Colin Warde Follows His Yellow Brick Road: Oklahoma and The Film Industry

Colin Warde Follows His Yellow Brick Road: Oklahoma and The Film Industry

Col­in Warde and The Film Indus­try in Okla­homa

CL Har­mon

Have you ever won­dered what it’s like to work on a movie set and in the show­biz field? I have, and so I asked some­one who knows, a native Okla­homan who is a big part of the still small, yet grow­ing film-mak­ing indus­try in our state. His descrip­tions of his expe­ri­ences read much like a Show­biz 101 class for all those inter­est­ed in var­i­ous aspects of the field while giv­ing insight as to what it’s like to pur­sue a career in the film and tele­vi­sion career. This Still­wa­ter res­i­dent recent­ly spoke to Unique­la­homa about fol­low­ing his yel­low brick road to a field of dreams amid an indus­try where jobs come and then are gone with the wind.

Col­in Warde is one of the thou­sands of cogs in a machine nec­es­sary for the pro­duc­tion of any prod­uct. As with any func­tion­ing piece of machin­ery, each cog, nut, bolt, and han­dle is a must if the machine is to keep run­ning smooth­ly. Over the past ten years, Warde has played many roles in the big machine that projects new worlds on the big screen and the small one. His role in this capac­i­ty has led him to work in many places and among many fas­ci­nat­ing peo­ple. But just as Dorothy on her yel­low brick road, his path too leads him back home too. And there is no place like home…to be in the movie indus­try!

Behind The Scenes

Warde’s dream was not that of the actor who wants to make it big in Hol­ly­wood. Although he does act on occa­sion, he always felt that the act­ing gig was finan­cial­ly volatile. He, instead, chose a dream of doing some­thing that he enjoyed which was still men­tal­ly and phys­i­cal­ly chal­leng­ing. As an Eagle Scout, he had been chal­lenged, and that was some­thing he want­ed in a career as well. Although unaware at the time in 2003 that work­ing in the film indus­try was the path he would fol­low, an invi­ta­tion to work with a friend on an ama­teur film project would set him on that course. His friend and fel­low stu­dent at OSU asked him to act in a hor­ror movie. (Think Blair Witch Project type of film.) How­ev­er, the act­ing did­n’t intrigue him as much as every­thing else did.

It would­n’t take long before he began to real­ize how many dif­fer­ent aspects are in involved in mak­ing a movie. As this was low bud­get, there was­n’t any mon­ey to pay for all of these dif­fer­ent aspects, and so his friend was jug­gling them all on his own. This issue became an oppor­tu­ni­ty for Warde to begin work­ing behind the scenes to help out his friend. After grad­u­a­tion, he was unsure as to which direc­tion to go. He was not sure about act­ing, but he felt some­thing in the enter­tain­ment field was call­ing to him. He ini­tial­ly thought Chica­go was a good place to get his feet wet…he was wrong. There just was­n’t a mar­ket there at that time.

FILM 101

The lack of mar­ket has become a real­i­ty that I deal with all of the time, Warde said. He was learn­ing how quick­ly the wind of for­tune can sweep in and how quick­ly they can be gone to the wind. He moved back to Okla­homa and set­tled in the city (OKC). He had bought into all the hype of crime and gang activ­i­ty in Los Ange­les and New York City, and it had made him uneasy about mov­ing out to one of those places where there was a thriv­ing mar­ket. As such, he was at a stand­still. Then his moth­er sug­gest­ed that he check out Okla­homa City Com­mu­ni­ty Col­lege because she had been told that it had a very good film and video pro­gram. At first, he was skep­ti­cal. After all, this was Okla­homa, not exact­ly a mec­ca for the film indus­try.

His skep­ti­cism was laid to rest though when he learned that Fritz Kier­sch, Direc­tor of Chil­dren of the Corn and Gray Fred­er­ick­son, Co-Pro­duc­er of The God­fa­ther Part II and Apoc­a­lypse Now were teach­ing class­es in the pro­gram. So at 25 years of age and with a Bach­e­lor Degree already in hand, he became a stu­dent again and loved it. His involve­ment there would lead to an inter­est­ing oppor­tu­ni­ty. Kier­sch and Fred­er­ick­son were pro­duc­ing a hor­ror movie enti­tled “The Hunt” over spring break and nat­u­ral­ly put out that they were look­ing for help.

The Tie That Binds

I have a friend who always tells this sto­ry about me. While all of the oth­er stu­dents were show­ing up for inter­views in sweat­shirts and dressed like they were going for a job at Piz­za Hut, I came with a tie and resume pre­pared for a pro­fes­sion­al inter­view. He found out lat­er Kier­sch had said he hired him as soon as he saw he was wear­ing a tie. He was employed as a pro­duc­tion assis­tant and had a great time learn­ing how a movie gets made. He con­tin­ued liv­ing in OKC and began mak­ing con­tacts and build­ing his resume by work­ing in pro­duc­tion depart­ments one movie or com­mer­cial at a time in the mar­ket that was grow­ing in Okla­homa.

Warde explained that when peo­ple see you on set and notice that you work hard and show up on time, some­one will even­tu­al­ly ‚“scoop you up and ask you what you like doing and what inter­ests you‚”. When this hap­pened to him, he end­ed up in the art depart­ment, which con­sists of the set and props. Some­thing about cre­at­ing an atmos­phere and devel­op­ing an ambiance appealed to him. This would ben­e­fit him great­ly when he moved to Los Ange­les. He was lured out there by a friend who got him a job on a tele­vi­sion series. Unfor­tu­nate­ly, that mid-sea­son replace­ment did­n’t  go any­where, and four months lat­er he was out of a job, but not for long. He then worked on the Jeff Gold­blum cop show, Raines. Work­ing in tele­vi­sion was excit­ing for him even though the shows he worked on did not mate­ri­al­ize into long-run­ning series.

Winds of Fortune

But hey I was work­ing in LA, and it was excit­ing,” Warde said. He explains that every­thing on tele­vi­sion as far as suc­cess and longevi­ty is like throw­ing spaghet­ti at the wall and see­ing what sticks. Because of this, one might get on a show and have a job for ten years or one that lasts only a few months. He explains the type of is work like an adren­a­line rush where there is intense ener­gy fol­lowed by a calm noth­ing­ness. The film and tele­vi­sion indus­try is not a steady pay­check, but there are so many avenues in show busi­ness with so many peo­ple involved that one can usu­al­ly find work of one sort or anoth­er. A phone call from a net­work exec­u­tive who remem­bered him from the first series he worked on remem­bered him and offered him a job that count­less peo­ple must have envied.

