Leon Russell exhibit to be featured at OKPOP museum

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Leon Russell discusses OKPOP Museum exhibit.
Leon Russell discusses OKPOP Museum exhibit.
Updated: 1/30/2013 9:04 am Published: 1/29/2013 3:45 pm

Grammy Award-winning Oklahoma music legend Leon Russell made an appearance in Tulsa to help announce that a collection of items featuring him and his work has been acquired by the Oklahoma Historical Society for display at the future Oklahoma Museum of Popular Culture.

During the announcement, Russell reminisced about his early years in Oklahoma and talked about the honor of being included in the OKPOP Museum.

“When I was a youngster, I saw Jascha Heifetz at the Municipal Theater in Tulsa, now known as ‘the ol' lady on Brady,’” Russell said. “I also saw different inspiring shows like Clyde McPhatter, Lloyd Price, Chuck Berry, Ruth Brown and Jerry Lee Lewis. It was my pleasure to go on the road with Jerry Lee a couple of years later.

“When I first went to California at the age of 17, there was no home cooking like fried catfish or iced tea to be found anywhere in the state. In later years, Mayor Dewey Bartlett was a partner in the company that designed and built a home and recording studio at my Grand Lake estate.

“And now the good people of Oklahoma want to build a magnificent museum to honor me and others like me. God is good, amen and amen.”

Born in Lawton, Okla., Russell began his musical career in Tulsa before moving to Los Angeles, Calif. He has worked in a variety of musical genres as a songwriter, collaborator and performing and recording artist. He has performed and collaborated with other notable artists throughout his career, including George Harrison, Ray Charles, Eric Clapton, The Beach Boys, Willie Nelson, Frank Sinatra, Bob Dylan and The Rolling Stones. His song, “This Masquerade,” won a Grammy for Record of the Year in 1976, and he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2011. He was recently on tour with Elton John to promote their album, "The Union.”

The collection contains more than 4,500 items related to Russell’s historic musical career, including photos, audio recordings, video, record albums, CDs, concert tickets, shirts, posters, magazines, books, articles and more. Several pieces from the collection were on display for the announcement Tuesday at the Hardesty Arts Center in Tulsa’s historic Brady District, where the museum is planned to be built.

“It is such an honor for the Oklahoma Historical Society to be able to add this collection to the list of impressive examples of Oklahoma’s musical and cultural talent that will be on display in the OKPOP Museum,” said Dr. Bob Blackburn, executive director of OHS. “It is an even greater honor to have Leon with us here today to celebrate this occasion. We are truly grateful for his support.”

“The Oklahoma Historical Society has 32 museums and historic sites in Oklahoma, but none of the museums and sites are in Tulsa,” Bartlett said. “The OKPOP Museum is the perfect project for the city of Tulsa and the state of Oklahoma, and we need both private and public partners to work together to make this museum a reality.”

The OKPOP Museum will not be built without the Oklahoma Legislature’s approval of a $42.5 million bond issue to help fund construction of the museum. It will be located in the Brady Arts District of Tulsa on land that is currently a surface parking lot on the southeast corner of Archer Street and Boston Avenue. Bank of Oklahoma has offered to donate the 90,000-square-foot block, contingent on the authorization of the bond issue by the Legislature and the construction of an adjoining parking garage by OHS.

With approval of the bond issue, the OKPOP Museum could open as early as 2017.

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Mayor Maynot - 1/30/2013 10:12 PM
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Rock on Leon.
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