TULSA, Okla. — The Church Studio has opened its doors to the public, exactly 50 years from the day that Tulsa legend Leon Russell originally bought the building.
The grand opening comes after a five year, multi-million dollar restoration project. The recording studio is located on Trenton Avenue in Tulsa, where Russell operated Shelter Records.
It is once again a fully functional recording studio. They’ve already recorded Kenny Loggins, and Jimmy Webb is also reported to have plans to record at the studio.
The Church Studio’s owner and developer, Teresa Knox, says she wants to honor Russell’s life and legacy.
“I think it’s really important. We are in a small cohort of historic recording studios, like Motown RCA, Studio B, Muscle Shoals, Capitol Records. I love that we have this historic landmark, this historic recording studio right here in our backyard in Tulsa. I’m very excited that people will get to enjoy that,” says Knox.
Knox also hopes that the studio puts Tulsa back on the music industry’s map. She hopes it will help musicians from Tulsa while also bringing in more musicians to the city.
“We have a lot of local artists, young artists, and seasoned artists that live here. They’ll be recording at the Church, but we also have a lot of national and international artists,” said Knox.
Many iconic musicians have recorded at the studio over the years, including Tom Petty, Eric Clapton, and Willie Nelson. Knox says she’s invited Nelson back to record, but she hasn’t heard back yet.
The restoration project included a 500 pound statue of Russell, which stands outside the building. “I always tease that we’re giving the Golden Driller a run for his money, but I just love that even when we’re closed, the community can come over here and take a picture of Leon,” said Knox.
Many Tulsans stopped by Tuesday to take a tour during the grand opening. Danny Boy O’Connor, a musician and owner of the Outsiders House Museum, was one of those people taking a look inside.
“I think for young, up-and-coming Okies, this is a completely new resource where they can come and not only learn about the great history that Leon has left behind, but create their own history. And hopefully, their kids will come here and realize this was where their parents made their first record,” said O’Connor.
Knox would like to open an audio engineering school in the future. The studio also has event spaces available. Public tours are available for $5. The Church Studio has been added to the National Register of Historic Places.
Russell died in 2016. Knox says she’s not sure what he would make of all the attention, but she hopes he would have enjoyed seeing the studio brought back to life.
“He was a little bit shy, I’m not sure how he would feel about a big statue of himself at the front door. But, we did put a lot of thought and energy into the gear, and he was a gear head. He loved to have the latest and greatest in equipment, so I think he would be really happy with what we’ve done in the studio.”
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