ENERGIZE!

Nobody knew that I had been watch­ing Star Trek my entire life when they hand­ed me the keys and code to the build­ing with all of it‚ every­thing from the fran­chise! Warde was a huge fan who had just been giv­en the respon­si­bil­i­ty to sort, cat­e­go­rize and sell the entire lot of mem­o­ra­bil­ia from one of the most suc­cess­ful fran­chis­es in cin­e­mat­ic his­to­ry. He was in awe, and although it was not what he came to LA to do, he could­n’t turn it down. The tough­est part was decid­ing what had to be destroyed. Unfor­tu­nate­ly, not all of it could be sold. This was “heart­break­ing” he said. There were six ware­hous­es of every­thing from phasers to cos­tumes to large set com­po­nents. “It looked just like the ware­house in the Indi­ana Jones movie, Raiders of the Lost Ark with crate upon crate in a des­o­late loca­tion. Over the next three years, he ran online auc­tions aver­ag­ing $100,000 per week in sales while mak­ing a very good liv­ing for him­self. Although he was not work­ing on a set at the time, it was an incred­i­ble oppor­tu­ni­ty to be work­ing in an atmos­phere of such his­tor­i­cal sig­nif­i­cance.

The Voy­age Home

Sad­ly though, all good things come to an end. With­out anoth­er job lined up and a child on the way, the next step up was the voy­age home. He came back to Okla­homa, became a father and began rein­vent­ing him­self to fit into what was hap­pen­ing, pro­duc­tion-wise at home. At that time, com­mer­cials were the big thing, and he found him­self immersed in that aspect of it, again in the art depart­ment. The tim­ing was per­fect. The Okla­homa City Thun­der had become a big deal, and sud­den­ly huge com­pa­nies like Nike and ESPN among oth­ers were there to cash in. This influx of new busi­ness made his tal­ents in the art depart­ment very valu­able. He was local and avail­able. All of his hard work and patience was pay­ing off.

August Through December Osage County

I was hun­gry and fierce. It was awe­some! I was build­ing my kit and all of my equip­ment and gear,” he said. All of the com­mer­cials would final­ly lead to his big oppor­tu­ni­ty in Okla­homa, work­ing on August: Osage Coun­ty with an all-star cast includ­ing Julia Roberts, Meryl Streep, Chris Coop­er, Ewan McGre­gor and Sam Shep­ard among oth­ers. An inter­est­ing fact from behind the scenes, Warde said that August Osage actu­al­ly went all the way into Decem­ber Osage. As per his job of keep­ing the set look­ing like it was sum­mer (Set Con­ti­nu­ity), the art depart­ment was paint­ing the grass green and using zip ties to replace fall­en leaves from the trees. There is no busi­ness like show busi­ness as the say­ing goes. Since his return to Okla­homa, he has become one of, if not the top art per­son in Okla­homa. This accom­plish­ment is some­thing he is very proud of and val­i­da­tion that he has been on the right road these past ten years. He also now works in pro­duc­tion design as well which puts him work­ing with the direc­tors on the over­all feel of the pro­duc­tion.
Warde has worked with and loves men­tor­ing peo­ple and con­sid­ers him­self a teacher to those who tru­ly have a desire to work in the indus­try. Dur­ing his career, he has had the oppor­tu­ni­ty to work in a lot of loca­tions due to his desire to be a part of the film indus­try. Also, just like Film 101, he is always will­ing to teach new­com­ers how to find their role and become part of the big­ger pic­ture that is movie mak­ing.

A Picture Speaks a Thousand Words, A Thousand Pictures Tell of a Legacy

A Picture Speaks a Thousand Words, A Thousand Pictures Tell of a Legacy

A Thou­sand Pic­tures Tell of a Lega­cy

CL HARMON

 

Have you ever met some­one for the first time and instant­ly know that this per­son is going to be your friend? There is just some­thing about them that you con­nect with…as though you already knew them on a deep­er lev­el. I recent­ly inter­viewed some­one like that. He is a hum­ble and kin­dred spir­it of sorts, a fol­low­er of nos­tal­gia who makes his­to­ry in his efforts to cap­ture it. He is a man who watched the orig­i­nal Pink Floyd’s The Wall and shot it with a cam­era he smug­gled in. He is a man who shared a joint with Tom Pet­ty dur­ing an inter­view. He is a man who got Pat Benatar to hold up a copy of a mag­a­zine with a Play­boy Play­mate on the cov­er. He is, with­out a doubt, a unique indi­vid­ual. Allow me to intro­duce Ver­non Gowdy III.

Like many teens and young adults of the 1970’s, Gowdy fell in love with rock music and con­certs. Back then, he was a “sci­ence nerd” who stud­ied what was under a micro­scope and not behind a micro­phone. How­ev­er, the idea of look­ing at some­thing through a nar­rowed lens intrigued him. Just as an organ­ism in biol­o­gy class came alive to the human eye under mag­ni­fi­ca­tion, music came alive to him behind the lens of a cam­era. This would start a life-long pas­sion that would bring some of the most inter­est­ing peo­ple in the world into his frame of view.

VERNON GOWDY

PHOTO 101

He had been hooked on con­certs as a live music fan since his first con­cert in 1975 when his sis­ter took him to see Rod Stew­art. But, dur­ing his col­lege years at OU, he began to cul­ti­vate an inter­est in pho­tog­ra­phy as well as con­cert going. Soon, an oppor­tu­ni­ty arose that he believed would allow him to merge the two inter­ests. He was right!

I had been tak­ing pic­tures at con­certs since 1976, but in 1977, I noticed a review of a show with pho­tos in the col­lege news­pa­per and thought I could get bet­ter pic­tures than that,”. He imme­di­ate­ly applied for a posi­tion with the Okla­homa Dai­ly col­lege news­pa­per and was hired. It wouldn’t be long before he got his first assign­ment. Who could’ve known then that his first show would become of great his­tor­i­cal sig­nif­i­cance world­wide? It would be a small event back then dubbed as the Sex Pis­tols at Cain’s Ball­room. In recent months, that show would be com­mem­o­rat­ed 40 years to the day by a large write-up in the Tul­sa World and an inter­view with con­cert pro­mot­er Lar­ry Sha­ef­fer who booked them. Deter­mined to suc­ceed with this first show, he drove his Camaro for over four hours in a snow­storm to make the engage­ment. Any­one who has dri­ven an old Camaro knows that it’s a sled with a mind of its own when it comes to ice and snow. Even then he was deter­mined to get the shot.

