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Jukebox Heroes

Preserving and promoting the Sooner State sound, the Oklahoma Music Hall of Fame honors legendary experiences, venues and performers.

Rachel Wright
April 29, 2017

Oklahoma is known internationally for its renowned music heritage, and one organization is committed to continuing to recognize and enrich that culture. The Oklahoma Music Hall of Fame inducts musicians with strong Oklahoma ties annually, and hosts live music year-round, as well as an annual festival each June, called G Fest.

“It’s all to promote, preserve and honor the rich music history of Oklahoma,” says Jim Blair, executive director of the Oklahoma Music Hall of Fame. “With so much talent coming from our state, there’s no shortage of potential inductees.”

Oklahoma’s music history is rich indeed. And it’s not limited to our amazing country music lineage.

In 1970, when Eric Clapton made his solo debut (Eric Clapton), he recorded with Tulsans Leon Russell on piano and Carl Radle on bass guitar. Radle was in Clapton’s later band, Derek and the Dominos, which brought the world one of the human race’s favorite love songs of all time, “Layla,” from Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs. Clapton’s first solo album’s top hit,

“After Midnight,” and another later Clapton hit, “Cocaine,” were both written by another Oklahoman, J.J. Cale.

In fact, there’s a genre of music called Tulsa Sound, which originated with Russell and Cale. The bluesy, rock ‘n’ roll flavor, usually accompanied with honky-tonk piano, often appeared on Clapton’s albums, thanks to the two local musical geniuses who are both, naturally, inductees at the Oklahoma Music Hall of Fame.

Other inductees include Woody Guthrie, Merle Haggard, Gene Autry, Vince Gill, Wanda Jackson, Color Me Badd, Restless Heart, Ronnie Dunn, Toby Keith, Cain’s Ballroom, Carrie Underwood, Thompson Square and Roy Clark.

There’s no official number of inductions per year, but the Hall has welcomed an average of five per year since 1997. This year, they’re upping the ante, with close to 10 inductees including Hanson.

Inductees don’t necessarily have to have been born in the Sooner State, but must have some connection. Individuals, groups, organizations and establishments can be inducted into the Oklahoma Music Hall of Fame, and Blair says it’s quite a process.

There’s no official number of inductions per year, but the Oklahoma Music Hall of Fame has welcomed an average of five per year since 1997.
There’s no official number of inductions per year, but the Oklahoma Music Hall of Fame has welcomed an average of five per year since 1997. 

“You’re never going to have a perfect process, so it’s been refined over the 20 years we’ve been doing this,” Blair says. “Anyone can become a member of the Hall of Fame and any member can nominate an inductee. After we gather nominations, we do a ballot with board members, inductees and media representatives.”

The only requirement is that inductees perform at their induction ceremony, which can be held anywhere in the state.

The Oklahoma Music Hall of Fame is used to coordinating live music events, as it features concerts multiple times monthly at its location in Muskogee, The Frisco Depot, formerly a train depot built in 1906, where the museum and music venue now stand.

“It’s not a big museum, but we have a lot of exhibits,” Blair says. “We have original art from inductees over the last 20 years. Right now we’re featuring Jim Halsey and Roy Clark. Our curators are really passionate and knowledgeable about the music history of Oklahoma, so people can interact with them and walk away having a really personal experience.”

The Oklahoma Music Hall of Fame’s biggest event is G Fest. You may remember it from last year — its inaugural year — when it brought internationally acclaimed acts to Muskogee, including The Avett Brothers, Old Crow Medicine Show, Kacey Musgraves and the Turnpike Troubadours.

This year, the festival takes place June 15-17. Primitive and RV camping are available and food and beverage vendors are available. The lineup includes Needtobreathe, Creedence Clearwater Revisited, Blackberry Smoke, Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, The Mavericks, Kentucky Headhunters and The Swon Brothers.

Three-day general admission tickets cost $99, with additional fees for camping and VIP passes.

Oklahoma Music Hall of Fame
401 S. 3rd St. | Muskogee
Monday-Saturday: 10 a.m.-5 p.m.