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
The pages of a thesaurus easily could be worn thin trying to
find the appropriate words to describe Saturday night's Hanson
concert at Frontier City in Oklahoma City, but none would better
sum up the show's madness and frustration than these two: seven
The No. 1 musical sensation in the country finally returned to
its home state in a swath of glory, they packed thousands upon
thousands of ecstatic young girls and their dumbstruck parents into
a venue meant to hold hundreds, they stayed cloistered in their bus
before showtime listening to the crowd chant, “Hanson! Hanson! We
want Hanson!'' — and they graced us with only seven songs.
That's a pile of gall for three kids who were begging for a
public gig this time last year. Other bands in their position (with
older, stronger audiences) would have been dragged back to the
stage — particularly by the sizeable Tulsa contingent
that traveled 200 miles round-trip for the Big Event, not to
mention paying up to $20 a head to get into the park. Heck, the
Mellowdramatic Wallflowers — another Tulsa band more seasoned and
deserving of the rocket to superstardom than our young heroes --
opened the show with maybe twice that number of songs.
How quickly they forget.
They were certainly seven fantastic songs, though, and during
that fleeting half hour, the crowd of sardined fans adored their
triumvirate of pubescent blonde ambition with the kind of
power-drill-in-the-ear screaming that hasn't been heard since the
You Know Whos came ashore. The crowd was so huge and so eager to
get a decent vantage point on the stage that they were squeezing
into the tiny field and crushing the front lines of girls against
the barricades. Ten minutes before Hanson took the stage, extra
manpower was called in from across the park to reinforce that line
of defense and keep the hysterical young'uns from rushing the
stage. More than a few were led away for heat exhaustion, despite
the afterthought of park officials throwing handfuls of ice into
When the Fab Three finally jogged onto the stage, they started
off with a couple of songs by themselves, letting their a capella
foundations show a bit. For “Madeline'' and “Man From
Milwaukee,'' Isaac strummed a guitar, Taylor slapped a tambourine
and Zac shook a shaker. The harmonies were sweet as ever and
further testament to the boys' whopping vocal and performance
For the remaining five numbers, the boys went electric along
with several other musicians, each of whom lurked discreetly on the
back of the stage. For the legions of cynics who wonder, the boys
actually do play their instruments, even if they're not always
playing the most significant parts of the songs. Every song was
hard-hitting and tight, more than thrilling the crowd.
The bulk of the signs held up in the crowd were announcing
various carnal desires for Taylor, but interest in the young Hanson
singer and keyboard player runs far deeper than mere teen-age lust.
This boy has soul, and it's evident from the first instant he
slouches into a microphone and beats a tambourine. If the boys'
career outlives the here-today-gone-tomorrow projections prone to
such young acts, Taylor Hanson looks like he's equipped to lead
dedicated fans through a lifetime of great and possibly
forward-thinking music. It's been a long time since rock 'n' roll
had a great white soul man, and I'm sure Tulsa would be proud to
say they knew him when.
Before any of that happens, though, the kids have got to hook
themselves up with a decent tour manager. They played this Oklahoma
City gig for free, meaning that each $20 admission from the several
thousand fans didn't go to the artists who deserved it. But then
again, for seven songs, maybe they didn't deserve a penny. If they
are indeed headed straight for Madison Square Garden, they'd better
work up a set that offers our money's worth — no matter how
adorable they may be.
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
"Middle of Nowhere"
Say what you will about these three well-scrubbed rich boys --
they're going to be big. They'll take the unique sound of south
Tulsa to the world!
Oh, I, too, thought I was having acid flashbacks when I heard
that these cherubic, largely ignorable local whinsies had not only
landed a major-label deal but hooked up with the Dust Brothers to
produce it. I thought, it's a wonder anyone could turn a doorknob,
what with all the greased palms.
But however it came to be, “Middle of Nowhere'' is just the
kind of tight, slick record that will beat us over the head for
years to come. Over each track's hurried, lite R&B and incessant
record scratching, 13-year-old Taylor doesn't just sound like
1967-vintage Michael Jackson, he also sounds like 1996-vintage
Michael Jackson. Sometimes his thin coo melts your childlike heart
(“Weird''), and sometimes his roar is both “Dangerous'' and
“Bad'' (“Look at You'').
The one thing that will rescue Hanson
from the inevitable oblivion of acts of their ilk, i.e. New Kids on
the Block, is that they play instruments (11-year-old Zac is a
maniac on the drums) and participate in their writing of their
songs. Yes, Mercury hauled in some bigwigs to pen hits for the
album, but the first single, the frighteningly catchy “MMMBop''
(from their Tulsa indie record of the same name), and a couple of
the most interesting tracks are the ones with Hansons in the credit
lines. These kids grew up listening to classic soul records, and
when those influences show up through their young, modern
rock-saturated filters, the result is some surprisingly fresh
music. Maybe, just maybe, youth is not wasted on the young.
Regardless, though, “MMMBop'' debuted at No. 16 last week, and
it will be drilling into your head around every corner in no time.