RIGHT ON TARGET

Gowdy con­tin­ued hon­ing his pho­tog­ra­phy skills while with the paper, includ­ing sports, con­certs and oth­er sub­ject mat­ter rel­a­tive to a school paper. How­ev­er, it was the con­certs that he loved shoot­ing. Because of this love, he had some­thing that most peo­ple didn’t have; authen­tic, one-of-kind con­cert shots of famous musi­cians play­ing live. As impos­si­ble as it is today even to believe such things were ever pos­si­ble, Gowdy used his posi­tion as a part-time employ­ee for Tar­get work­ing in the Records & Cam­era depart­ment to not only spin the new albums released, bur also to dis­play his pho­tos on the counter and sell them for a dol­lar or two. He did this with man­age­ment approval. It prob­a­bly wouldn’t take secu­ri­ty long today to toss an employ­ee off the receiv­ing dock today if they attempt­ed such a thing. But hey, it was the 70’s!

I got my Bach­e­lor of Sci­ence degree in Micro­bi­ol­o­gy in May 1979 and began work­ing as a Senior Research Tech­ni­cian at the Okla­homa Med­ical Research Foun­da­tion (OMRF) doing can­cer research. I worked there for about a year but then quit to do JAM Mag­a­zine full time,” Gowdy said. The “sci­ence nerd” still want­ed to focus on what was alive, but it was what was liv­ing on a con­cert stage that cap­ti­vat­ed him more than what was liv­ing under a micro­scope. The first issue of JAM mag­a­zine debuted in Sep­tem­ber 1979. He was then able to work out a deal with the man­ag­er of the Boomer The­atre in Nor­man where he obtained an office in which to give JAM mag­a­zine a home.

SPREADING THE JAM

This oppor­tu­ni­ty turned out to be a gold­mine for Gowdy. It just so hap­pened that Lar­ry Sha­ef­fer of Lit­tle Wing Pro­duc­tions had start­ed book­ing shows there. So now Gowdy had a steady stream of artists such as Pat Benatar, The Talk­ing Heads, The Fab­u­lous Thun­der­birds and many more in the same build­ing. Instant mate­r­i­al! Even bet­ter was that he only had to walk down­stairs to shoot pho­tos of the shows for the mag­a­zine. Gowdy recalls a fun­ny sto­ry in 1979 when Pat Benatar played that venue: Gowdy and his busi­ness part­ner asked her to hold up a JAM t‑shirt and a copy of the recent edi­tion, which hap­pened to have a cov­er pho­to of Playboy’s 25th Anniver­sary Play­mate Can­dy Lov­ing. He recalled her facial expres­sion as she held up the cov­er of Lov­ing to be one of, ‘Uh…do I look weird hold­ing this up?’. She was very “cool” about it though, he said.

The mag­a­zine idea had been the brain­child of three for­mer employ­ees of the col­lege paper who saw a need for a pub­li­ca­tion about music in Okla­homa. With very lit­tle expe­ri­ence, the three men turned it into a pop­u­lar pub­li­ca­tion that was even spon­sored by area radio sta­tions. Although the pop­u­lar­i­ty was grow­ing, prof­its were elu­sive, and by 1984 Gowdy began ques­tion­ing if he was on the right track. He decid­ed it was time to move on and his part­ner David Huff took the strug­gling mag­a­zine to Dal­las where it con­tin­ued in print for sev­er­al more years. Even­tu­al­ly, it moved to online where it con­tin­ues cov­er­ing music enter­tain­ment. Gowdy began tak­ing pho­tos for them again sev­er­al years ago and main­tains the titles of senior staff pho­tog­ra­ph­er and co-founder.

THE WRITE STUFF

Dur­ing his time with the mag­a­zine, Gowdy would hit the road in search of music. He seemed to have a knack for being in the right place at the right time and always cam­era ready. He shot sev­er­al his­tor­i­cal shows at Texas Jam begin­ning with the first in 1978 at the Cot­ton Bowl. He also flew to Los Ange­les and shot the orig­i­nal Pink Floyd The Wall show and St. Louis to shoot Fleet­wood Mac. Still to come in his pho­tog­ra­phy career were Robert Plant, Sam­my Hagar, Steve Per­ry (Jour­ney), Nan­cy Wil­son (Heart) Niki Sixx (Mot­ley Crue) and many oth­ers in var­i­ous venues. What makes this man so amaz­ing is the preser­va­tion of icon­ic music his­to­ry for which he is respon­si­ble. Although this was not the ini­tial rea­son to shoot, sav­ing his­to­ry is what he was doing. He has an incred­i­ble col­lec­tion of unique moments in his­to­ry that would oth­er­wise not exist. There may have been oth­er pho­tog­ra­phers at those venues, but as any pho­tog­ra­ph­er knows, each shot is a unique piece of art that is dif­fer­ent by each one who points the lens.

At heart, this Okla­homan is a lover of his­to­ry. To this end, Gowdy began putting words and pho­tos to book pages. His desire to keep music his­to­ry alive prompt­ed him to write two books about the Dia­mond Ball­room in Okla­homa City. While shoot­ing there, he became excit­ed about the many music leg­ends that played there since its open­ing in 1964. He was fas­ci­nat­ed as well how the ball­room had such an array of artists rang­ing from Coun­try Swing to Heavy Met­al through­out its exis­tence. He felt the ball­room was a sto­ry worth telling and a piece of his­to­ry that every­one should know.

I feel that my books and pho­tos con­tain his­to­ry that peo­ple should know about and that is impor­tant to Okla­homa his­to­ry,” Gowdy said. In addi­tion to his books on the Dia­mond Ball­room, he has sev­er­al works pub­lished that include com­pi­la­tions of pho­tos from Rock­la­homa and Texas Jam. In addi­tion, he has pub­lished Adven­tures of a Rock Pho­tog­ra­ph­er Vol. 1 & Vol. 2, Dia­mond Ball­room: From Coun­try Swing to Heavy Met­al and From These Walls: His­to­ry of the Dia­mond Ball­room. He is cur­rent­ly the house pho­tog­ra­ph­er for DCF Con­certs and pro­motes his books at var­i­ous venues. He even donates the pro­ceeds from his Rock­la­homa books to char­i­ty. As I wrote in the begin­ning, this is a man I cer­tain­ly call a friend.

Oh…one more thing. If you ever get a chance to read Sam­my Hagar’s biog­ra­phy, take a look at the back cov­er pho­to. There you will find the icon­ic Gowdy pho­to of Sam­my jump­ing in the air with his Fly­ing V gui­tar tak­en in Dal­las in 1979. And that is a pho­to wor­thy of any his­to­ry book!

