes a
few choice tidbits about Landon's family's vague connection to the
Hanson family, something including a wedding appearance and a
handmade wall hanging. The site even features a constantly updated
picture window showing the view of Tulsa from a camera atop the
KJRH Channel 2 tower.
L.A.'s Hanson Reviews Page
numerous reviews of Hanson appearances written by fans. One writer
describes the mayhem at the group's mobbed May 7 appearance at a
mall in Paramus, N.J. The scene is summed up when she says, “I do
not believed(sic) that I have ever screamed so much in my life.''
Other pages feature aimless nattering about the boys and the
girls who love them. Ruby, for instance, is a tad defensive about
her love of Hanson on Ruby the Droogster's Hanson Page
(http://www.geocities.com/SoHo/4936/hanson.html). She writes, “If
any assholes want to make fun of me, I don't give a crap. I can
like whoever and whatever I want.'' Other girls are in such a
lather they just out-and-out babble. Lisa, for instance, informs us
that her guinea pig is named Melody “from the way she bounces
around in her cage to ("MMMBop').'' Christine, a 13-year-old in
Tuscon, Ariz., on her page, My Hanson and Me Page
(http://members.aol.com/TeenAZ/index.html), tells us the
fascinating features of her life: “I play soccer and the violin. I
like to listen to Hanson and be with friends. I collect a lot of
things such as rocks and stickers.''
If you still want more, the Ultimate Hanson Links Page
(http://www.geocities.com/Eureka/6540) has links to 86 different
Hanson sites, including a Hanson page run by KISS 101.9 FM — a
station in Valdosta, Ga. (http://www.geocities.com/Broadway/8156).
Wouldn't it be nice if the boys' hometown radio stations gave as
much, if not more, such support as a radio station in
Valdosta-freakin'-Georgia? (Must this city's print media do
everything for local bands?)
Not everyone adores Hanson, though. Plenty of anti-Hanson pages
are out there, like the Hanson Haters Page
(http://www.toptown.com/NOWHERE/fatpo/agree2.html). This site is
under construction — photos are being digitally sliced and diced
as you read this — but the page's homophobic creators urge anyone
to e-mail them various fantasies to “kill, maim and then desecrate
the bodies of the Hanson sisters.'' The Marilyn Hanson Page
(http://www.geocities.com/Hollywood/Hills/7936/mh.html) is actually
run by a fan, but anyone can enjoy the gallery of Hanson
photographs here all made up so that each Hanson looks like Marilyn
Manson. There's also another site, whose title I can't print in
this general newspaper, which contains adult language and
situations concerning the digestion of a particular part of the
Hanson brothers' anatomy. Find the other two anti-Hanson pages and
you'll find this one.
Whatever your take on the three Tulsa young'uns, there's a
mountain of gunk out there to view. And it's got Excedrin written
all over it.
By Thomas Conner
© Tulsa World
I haven't been in Jify Trip's rehearsal room for five minutes
before lead singer Justin Monroe whirls around and asks me, "How
do you feel about cottage cheese, man?''
"Why?'' I ask, being too cautious. "Do you use it in your
"No, I just wanted to know how you feel about it,'' he says.
Strap in and secure the knives — it's going to be a woolly
It's December 21, 1995, a cold, murky night on the verge of a
new season, and sleet is pelting the half dozen or so cars that
swarmed like ATF agents on this modest log cabin on the north edge
of Bixby. An hour after sundown, all the technology that gives Jify
Trip its venerable voice has been flung into trucks and "sport
vehicles.'' The four members of the band and a handful of
hangers-on have sought shelter from the cold inside a shed behind
The members of Jify Trip and their entourage look like any
burgeoning rock bunch. There's guitarist Brent Coates, a handsome
everybody with bangs just long enough to confound any idea that he
spends one weekend a month in the Army reserves. There's drummer
Scott Rouse, the oft-but-lovingly picked-on blondie in flannel
shirt and baggy trousers, both easily three sizes too large.
Bassist Tommy Niemeyer is the first to joke about his appearance;
being half German and half Thai, he is used to being mistaken for
every conceivable ethnicity ("I'm the Afro-American-Asian-Arabian-Indian member of the band'').