Meanwhile, the Tulsa sound still resides peacefully in Tulsa.
By Thomas Conner
© Tulsa World
The Hanson album isn't due on record store shelves until
Tuesday, but the buzz leaked out months ago. By mid-March, e-mail
was already arriving in the Tulsa World queue from people around
the world wanting more information on the fab three.
“They are sooooooo cute!'' wrote one young woman. “Do you have
any pictures of them?''
Another fan wrote, “Hi, I'm from Australia and ... Tulsa is
about to be put in the global spotlight in a MAJOR way by none
other than your very own local band, Hanson.''
The smart money is on that prediction. While legions of Tulsa
kids try to put Tulsa on the map with still more groaning modern
rock, along come the three Hanson brothers (Isaac, Taylor and Zac)
with the slickest, sweetest pop sound since the Jackson Five — and
they're better poised than anyone to win over the world.
The album isn't even available yet, but the single, “MMMBop''
has drenched radio and thus debuted at No. 16 on the Billboard
singles chart this week. The most recent band to pull off that kind
of buzz was U2, and they had the luxury of resting on the laurels
of a nearly 20-year career.
All Hanson has are three cherubic faces and numerous glossy
grooves. That was plenty to get Mercury Records excited enough to
sign them and back the Tulsa trio with unheard-of support. When we
caught up with the Hanson family last week, they were in London,
still traveling across Europe to promote the new album, “Middle
of Nowhere.'' Oldest brother Isaac, 16, was blase about his travels.
“We're just back from Germany. We spent 10 days in the U.K.,
five days in France, three in Germany, doing interviews with
different magazines, TV and radio,'' he said. “We've lived all
over the world, so the travel we get to do now is fun, but it's not
like we've never done it before.''
Walker Hanson is head of the clan (in addition to the singing
trio, there are three younger siblings), and his job in
international finance moved the family from Tulsa to Trinidad,
Ecuador and Venezuela before returning home. He encouraged the boys
to sing together one evening after a dinner blessing, and something
“I never dreamed it would lead to this,'' Walker said last
week, proud but slightly exasperated.
The Hanson brothers debuted their act in 1992 on one of the
Mayfest stages. They sang a capella, doo-wopping to standards from
the '50s and '60s, and enough people gushed about how cute they
were that they were encouraged to continue. Three years later,
guitars and drum kits were purchased, and an independent record of
lite R&B, “Boomerang,'' quickly followed.
“We had all each played keyboard, but we'd been very interested
in other instruments. We wanted to make our own music instead of
singing to a background track all the time. Playing guitar gives
you a whole different inspiration than the keyboard, and we needed
that different inspiration,'' Isaac said.
Zac, 11, took to the drums, and he's a maniac behind the kit. He
offered a humble explanation for his choice of instrument.
“I'm not that great a drummer, but everybody says I can play,
so I'll take their word for it,'' he said. “The secret is, nobody
else's arms are as long. I couldn't play guitar or piano, so I went
to the drums because I've got long arms.''
By the time a second album, “MMMBop,'' had been recorded
locally, the phone at the Hanson residence was ringing with serious
business calls as well as the usual blather of giggling girl fans.
Mercury Records signed the band last summer after seeing the kids
perform on the Blue Rose patio — at 16, 13 and 11, they aren't
allowed inside the bar — and the big wheels started turning.
In February's Billboard magazine, the Hanson brothers appeared
in a photograph next to two Mercury execs and the Dust Brothers,
John King and Mike Simpson, who produced Hanson's debut disc for
the big label. (Steve Lironi, of Black Grape and Space expertise,
also produced parts of the record, and the Dust Brothers' last
project was the Grammy-winning “Odelay'' album for Beck — whose
last name, oddly enough, is Hansen.) When Billboard runs photos
like that, boring shots of people just staring right into the
camera, it usually means the corresponding label has made quite a
fuss about the upcoming project.
The record, fortunately, is worthy of the fuss. Both sets of
producers found a sturdy balance between the brothers' latest pop
leanings and their original soul-flavored sound, a sound that
developed during those years living far away from home.
“Before we left, we bought a bunch of these tapes of old '50s
and '60s rock 'n' roll,'' Isaac explained. “We had no radio to
listen to, and it was just coincidence that we picked this
particular style to take with us. But it was very inspirational in
our minds. It's just great music, all that Chuck Berry, Bobby
Darin, Otis Redding, Aretha Franklin, old Beatles. These people are
the origins for what all music is today. They're the ones that
started it all out.''
This week, Hanson will take that reverence for rock's roots and
debut their chirpy songs on national television. They're on “The
Late Show With David Letterman'' on Monday (10:35 p.m. on KOTV
Channel 6) and “The Rosie O'Donnell Show'' on Tuesday (4 p.m. on
KTUL Channel 2).
They're not even nervous.
“Nah. If you get nervous, you don't act like the natural you,''
“It's Letterman! It's like, whoa, why would Letterman want us?
But if he wants us, I'll go,'' Zac said.
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.