An Enlightened Musical Experience Is No Myth

An Enlightened Musical Experience Is No Myth

An Enlight­ened Musi­cal Expe­ri­ence Is No Myth

CL HARMON

Dis­cov­er­ing some­thing new and dif­fer­ent is usu­al­ly an inter­est­ing or at least an enlight­en­ing expe­ri­ence. Doing this and real­iz­ing that you like it, well that is just is cool.  It’s like tast­ing an unknown choco­late in a picked over box Rus­sell Stovers’ can­dy and being pleas­ant­ly sur­prised. Tul­sa area band Mod­ern­Myth was just such a morsel in an array of the metaphor­i­cal box of musi­cians in the Tul­sa area.

Hav­ing a sit-down inter­view before a recent show in Tul­sa, I was drawn into an unex­pect­ed dynam­ic. Fired up to hear sto­ries about their meth­ods of cre­at­ing music and the philoso­phies behind them, I was instead exposed to a sense of broth­er­hood where uni­ty was the cen­tral focus.  All in their ear­ly thir­ties, the mem­bers are Aaron Har­ris singing vocals, John­ny Digges on gui­tar, Elliot Hett on bass, Matt Walk­er on gui­tar and Jake White on drums.  To my sur­prise, each mem­ber spoke about the oth­er mem­bers and their con­tri­bu­tions to the band.  The appre­ci­a­tion for the oth­er member’s tal­ents and the ele­ments each brings to the music was refresh­ing in a busi­ness not usu­al­ly known for such cour­tesy and loy­al­ty.

Mod­ern Myth play­ing at the Van­guard in Tul­sa.

Pho­tos By Chad J. Clark.

Per­haps, part of this men­tal­i­ty stems from the fact that each is a self-taught musi­cian. There­fore they share a nat­ur­al love for just music and the dis­ci­pline required to become inti­mate­ly engaged in its cre­ation. The mem­bers all agree as well that they are drawn to oth­ers who share a “pas­sion” for music. To break this down, they do all share some sim­i­lar tastes in music such as the Deftones and much of the music which came out of the nineties. But they also have var­ied tastes as well which their fel­low mem­bers embrace and invite into the music they are cre­at­ing and play­ing.

We are a 100 per­cent feel band,” Digges said. So when new ideas are brought in, the musi­cians bring them to the fore­front and exper­i­ment to see if they are all feel­ing it as some­thing wor­thy to pur­sue fur­ther.  Har­ris explained that they explore all music options. This allows them to evolve and grow in the music and in their friend­ships with each oth­er.

The band has been togeth­er for six years. Har­ris, Digges, and White played togeth­er in the band The Dawn Arma­da for five years before form­ing Mod­ern­Myth. That band released one album and then played the release show with Walker’s band at the time, Hail the Blessed Hour, as the open­ing band.  As fate would have it, The Dawn Arma­da broke up imme­di­ate­ly fol­low­ing the release, but the three kept play­ing togeth­er as friends with­out a band name.  A short time lat­er, a few mem­bers of Walker’s band quit, and he asked the for­mer mem­bers of The Dawn Arma­da to fill in for them. Friend­ships formed fol­lowed by the cre­ation of Mod­ern­Myth.

Digges explained that the band began look­ing for a new unique sound which they achieved in part through the use of sev­en-string gui­tars.  Both of the for­mer bands had played heav­ier met­al music and with their for­mer bands but decid­ed to go more melod­ic with Mod­ern­Myth. They found that by using the heav­ier equip­ment to for­mu­late a more mel­low music, they cre­at­ed some­thing that doesn’t quite fit into a spe­cif­ic genre. White calls it close to heavy clas­sic rock, but not in the man­ner known as acid rock in the 70s. Walk­er says, that to him, it’s a clas­sic heavy met­al sound with a twist of alter­na­tive.

They all agree it’s a “very Def Tone vibe,” but yet alto­geth­er some­thing dif­fer­ent found out in the no man’s land of post Grunge and the expand­ing land of Pro­gres­sive music.

We def­i­nite­ly don’t turn our noses up in the air to any music. We love all types of music,” Walk­er said. With each mem­ber hav­ing diverse tastes in music rang­ing from heavy met­al to smooth jazz to Indie Rock to even Pink Floyd, they can cre­ate with­out the lim­its of prej­u­di­cial opin­ions against any genre. Digges explained that the moments dur­ing prac­tice when all of the dif­fer­ent ele­ments from the instru­ments and the imag­i­na­tions of the indi­vid­u­als play­ing them come togeth­er in a chaot­ic rhythm to form a spark is the band’s favorite aspect. Although they do enjoy per­form­ing and record­ing, those moments of true cre­ation are what dri­ves them. As with their cre­ation of music, they also oper­ate on an enlight­ened lev­el per­son­al­ly as well through respect and humil­i­ty, accord­ing to all the mem­bers.

If you ask any of them which is more impor­tant, our music or our friend­ship, we will take our friend­ship every time,” Digges said. All of the oth­er mem­bers chimed in as well in agree­ment with this state­ment. They con­sid­er them­selves broth­ers. And as all broth­ers, they don’t always agree. How­ev­er, part of that enlight­ened sta­tus they have achieved and the mutu­al respect they share pro­vides them with the insight to keep egos out of the cre­ation process. With­out egos to get in the way, there is an oppor­tu­ni­ty to cre­ate some­thing new and dif­fer­ent that can’t even be clas­si­fied in a spe­cif­ic genre. Mod­ern­Myth has cre­at­ed a mod­ern sound one could say.

There is some­thing almost spir­i­tu­al about what we do with­in the chem­istry we share. They are moments in time encap­su­lat­ed into some­thing real that can­not be ana­lyzed or faked.” Walk­er said. This chem­istry pro­duced over 30 songs, ten which are due out this sum­mer on their new album.

We want to stay friends and play music. That is what is most impor­tant to me,” White said about where the mem­bers see them­selves in the future. As expect­ed, his fel­low mem­bers agreed. This is in line with their enlight­ened phi­los­o­phy. It goes with­out say­ing that there must be a lev­el of cama­raderie between mem­bers of any band with longevi­ty. But for Mod­ern­Myth, they take it to a lev­el where what is tru­ly impor­tant in life trumps what appears lack­ing in so many oth­er aspects of the arts. Per­haps this is why they can cre­ate unique and pow­er­ful­ly melod­ic music that may nev­er find its way into a genre. They are def­i­nite­ly a sur­pris­ing and fla­vor­ful taste with­in a box of assort­ed of treats that is as unique as it is ful­fill­ing.

