Roy Clark, Jana Jae, Tulsa Playboys to perform at Gilcrease Museum Helmerich Center opening weekend

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This coming weekend, September 6 and 7, 2014, is the opening weekend of the Helmerich Center for American Research, a unit of the City of Tulsa's Gilcrease Museum. The new facility is adjacent to the museum on Gilcrease Museum Road.

A weekend full of free events is planned, including Native American and Latin American dancers, the Cherokee National Youth Choir, red dirt/Americana band The 66. There will be lectures on art and history, art-making, kite-flying, and map-reading activities for children. Food trucks will be on hand and the museum restaurant will be open. It would be easy to spend the entire weekend out there.

Legendary guitarist, singer, picker and grinner Roy Clark, fiddler Jana Jae, and the Tulsa Playboys will perform together on Saturday at 2:30 p.m. on the main stage. The event is free and unticketed; seating is first come, first served.

The Red Dirt Rangers will close out the weekend Sunday evening at 4 p.m.

Because of limited parking at Gilcrease, visitors are encouraged to park in designated lots downtown and take a five-minute shuttle ride to the museum.

MORE: Here's an earlier -- much earlier -- performance of Orange Blossom Special with Roy Clark and Tulsa Playboys bandleader Shelby Eicher. Eicher shows up about 7:40 into the video.


Our family was among those huddled under a tent as the cold drizzle continued into mid-afternoon. We were delighted to listen to the Cherokee National Choir sing songs like "Take the Name of Jesus with You," "Battle Hymn of the Republic," and "I'll Fly Away" in the language of Sequoyah. Around 2:05, a few minutes after the choir left the stage, the Tulsa Playboys began to set up. They were in place, but there was some inexplicable delay. A sound check began after the show was scheduled to start, and it was quickly apparent that the sound man had no earthly idea what he was doing.

Former City Councilor Susan Neal stepped up on stage, there to represent Gilcrease Museum and the University of Tulsa, which appears to think it owns the museum. Awesome: An incompetent at the sound board and one of the worst city councilors in Tulsa history on stage. Neal was elected city councilor by a narrow plurality in 2002, thanks to an email from a developer ally trashing her opponent, a sensible and soft-spoken midtown neighborhood association leader, as anti-growth. As councilor Neal was part of a developer-driven group reviewing zoning policy out of reach of the Open Meetings Act, opposed accountability for Great Plains Airlines, opposed defending City of Tulsa land against condemnation by the county for a bridge, and refused to oppose the recall of her fellow Republican councilors. Kathy Taylor hired her as an aide in 2006, and in that post she applauded a decision to shelve Tulsa Preservation Commission endorsement of the very modest CORE recommendations to protect historic downtown buildings.

But I digress. The technical delay allowed the rain to stop and fans to fill the uncovered seats. After the Tulsa Playboys played a chorus of "Big Beaver" to serve as a sound check, Neal introduced the band.

The Tulsa Playboys were excellent as always, kicking off with their theme song, and playing "San Antonio Rose," "Sugar Moon," "Cherokee Maiden," "Blues for Dixie," "Corrine, Corrina," and "My Window Faces the South."

Occasionally Eicher would ask the sound man to make an adjustment -- the monitors were too loud, the trombone's mic was too quiet, the steel guitar was too hot -- but the sound man didn't seem to know how. He'd touch a button or two on the console, but to no effect.

Jana Jae came to the stage, praising the Playboys persistence -- "we haven't had a sound check, haven't had a rehearsal, but these guys can do anything" -- and her fiddle mic was way too loud. At one point she said to the sound man, "If there's any reverb on we can turn the reverb off." But nothing changed. Jana Jae led the Playboys through "Old Joe Clark," "Blue Valley Waltz," "Limerock," "Milk Cow Blues," and another fiddle tune.

Then Roy Clark came out. He's 81, and not a spry 81. (The stage could have been better arranged to make it easier for him to get into position, but he managed the hazards without incident.) Clark's voice is a little gravelly, but he's still every bit the entertainer, cracking jokes ("You realize it's taken four people to get me into this position?") and displaying still-deft fingerwork on the guitar. He kicked off with "Alabama Jubilee," but his vocal mic wasn't turned up enough to be heard over the instruments. (The Playboys did their best to adjust, and at some point I think the sound man managed to get some more volume on the mic.)

Clark introduced "something serious, something that will leave you thinking about life, love, and all of the above": "Thank God and Greyhound You're Gone." Next up: "What a Wonderful World" and "Ghost Riders in the Sky" (as a Duane Eddy-style instrumental, with Clark as lead guitar). Clark saluted couples celebrating anniversaries with "If I Had to Do It All Over Again (I'd Do It With You)"; he and his wife just celebrated their 57th on August 31st. He sang "the most requested song I ever did": "Yesterday When I Was Young." They brought out Roy's fiddle, and he and Jana played "Faded Love" and "Orange Blossom Special." But once again technical issues interfered: the mic on Roy's fiddle didn't seem to be on at all. You could hear it a bit through his vocal mic, and what I could hear sounded good, but it couldn't be heard very well.

As Roy left the stage, the Tulsa Playboys closed the performance with a chorus of "Take Me Back to Tulsa."

I felt sorry for the sound man. I suspect he was thrown into the job without having the necessary training or knowledge of the setup -- a last-minute substitute perhaps. Whoever put the poor guy in that position ought to be fired. It was a disservice to the performers and the audience. You don't invite a bona fide star to perform, gratis, and then fail to provide a way for him to be clearly heard by the audience.

After the show, we walked through the Zarrow Building, peeking through the window at the artifact conservation lab, and then walking through the security tunnel back to the main museum building. The tunnel is set up like a gallery, with gallery lighting, and is currently displaying a collection of artifacts from the Miller Brothers' 101 Ranch Wild West Show, pre-Civil War paintings by George Catlin, and contemporary paintings acquired from artists at the annual Gilcrease Rendezvous. We were told that this corridor -- clearly setup for display of artwork -- would only be open this weekend and then would be closed to the public. It made me think of the Mormon practice of allowing public tours of their temples prior to consecration; afterwards you have to have the proper credentials to gain admission. Seems a shame.

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This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on September 5, 2014 12:48 AM.

Eldon Shamblin and Smokey Dacus tell tales of the Texas Playboys was the previous entry in this blog.

Editorial cartoonist Michael Ramirez visits Tulsa, September 18-19 is the next entry in this blog.

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