Then there's Justin. Justin looks like the offspring that
would result from Stone Temple Pilots lead singer Scott Weiland
being caught in baby Bear's bed with Goldilocks. His pink features
are framed by a terribly trendy goatee and two long, wavy, blond
pigtails. "A horse's ass on both sides,'' someone teases.
We're not due at the club for another hour, so time is marked
for killing in the carpeted shed. There's a mock stage in the shed,
bracketed by a leering Val Kilmer as Jim Morrison poster on one
side and a black and white shot of the members of Pearl Jam
striking a Guns N' Roses guitar pose on the other. Seeing these
choices for decor, I quiver at the thought of an evening of Doors-Pearl Jam inspired
music ahead. My fears will soon be allayed.
• • •
Behind the stage is a polished piece of wood in a sun shape,
and mounted on it is a colorful, lacquered puzzle of some kind of
"That's an ancient, medieval Ouija board,'' Tommy says.
Over the door to the shed, the phrase "It's the most...'' is
stenciled on the jamb. It seems one of the groupies, Russell Becker
— the one by the piano with the purple and green court jester hat
on — uses the phrase a lot, as in "It's the most cool place'' or
"It's the most smelly sofa.'' Russell smiles sheepishly, and I get
the impression there's more to it than that.
Upon learning that Good, the band scheduled to play before
them, won't be playing, Justin and Brent sit down on the stage to
add some songs to the set list. Tommy suggests the song "Bite,''
and others in the room call out the name. Justin responds,
Jify trip's manager, Mark McCullough, is loitering with us,
making lots of managerial promises. "I'm gonna do my damnedest to
get you guys signed in '96,'' he resolves. The band mutters things
like, "It's about time.'' Even the mere two years Jify Trip has
been together have wrought a tinge of cynicism on the band.
Finally, someone says, "Let's go to the club,'' and we're
piling into S-10s and Broncos to rumble to Eclipse. Jify Trip is on
a bill at the club tonight before a Kansas City tribal sensation,
Billy Goat. On the ride there, Mark and Tommy reminisce about the
band's humble beginnings. Like Spinal Tap, Jify Trip has been
through a few drummers, but when Scott joined up exactly one year
ago, everything clicked, Tommy says.
"He just fit right in, the best of anybody,'' he says. "And
he's flourished so much in the last year.''
Mark is clearly pumped up about his new progenitors. Mark
formerly managed Tulsa's bastion of ingenious-but-unsigned music,
the Mellowdramatic Wallflowers. After a good part of a decade with
the group and still no success, Mark bowed out and picked up Jify
Trip, which he thinks is much more in-tune with modern rock success.
"These guys have so much going on,'' he says, gesturing for
emphasis. "They are easily the most marketable band in town, and I
think they have a real shot at getting out there.''
We get to Eclipse about 7 p.m. and mill around for a bit
while club-owner K. Rahal devises a game plan for the equipment
set-up. Scott and Tommy clasp each other's hands and waists and
begin waltzing to Kate Bush's "Running Up That Hill'' playing over
the sound system. I look around the Eclipse and enjoy a rare,
smoke-free glimpse of the legendary club.
The Eclipse is a second home for a band like this. K.'s club
desperately caters to young, original bands like Jify Trip, and the
members laugh about that period — familiar to most young bands
here — when they were playing Eclipse practically every weekend.
Jify Trip's first gig, though, was at the late Windjammer club in
"I was scared to play there,'' Justin says, and the
recollection of the event illicits laughter from the other members,
but it's a proud, survivalist laughter. "The band before us
actually did the hair-swinging thing as they played.''
"And don't forget the girl in white playing pool all
night,'' Brent adds.
Once Scott's drums are set up and other amps and gear has
been tucked out of Billy Goat's way, the entire entourage crams
into a weathered, white Ford Bronco in search of sustenance. I have
no idea whose Bronco it is, or who is driving, and white Broncos
have macabre connotations for me now.