The Oklahoma Music Legend You Missed — Part 3

The Oklahoma Music Legend You Missed — Part 3

On A Col­li­sion Course

CL HARMON

 

It’s as though one is stand­ing inside his mem­o­ries while gaz­ing at the walls of his office. Rem­nants of almost 50 years aboard a metaphor­i­cal train that has sped through the years on a mys­tery track lead­ing him on a jour­ney that most only dream of. As the con­duc­tor, this man chose to trav­el through melod­ic scenery as well as the dark­est recess­es to dis­cov­ery for the des­ti­na­tions only avail­able to those who believe in them enough to board a train to nowhere in hopes of find­ing every­where.

GETTING OFF THE GRAVY TRAIN

When we left off last, Lar­ry Sha­ef­fer had decid­ed it was time to return home to Tul­sa after hav­ing spent sev­er­al years on the road with Hank Williams Jr., pro­mot­ing his shows. Now a fam­i­ly man with his wife and one-year-old son Jake, it was time for him to eval­u­ate his pri­or­i­ties. As he would soon dis­cov­er, act­ing upon those desires would be much more dif­fi­cult than he ini­tial­ly believed.

Hav­ing been in the midst of the fast lane lifestyle since the ear­ly 1970s with the sex, drugs and rock n’ roll asso­ci­at­ed with that scene, becom­ing fam­i­ly a man was a lifestyle that was on the oppo­site side of the tracks for Lar­ry. Being in the music busi­ness had been all he had known since those ear­ly days of flip­ping cars and sell­ing fire­works and t‑shirts to make a few bucks. Even with a degree from the Uni­ver­si­ty of Tul­sa, he still only had his music busi­ness expe­ri­ence and the desire to keep the music play­ing in Okla­homa. For­tu­nate­ly, though, he still owned Cain’s Ball­room and had a hefty bank account from his suc­cess­ful pro­mot­ing ven­tures. He believed at that point that there would be “no more big mon­ey” but he was okay with that sit­u­a­tion.

Lar­ry with Van Halen

One of the rea­sons I came back to Tul­sa was that I thought I had enough mon­ey to last for­ev­er. I had done very well finan­cial­ly and I had proven to myself that I could do some big­ger things than what I had been doing…but, then I got into a mar­riage that did not last forever…and it took a lot of mon­ey,” Lar­ry said. He also felt that he had not real­ly put the effort into Cain’s that he should have and it was time to rem­e­dy that.
By his own admis­sion, his best years were 1975 to 1995. His focus on Cain’s was pay­ing off and it became a mec­ca for live music in Tul­sa. Yet, even as a fam­i­ly man, he still could not stop chas­ing the big mon­ey and was “scratch­ing and claw­ing” with the com­pe­ti­tion to bring in are­na shows. His efforts were able to bring Prince, Judas Priest, Tina Turn­er, Van Halen, Willie Nel­son, Kiss, Aero­smith, Metal­li­ca, Ozzy Osbourne and even the great Frank Sina­tra among oth­ers in this attempt and desire to con­tin­ue grow­ing in the busi­ness.

He was ini­tial­ly hap­py to be home and enjoy­ing the absence of trav­el. But in many ways, he was in unchart­ed ter­ri­to­ry. He admits lov­ing the lifestyle and the women who were involved in the music scene as well the wild side of the busi­ness. He had nev­er seen him­self as mar­ried with a nor­mal home life, but there he was, just that. The love for his sons and daugh­ters inspired him to learn how to be a good father, but this alone was not enough for him to keep from drag­ging the chaos sur­round­ing him into his mar­riage and home life. It would soon become obvi­ous to him that the train was on a col­li­sion course. Yet, he still con­tin­ued gain­ing steam to feed what he believed to be chas­ing the Amer­i­can dream.

OBSTACLES ON THE TRACKS

He admits that the stress of his home life cou­pled with the chaos of the busi­ness pushed him fur­ther into drugs and alco­hol.

I had been warned that drugs and alco­hol don’t mix with mon­ey. But I just wasn’t lis­ten­ing. So I made a lot of tac­ti­cal errors. This is where my demise starts,” Lar­ry said. On a more philo­soph­i­cal note and one of ret­ro­spect, he explains that when asked if he would do it over dif­fer­ent­ly, the answer is a resound­ing YES! Per­haps, the best way to describe his response as it relates to this sto­ry is look­ing back at the tracks from where a speed­ing train had just been. Review­ing what had been on the tracks and dec­i­mat­ed by its sheer force and the real­iza­tion that what had been so close was now gone for­ev­er in the dis­tance.

Maybe there were regrets. Maybe even life lessons. What­ev­er they may have been, it was most cer­tain­ly a real­iza­tion that he was destroy­ing what he had so hoped to build by com­ing back to Tul­sa. There would be oth­er obsta­cles on the track in the near future as well such as a rape accu­sa­tion and tri­al before a jury. But those obsta­cles would be just what he need­ed to slow down. He would be cleared of the rape charge, but the dam­age to his rep­u­ta­tion and the con­tin­u­ing spi­ral into drugs and alco­hol were enough to almost derail him.

 

It’s been one hel­lu­va par­ty, hasn’t it?”  ~ Lar­ry Sha­ef­fer

TRAVELING IN THE DARKNESS

I became my own envi­ron­ment. I woke up in the morn­ing being me and doing the same things I did the day before and hoped that it would work,” Lar­ry said. “I also nev­er thought that the flow of mon­ey would quit com­ing. It was so easy to get. This thought process, along with the sub­stance abuse, would ush­er in con­se­quences detri­men­tal to his pro­mot­ing enter­prise. He admits that there were show set­tle­ments that he closed while high that was not han­dled as well as they should have been and this caused riffs between he and the artists. Many of these would have long-last­ing effects.

The show may have sold out and we all made good mon­ey. But I did not make a good impres­sion with the artists I was work­ing with.  There were sev­er­al instances when I nuked myself because of the drugs and alco­hol.” Lar­ry said. One exam­ple of this behav­ior was casu­al­ly offer­ing Garth Brooks’ man­ag­er Bob Doyle cocaine after a show. Doyle was so insult­ed that he informed Brooks, who then refused to work with Lit­tle Wing again. He kept true to his word and has nev­er worked with Lar­ry since.

