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Leon Russell's Birthday Bash

By John Wooley World Scene Writer
Tulsa Daily World
Published: 4/4/2006

The city's rock 'n' roll pioneers helped celebrate Leon Russell birthday bash

        Maybe Friday night's Brady Theater show had a little bit of an unwieldy name. But the 2006 Tulsa Sound Homecoming and 20th Anniversary Leon Russell Birthday Bash lived up to every bit of it.
        The concert was not only a homecoming for Russell, but a bash for the folks -- and their friends and fans -- who shared the music with him, whether 50 years ago when rock 'n' roll was fresh and new and a little dangerous, or in the '70s, when Russell returned home to help bring the classic Tulsa Sound to full flower.
        As the always entertaining Johnny Williams, who played saxophone and served for a time as de facto announcer in the first part of the show, put it, "I think all of us up here worked for Leon at one time or another."
        It was quite a group up there, playing before a crowd of approximately 1,600. In lieu of a single opening act, a number of veteran Tulsa musicians -- put together by Tulsa Sound pioneer Jimmy Markham -- gathered in various configurations to do 15 songs, the featured vocalists coming on in chronological order, more or less. So, '50s rock 'n' roll trailblazers Gene Crose and Bobby Taylor, who fronted two of the earliest rock combos in Tulsa, were also the first two to come out and play Friday night.
        Later on, '70s guys like Ray D. Rowe, Don White and Rockin' Jimmy Byfield had their turns. Each featured artist did one song, with well-known players checking in and out behind them. (A few of them, including guitarist Tom Tripplehorn and keyboardist Walt Richmond, stayed onstage through most of the show.)
        ... Former recording artist Clyde Stacy reprised his "Hoy Hoy" single, black-clad Bill Pair performed a gritty "Polk Salad Annie" and an unusually feisty Bill Davis laid "Suzie Q" on the crowd, while Larry Bell did "The Mess Around" and Rowe got the crowd singing along to "Down Home Blues." Rowe was a tough act to follow, but White managed to do it, playing an original song about Tulsa musicians in his traditional laid-back style. [Tulsa Shuffle]
        ... many of his old cronies returned to the stage to share in a rock 'n' roll classics medley of "Kansas City," "Great Balls of Fire" and "Roll Over Beethoven," Russell -- as well as those who came before him -- had shown us once again that yes, Virginia, something came out of Tulsa in the '50s and '60s and into the '70s, something that can make songs as disparate as "Daddy Sang Bass" and "Jumpin' Jack Flash" sound like they belong together ....

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