We wind up at the Hideaway pizza place on 15th Street,
flustering the waitstaff about a table for 10. Brian Hartman — the
wide-eyed friend and "fifth member of the band,'' Justin proclaims
— is delighted that the restaurant has Pente board games. He
seizes one at once and threatens everyone with a game. Once seated
and orders taken, the band begins to talk about its illustrious and
Jify Trip has played the gamut of Tulsa nightspots — the
Dugout, the Rhythm Room, Xenophon, TU frat parties — as well as
Norman, Oklahoma City and Stillwater clubs. Promotion involves
photocopied fliers stuck on phone poles and handed out at shopping
malls, and lots of word of mouth.
Justin proceeds to illustrate the tireless promotion of a
local rock band. He catches the waitress as she begins to walk away
with the orders: "Hey, what are you doing about 9:30 tonight?''
She promptly ignores him.
He wasn't trying to ask her for a date. It's just another way
to spread the word about the band, and it's worked before.
Waitresses (and waiters, Brent is a bit too quick to add) from the
evening's supper have been known to show up at gigs. Brent works at
Chili's and has convinced several of his cohorts to attend.
"We just basically play our music,'' Tommy says. "That in
itself has gotten people to come back and spread the word.
That's how it works, just like the old shampoo commercial:
they tell two friends, and they tell two friends, and so on and so
"Basically, Jify Trip is a cult,'' Justin says. "Everyone
"But nobody comes,'' Brent adds. He assures me it's a joke
and promises a substantial core following.
"When we started, we had no idea what we were doing,''
Justin says. "It's really funny, man, the growing process we've
"We grew, then we got stale for a while,'' Tommy says. "We
didn't change our underwear for, like, three months.''
"But now we rock!'' Justin says. "We create from nothing,''
he adds, mystically.
"We're absolute music,'' Brent says.
Justin, who earlier failed to sell the band on calling the
music "hydraulic music,'' says, "I don't get that.''
"We play music for the sake of music,'' Brent explains.
Justin laughs. "You caught us on a good night. We're usually
at each other's throats. We're all dicks.''
"That's not true,'' says the stong-silent Scott. "Tommy's a
The waitress returns, diverting his attention. Justin tries
to make up for the previous misunderstanding.
"I wasn't trying to ask you out,'' he says. "I just wanted
to know if you'd be interested in seeing a band tonight called Jify
"I heard they sucked,'' the waitress says. Tips are reclaimed from
the money pile.
• • •
Back at Eclipse, clubbers are starting to drift in, and the
Marlboro haze already has defined the spotlights and slide
Justin paces through the tables and chairs with heavy sighs
and clenching fists, denying that he's nervous. By 9 p.m., Mark is
equally nervous as he scans the sparse room.
"I just can't figure out where all the people are,'' he
says. "I guess people aren't used to seeing bands here on
Thursdays.'' Eclipse usually schedules open mic nights on Thursdays.
He's not worrying from his wallet, though. The band, I find
out from Mark, is playing tonight's show for free. My jaw drops.
"This is your idea of the Christmas spirit?'' I ask.
"This is my idea of getting good exposure,'' McCullough
says. "I wanted to open for Billy Goat, a strong, popular regional
act. It's always good to get a tape in their hands, find out who
books their shows, etc.''
Tommy is crouching behind his amp to smoke a cigarette in
peace. Brent kneels on the stage tuning his two guitars. Brian sets
up the retail arm of this project with a box of Jify Trip CDs at a
table near the bar. The crowd has picked up by 9:30 p.m. — the
usual Eclipse throng of shaved-head and flannel-laden hipsters
dressed like they just came in from the fields around Poznon,
Poland circa 1908. All the seats and tables are filled, anyway, and
a chummy bunch of high school (at most) girls with braces and bobs
sit cross-legged on the floor before the stage.
At 9:35 p.m., the band gets the word to get onstage. K.'s
cheeky announcement booms out of the speakers: "We have for you
tonight, Billy Goat! And first, a great Tulsa band, we love them --
The beat and strums fall at the same instant, and the sound
slams forward. Justin grabs the mic and shakes and wails as if he'd
just caught hold of a wire pulsing several thousand volts. From
this moment through to the encore, Justin is no longer with us. He
stares forward with glazed eyes in an eerie trance, like a deranged
sleepwalker. He shrieks like a 12-year-old Billy Corgan being
choked and moves around the stage like Riff Raff doing "The Time
Warp.'' The crowd watches with a nonchalance that would ruin bands
of lesser conviction.