Some mis­takes you make, you nev­er get through pay­ing for,” Lar­ry said about the Brooks’ inci­dent. He went on to explain that though there were not a large num­ber of those types of mis­takes, there were enough to crip­ple his posi­tion in the busi­ness. He admits that at the time, he had no idea as to how much dam­age to his career he was inflict­ing upon him­self. Inter­est­ing­ly though, he knew to some degree that he was going to derail if things didn’t change, but had no clue as to how to get off the speed­ing train or to stop it.

RUNNING OFF THE RAILS

Dur­ing this peri­od, he had been arrest­ed on mul­ti­ple occa­sions for what he refers to as alco­hol offens­es and his par­ty lifestyle. To add some per­spec­tive about where he was at this point in his life, it should be not­ed that it was not ego that had land­ed Lar­ry into this myr­i­ad of issues he was bat­tling. In fact, it was quite the oppo­site.

This lev­el of fatigue had set in and I had man­aged to keep three balls in the air for many years and I didn’t know how much longer I could do that.  I nev­er real­ly thought I was equipped or even qual­i­fied to be in the busi­ness I was in.  I kind of thought I was pulling off a fast one here,” Lar­ry said.

I also had the false illu­sion that suc­cess was mea­sured by mon­ey. I think that is one of the flaws in the Amer­i­can dream…that we all get mea­sured by how much mon­ey we make,”. When asked if he had giv­en any thought at this stage of his life as to how much joy and how many mem­o­ries he had giv­en to music lovers over the years by his efforts, he replied, “absolute­ly not, I nev­er thought about it”. He felt good about how far he had been able to build Lit­tle Wing. But on the sim­ple lev­el of how he had touched so many lives or that what he was doing had sig­nif­i­cant his­tor­i­cal val­ue, he was obliv­i­ous. “I am real­iz­ing it now, final­ly” he quipped.

FINDING THE BRAKES

I final­ly had an epiphany that my val­ues were wrong and had been for decades. I want­ed to get away from it,” he said. And the cost to own such an awak­en­ing? Every­thing I owned. “I had to lose every­thing! I filed for bank­rupt­cy in 2001 with noth­ing left. I sim­ply walked away from Cain’s Ball­room.  It was not a big sale where I gar­nered any mon­ey. But I final­ly learned that you can’t buy hap­pi­ness at all. I had just bought into the idea that too much is nev­er enough,” he said. He went on to say that if los­ing his wife, every­thing he owned and almost his chil­dren wasn’t enough to wake him up, then he was in a lot more trou­ble than even he thought pos­si­ble.

But it was enough. For the first time in his adult life, he had become avail­able to those he loved and cared about. In this action rests the wis­dom of how impor­tant it is to be there for oth­ers dur­ing this jour­ney through life. It took the bat­ter­ing of obsta­cles to final­ly bring the slow­ing down of the speed­ing train he was on. He final­ly under­stood what was most impor­tant in life had been pass­ing him by while he had been roar­ing that speed­ing train through the sta­tions with­out so much as a thought to see what beau­ty was around him.

 

There was a time after the bot­tom had fall­en out that I had no inten­tion of book­ing even one more show. I just had no direc­tion at that point. I was done with the busi­ness and it was done with me. I was drift­ing and won­der­ing what my next move was.” Lar­ry said. That next move would come a short time lat­er. An agent in Cal­i­for­nia called him and offered him an oppor­tu­ni­ty. Know­ing that Lar­ry was on a bad roll, he told him point blank that he may as well take the oppor­tu­ni­ty since he didn’t have any­thing else bet­ter to do. Lar­ry accept­ed. He began book­ing shows for Willie Nel­son. With­in a year, he was mak­ing mon­ey again and back on the upswing.

 A NEW TRAIN OF THOUGHT

He loved it! There were no more big shows to scram­ble for and no more drugs and alco­hol. He was a “handy­man” as he calls him­self, book­ing shows for Willie Nel­son in the “B mar­kets” between his big are­na shows in the larg­er cities. This led him into doing the same for oth­ers such as George Jones, Mer­le Hag­gard, Ray Price, Don Williams, Gor­don Light­foot and B.B. King.  He had found zeal again and was able to work with only those whom he con­sid­ered to be pro­fes­sion­al and easy to work with artists. He had found a niche that worked and made him hap­py. And he was sober to boot.

For the bet­ter part of the last 17 years, Lar­ry has main­tained his busi­ness with these “elder states­men” of the music busi­ness. In recent years though, many of those great per­form­ers have passed on and now near­ing 70 years of age, he has no desire to add any more per­form­ers. He is hap­py with pro­mot­ing shows for Willie Nel­son and Gor­don Light­foot while enjoy­ing time with his fam­i­ly,  11  stray dogs and a 1961 Cadil­lac which is often as tem­pera­men­tal as any dif­fi­cult artist on a bad day.

 

The days of the speed­ing train may be over but he is more than okay with this fact. He has final­ly learned that it’s not about how fast he gets some­where or the num­ber of cars he has attached behind him; it’s about enjoy­ing the scenery with­in this world he has cre­at­ed for him­self and for count­less music fans.

It’s been one hel­lu­va par­ty, hasn’t it?”  ~ Lar­ry Sha­ef­fer

Com­ing soon is the release of a pod­cast con­tain­ing the inter­views I have con­duct­ed with Lar­ry for these series of sto­ries. These record­ings are col­or­ful and enter­tain­ing, giv­ing insight into the man and his career. They con­tain amus­ing anec­dotes about inter­ac­tions with artists and shows as well as per­son­al infor­ma­tion not includ­ed in the writ­ten sto­ries. We at Unique­la­homa tru­ly appre­ci­ate Larry’s can­dor and will­ing­ness to open up about events in his life that are very per­son­al. It is nev­er easy for some­one to open up to the pub­lic about the choic­es made dur­ing life and any sub­se­quent neg­a­tiv­i­ty result­ing from them. It has been our great plea­sure and hon­or to have been cho­sen by Lar­ry to con­vey so many details about his per­son­al and pro­fes­sion­al life.

Thanks for Read­ing!

 

Oklahoma Band Spotlight — Nic ‘Nos’ What The Future Holds

Oklahoma Band Spotlight — Nic ‘Nos’ What The Future Holds

Nic ‘Nos’ What The Future Holds

22

MARCH, 2018

Cul­ture

Music

Okla­homa City

Let’s just ask Nick, he will know”. And with that state­ment came the birth of the Okla­homa City band Nic­nos. After play­ing an open mike night for fun sev­er­al years back, the young musi­cians were asked the band’s name. After a few awk­ward looks at each oth­er, the words Nick Knows came out as a response. This was an inside joke among the friends about Nick always know­ing the answers to almost every­thing. Nic being the gui­tarist Nick Sig­man and “nos” being a play on knows to match “nic”.

