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Guitar Hero

Three decades after the heyday of '80s hard rock, people still like to bang their heads, raise their fists, and have some fun. Doug Burgess is doing his best to provide plenty of metal memories.

G.K. Hizer
Marc Rains
September 28, 2019

Over the past two and a half years, classic and ‘80s hard rock fans have found an oasis at the corner of First Street and Detroit Avenue in Tulsa at the IDL Ballroom. The multi-use venue has hosted a parade of artists such as Lita Ford, Tom Keifer (Cinderella), Dokken, Saxon, Slaughter, L.A. Guns, and Stryper.

And the person inviting the former Sunset Strip stars to T-Town is Doug Burgess through his DEB Concerts group.

If you were a fan of the original Rocklahoma format, chances are you’ve been to at least one or two of these shows. Yes, the focus has been primarily ‘80s driven, but that’s not to say the vision isn’t expanding. What started as something of a passion project is growing into something bigger that’s drawing the attention of national booking agents and promoters, with the genuine potential to turn into something more significant for the Tulsa market.

When you speak with Burgess, however, he’s got his feet planted firmly on the ground with no delusions of grandeur. Above all else, he’s just looking to put on some great rock shows and enjoy the music, just like everyone else.

Perhaps the biggest misconception about these shows is that they’re somehow affiliated with 2016’s Streets Gone Wild festival. Although there are a few ties, that’s not the case. After building DEB Concerts as something of a partnership with Tom Green, who runs IDL Ballroom and Lotus Sandwich Eatery and Bar, the lines can admittedly be a little blurry.

Burgess was initially a title sponsor for the festival, writing a check to put his name on the promotional materials. When the festival producer fell into financial difficulties and disappeared without paying expenses, Burgess stepped up to help pay the local vendors, such as the staging company, sanitation, and such.

“I told Tom, ‘I might want to do this myself next time, so let’s make sure these people get paid.’ Once we looked at it and ran the numbers, we opted not to do another Streets Gone Wild format. It just didn’t make sense. We thought we might do a one-day show with a couple of national acts and some local bands at some point, but that would be about it.

“As far as the Facebook page [Streets Gone Wild] goes, that’s Tom’s fan page. Because he’s got so many fans tied to that page, he still uses it to announce shows.”

Before he rode to the financial rescue of Streets Gone Wild, Burgess had already proved to be an astute businessman with his company D&B Processing. The Broken Arrow-based company provides cut and bent steel plate.

With heavy metal in his blood and business, it only made sense for Burgess to expand upon his musical fandom.

“After Streets Gone Wild, I called Tom and said, ‘I want to start promoting shows. If you show me the ropes, I’ll keep the shows with you, so you’ll get all the bar sales, and I won’t ask for a percentage.’ He got me in contact with the booking agencies, and after doing a few shows that went well, I developed a good reputation as an independent promoter,” says Burgess. “Now agents are calling me to pitch shows.”

Burgess brought his first show to the IDL Ballroom in February 2017. Since then, DEB Concerts has brought a steady stream of shows to Tulsa. His group averaged one show a month last year, and about one every other month in 2019.

“I like the artists I book and the genre,” he says, “but there’s no money to be made in this unless you’re booking bigger bands with a larger draw.”

When suggested that this is as much a labor of love, catering to his passion, as much as anything else, Burgess agreed. “You hit the nail on the head. I only book bands I’m a fan of,” he says. “I know what these bands draw, and I know I’m going to lose some money, but I make enough money with my business that it’s not going to hurt us if I lose a little bit on these shows. My wife has been very understanding and supportive in all of this.”

A big part of these shows and their promotion has been bringing in Eddie Trunk for each event. Trunk is best known as the host of several hard rock and heavy metal-themed radio and television shows. He also serves as host for Rocklahoma that is held in Pryor during Memorial Day weekend.

“Eddie and I have become good friends. He knows and loves these bands and the genre. He has promoted the hell out of these shows on his radio show and podcast, and he loves Tulsa,” says Burgess. “The bigger deal, though, is that the fans love him coming here. People love that he comes to this little club in Tulsa and he’s in the crowd and not acting any better than anyone else.”

Looking forward, Burgess has his eyes on something more significant than staying at IDL Ballroom. DEB Concerts got its first taste of the BOK Center when presenting the “Carnivàle Icône” tour with Snoop Dogg, Nelly, and Chromeo in April 2019.

“That show made money,” Burgess says, “and it was cool to work with the BOK Center. They’ve been rated the No. 1 arena in the country. I’m going to continue to book shows at IDL Ballroom, but now I’m looking at bigger shows, maybe doing something at Cain’s Ballroom and working on some big shows at the BOK Center.

“People think I’m just a fan of ‘80s bands and that’s not the case; I’m not stuck in the ‘80s. I like the ‘90s and a few of the current bands, but I still want to rock. Looking forward, I want to book bands I’m a fan of, but if a country show comes up and it’s a slam dunk, I’m in.”

Mostly, however, Burgess is looking to book the bands and music that he loves.

“They say, ‘never meet your heroes,’ but I’ve been pretty lucky so far,” Burgess says. “Most people have been exactly what I thought they were; very authentic and appreciative.

“I’ve never had a bad experience with an artist. I’ve had a couple of run-ins with tour managers, but that’s a different story. Most bands are just appreciative to have a career still. They know the clock is ticking and they’re happy to be still playing.”  

IDL Ballroom
230 E. 1st St. | Tulsa