The first song is "Help the Mustard.'' Since there is no
sound check before showtime, this is it. When the sound finally
dies away, Justin calls to K., "Can I have some monitor? I don't
have any.'' During the second song, "Wool,'' which involves a lot
of screaming, his vocals cut out several times from the sound
system. It's a learning experience for everyone, every single night.
Brent gnashes a wad of gum while he slashes his guitar, a
stream of flawless chords punctuated with the occasional sharp
fill. Tommy's deft dancing up and down the frets of his bass
suffers from an unjust mix. Scott's drumming is fervent and
pristine; he sometimes even smiles.
Jify Trip plays carefully wrought guitar-pop, excellent
melodies and rhythms supporting Justin's banshee wails. The girls
in front of the stage are up and dancing right away, but they are
the only ones moving to the music. A few people against the Van
Gogh wall are mouthing the words, but most simply stare.
Justin is unfazed; in fact, he approaches them. Pulling on
his mic cable, he wanders into the crowd, sometimes getting a good
20 feet from the stage — about halfway across the club. Drifting
among frat boys standing near the bar and neohippies flopped on the
couches, he takes his shtick to the masses, convulsing and
conjuring things from his mic while those near him try to act
casual. He's almost oblivious to the crowd — drawn to them, but
still off in another dimension of higher sonic beings.
During "Nothing Artificial,'' Justin is on top of the
speaker stacks. K. comes to the edge of the stage wearing worry
under the bill of his Triple X Records cap. Justin hangs upside
down off the stack, then stands and spreads his arms out like a
plane (or a Christ figure, heaven forbid). While the band takes off
on one lick, he dangles the mic and cord from his crotch and
swings. When the song ends, Justin chants as if hypnotized, "Us.
Us. Us. Us.'' The crowd dares him to jump.
"Isn't this great?'' McCullough says behind me. He looks
like he's just seen his first snowfall. "Now do you see why I
wanted to push these guys?''
The last song is an Adorable cover, "Homeboy.'' When Justin
teeters toward the edge of the stage in preparation to leave it,
the crowd, to my delighted surprise, begins shouting, "One more!
One more!'' Justin looks up, as if the voices of adoration have
pierced a pinhole in his trance. K.'s voice again booms from the
darkness: "C'mon guys, they want one more song. How 'bout it?''
Justin hardly moves and says, "This song is called 'Ides of
January.' It sucks because we suck. Thank you. Yes, we suck. Thank
you.'' Tommy straps his bass back on and they dish out one more
• • •
When Jify Trip makes its hasty exodus from the stage and
Billy Goat members begin setting up their gear around 10:30 p.m.,
the band members scatter through the crowd in search of
girlfriends. Justin can't seem to find his, and he natters
unconvincing assurances that this was a good show. He snatches a
handful of the band's CDs and begins passing them out to the crowd
— giving them away.
When asked if this was a good show, Brian, our Pente champ,
turns thumbs down. He's not slagging the band; he's slagging the
"Nobody did anything,'' he says. "Usually we've got people
jumping around, going crazy. Everybody's lazy here tonight.''
They weren't lazy when Billy Goat came on. Jify Trip
regrouped outside to cool off, then filed back in once Billy Goat's
beats started shaking the walls. Billy Goat, a funk-a-go-go band
now out of Kansas City, keeps the crowd on its feet during its
Jify Trip stays for most of the show, as enthralled by the
band as anyone — likely moreso. When Billy Goat leader Mike Dillon
really started going on his hand drums, Justin scans the club.
"Where's Scott? He's gotta see this!''
During Billy Goat's "Old School, Jam 23,'' Justin is up on
someone's shoulders, waving his arms like he's at a Dokken show.
Scott was, indeed, there, staring typically calmly at the two
drummers' precision timing.
An hour into Billy Goat's set, Jify Trip files out to the
sidewalk and huddles in the cold. Tommy's eyes are still wide from
the Billy Goat experience.
"Jeez, did we even play?'' Justin asks.
"They are the only band that's ever played after us that
just completely kicked our ass,'' Tommy says.
With everyone screaming in the cold, it's decided to return
to Tommy's to consume mass quantities.
"So this is Jify Trip,'' Justin said. "Hope you liked it.
See you at the top.''
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.