As for the remain­der of the band, they are lead singer and lyri­cist Josh Cox, drum­mer, Jerred Bauer and bassist Park­er Rhea. The band formed in 2009 with its orig­i­nal line-up which then con­sist­ed of bassist, Jared Gais­er who played in high school with Bauer and both were state jazz cham­pi­ons. Fid­dle play­er Blake Parks joined them in 2011 and togeth­er they formed a unique rock sound.

Nic­nos Video.

For the last nine years, the band has seen a few changes. The main one is the leav­ing of Blake Parks. As a fid­dler play­er, Parks brought a very unique twang to an oth­er­wise all rock band. Cox said that Parks ven­tured off do play more Blue­grass type music and now has his own band Steel­wind. They are very hap­py and sup­port­ive of him, Cox said. They are a four piece rock band again, Cox said.
“We were always feel­ing more rock n roll. Through­out our entire career, we always want­ed to be more rock and so with this new album and writ­ing it and all, it just felt like a good time to part ways. We could go on to do our thing and he could do his. We were real­ly excit­ed that it was ami­ca­ble and that we could part ways and all con­tin­ue play­ing music”.

We were always feel­ing more rock n roll. Through­out our entire career, we always want­ed to be more rock and so with this new album and writ­ing it and all, it just felt like a good time to part ways.”

The for­mer sound with the fid­dle was a unique one that cer­tain­ly set them apart. But it has always been the rock sound and soul­ful bel­low­ing of Cox’s voice that is at the fore­front of the music. The lyrics grow out of every­day per­son­al strug­gles peo­ple go through is their inspi­ra­tion and also gives them a con­nec­tion to the fans that is not gener­ic They do not, how­ev­er, wish to make a spe­cif­ic point with the music, but more so leave the songs open for inter­pre­ta­tion by the lis­ten­er with the under­ly­ing theme always being that “music is life and life is full of crazy stuff”.

Cox explained that they were ner­vous ini­tial­ly fol­low­ing the leav­ing of Parks; not sure how the fans would react with­out the fid­dle sound­ing through the rock riffs and bass lines that they had come to know. He went on to say that they were pleas­ant­ly sur­prised that the fans stuck by them. Although it was dis­ap­point­ing to the fans that the fid­dle ele­ment was absent, they embraced the new sound that will become their new album due out lat­er this year.

We were play­ing a lot of the new mate­r­i­al in our sets try­ing to get feed­back and the tran­si­tion has been one of the most grat­i­fy­ing times for me musi­cal­ly hav­ing the fans give so much pos­i­tive feed­back so quick­ly,” Cox said. He added that it was a relief that fans were not com­plain­ing or ask­ing why they weren’t play­ing the old songs.

The band is also mov­ing into the YouTube are­na. Cox explained that in the past this had not been some­thing that they pur­sued, but fans have post­ed over 200 videos of their live shows. The mem­bers feel like it is time to move into that dig­i­tal area and with the help of bass play­er Park­er Rhea, who is very tal­ent­ed with video and film pro­duc­tion as well as a phe­nom­e­nal musi­cian. With his skills as part of their arse­nal, they knew it was the right time to move into the dig­i­tal aspect of music. “Rhea is the band’s Swiss army knife who can do any­thing and every­thing,” Cox quipped. Get­ting dig­i­tal con­tent out to the fans has since become a pri­or­i­ty for the band,” Cox said. Although it is new ter­ri­to­ry, it is the dig­i­tal age and musi­cians must keep up with the tech­nol­o­gy that fans are using.

In addi­tion, the guys have put out two albums, Nic­nos I and Nic­nos II both of which are cur­rent­ly on Spo­ti­fy, Pan­do­ra, Itunes, Ama­zon Music and Google Play.
To lis­ten to Cox talk about the band and hear his pas­sion for the music and per­form­ing it live, it is obvi­ous that he has that same pas­sion dur­ing his vocal per­for­mances on stage. All the mem­bers love per­form­ing live and this is obvi­ous to any­one who watch­es one of their shows. The live per­for­mances seem to be the ener­gy that the mem­bers use to stay plugged into their desire to con­tin­ue mak­ing music. The mem­bers also all work day jobs and con­tin­u­al­ly use the rev­enues earned to invest into the art of cre­at­ing and play­ing music for their fans. It’s not about the mon­ey after nine years, it’s about the rela­tion­ship they con­tin­u­al­ly build with the fans who invest their time and inter­est in this Okla­homa City band.

To catch one of their upcom­ing shows mark your cal­en­dar. Nic­nos has shows sched­uled for March 23 in Con­way, Arkansas at Kings Live Music, April 20 at Pon­ca City Arts & Human­i­ties and May 12 at the Cain’s Ball Room in Tul­sa. For more infor­ma­tion about the band, check out their Face­book Page.

The Road To Success: Larry Shaeffer’s Legacy

The Road To Success: Larry Shaeffer’s Legacy

LARRY SHAEFFER’S LEGACY

The Road to Suc­cess

CL Har­mon

15 March 2018

Some make his­to­ry while oth­ers pre­serve it. It is rare to find an indi­vid­ual that does both. It takes one who mar­ries the past to the future and forms a union which intro­duces igno­rance to wis­dom, wrong to right, arro­gance to humil­i­ty and fear to hope to tru­ly under­stand that every­one can own a part of his­to­ry if only will­ing to make their own while sav­ing the his­to­ry of oth­ers. Lar­ry Sha­ef­fer is such a man.

The skin­ny kid from the Lake Key­stone area now had a band to pro­mote with Black Oak Arkansas. Lar­ry was about to make his debut per­for­mance into the music busi­ness with his then part­ner David Miller and their com­pa­ny Lit­tle Wing Pro­duc­tions, a name that comes from the Jimi Hen­drix song of the same name. He knew that he had a lot rid­ing on this. In those days, Black Oak wasn’t a sold-out show band and so he had to become cre­ative in order to sell enough tick­ets to make the show suc­cess­ful.

Although he did have his first show on the books, he had no idea what to expect or how to even sell a show.

There was no road map or set of instruc­tions on how to do this,” Lar­ry said.  Park­ing cars for a liv­ing mak­ing $44 per week with the occa­sion­al quar­ter as a tip, Lar­ry had a lot of hopes on this first show if he was ever going to go from park­ing cars to dri­ving ones oth­ers would park.  Always being one who can spot an oppor­tu­ni­ty, he took advan­tage of the state fair in Tul­sa and was on the look­out for any hip­pie that reeked of weed and/or rock n’ roll.

Using $3,000 bor­rowed from his local bank which he secured as col­lat­er­al with his 1965 Volk­swa­gen and 1950 Harley-David­son motor­cy­cle, he bought a radio ad from a Tul­sa sta­tion, rent­ed out the Tul­sa Munic­i­pal The­atre (Now the Brady The­atre) and print­ed out mini-posters which he hand­ed out at the fair to those hip­pies for its dura­tion of ten days. It turns out that his efforts paid off. The show sold out. (For a fun anec­dote about the day of the show, tune into the pod­cast with Lar­ry which will be released soon.)

Infor­ma­tion com­ing soon.

Pho­to­graph by Com­ing Soon

It’s Rain­ing Mon­ey!

By his own admis­sion, Lar­ry says that he was not astute enough to know if he was going to make any mon­ey from the show. But he was final­ly in the music business…and a con­cert pro­mot­er no less.

I made enough mon­ey that evening to pay the band and the bank and still put $4,000 in my pock­et! I had a bag of cash at set­tle­ment. One of my favorite mem­o­ries is get­ting back to my apart­ment in down­town Tul­sa after the show, open­ing that bag of cash and sling­ing it in the bath­room floor, liv­ing room floor, on the couch, in the kitchen, on the TV and every­where else. It looked like it was rain­ing mon­ey,” Lar­ry remem­bered as he grinned from across his desk.

This was his first redemp­tion as he called it that he was on the right track. Lit­tle did he know back then that all shows aren’t that suc­cess­ful. How­ev­er, his tenac­i­ty and bold­ness would once again strike gold before he would even­tu­al­ly con­ceive the thought that gold mines have shafts. His next move would cer­tain­ly be bold and show how com­mit­ted he was to his endeav­or.

I was pumped! So the next day, after pick­ing up the mon­ey, I had it in the back of my head that Mer­le Hag­gard was going to be a big star. I don’t know why but that was the name I came up with,” Lar­ry said. After some quick research, he learned that Hag­gard had played Tul­sa the year before when he had been drunk and “played a half-ass show”. How­ev­er, he still believed that Hag­gard would be a hit.

He began call­ing Haggard’s office in Bak­ers­field, Cal­i­for­nia hop­ing to talk with his man­ag­er Tex Whit­son. As had been his luck for most of the pre­vi­ous year, no one called back. The recep­tion­ist would take his mes­sages but the phone on his end wasn’t ring­ing.  He need­ed an in…and it soon came when final­ly a dif­fer­ent recep­tion­ist answered the phone. As impos­si­ble as it may seem today, She non-cha­lant­ly told Lar­ry that Hag­gard was in Nashville at the annu­al DJ Con­ven­tion. She then went fur­ther and pro­ceed­ed to tell him that Hag­gard and Whit­son were stay­ing at the King of the Road Hotel. That was what all that he need­ed to hear.

I knock on the door and a man named Fuzzy Owen answers.”

Fly­ing High On Stand-By

My father worked for Amer­i­can Air­lines back then and so fam­i­ly could fly stand-by for free. The very next day I am fly­ing to Nashville. As soon as I land, I take a cab to the King of the Road Hotel, walk in and ask what room Hag­gard was in.” And with­out any hes­i­ta­tion from the desk clerk, he was giv­en the room num­ber. (Oh the times of innocence…how they have fad­ed.) That knock on the door in the King of the Road Hotel would open to the oppor­tu­ni­ty of which he had so dreamed.

I knock on the door and a man named Fuzzy Owen answers. These guys stay up late and it’s obvi­ous that they are just wak­ing up. I see Mer­le through the door­way rub­bing his eyes. I looked like this ane­mic blond guy who was too young to be talk­ing to them. (Or so he thought that’s what they thought.) Fuzzy was very gra­cious as I told him why I had come there. He then told me to go down to the lob­by and he would join him in 45 min­utes.”  Sure enough Owen came down and asked what he want­ed. Lar­ry informed him that he is the con­cert pro­mot­er in Tul­sa and that he believed they could do huge tick­et sales with Mer­le. After an hour of dis­cus­sion, Owen agreed.

I went up to the check-in desk and asked for two pieces of King of the Road Hotel sta­tion­ary. We wrote up the deal, I signed it and Fuzzy signed it. It was a big win! I flew home as soon as I found a cab. Upon his arrival back home, he went to the then “pow­er­house” Coun­try music radio sta­tion in Tul­sa, KVOO. He need­ed them on his side and so pro­ceeds to tell the man­ag­er who he has booked. That expe­ri­ence would be his first les­son that the music busi­ness is not always a nice place.

Willie Nel­son & Lar­ry Sha­ef­fer

Pho­to­graph by Com­ing Soon

Music Busi­ness 101

The man­ag­er at KVOO goes bal­lis­tic! Because all of the sud­den, this nobody, me, had the Mer­le Hag­gard show. There is some hos­til­i­ty that comes out of that. He actu­al­ly calls Fuzzy Owen and Tex Whit­son and tells them that KVOO needs to bring this show and not some nobody.”  Owen tells the man­ag­er that the sta­tion isn’t get­ting the show. He then informs him that Lar­ry is the one who took the ini­tia­tive to fly out to Nashville and ask for the show and there­fore deserves the show. This gives Lar­ry much need­ed clout with the sta­tion. He then decid­ed to bring KVOO in as a media spon­sor. Now he has the show and free pub­lic­i­ty to pro­mote it!

Lar­ry booked the show in the Fair­grounds Pavil­ion which held 8,000 seats. He pro­mot­ed the con­cert with all the tenac­i­ty he is known for includ­ing con­vinc­ing Hag­gard to call in and do radio inter­views. He actu­al­ly over­sold the show putting the largest crowd that has ever been put into the Pavil­ion. Lar­ry walks away from the show with $40,000 in 1972. In today’s mar­ket, that equals right under $240,000.

I was cocky! I had two sell­outs for my first two shows. The worst thing that can hap­pen to a pro­mot­er is to make mon­ey on the first show. It’s bet­ter that he los­es his ass so he can go to sell­ing life insur­ance or park­ing cars,” Lar­ry quips with a hearty laugh. His sar­casm is not with­out mer­it as you will soon dis­cov­er.

The next thing I did was go out and lose all that mon­ey on more shows…as quick­ly as I could,” he quipped. On a roll or so he thought, he placed his mon­ey on Coun­try music singer Mel Tillis in Kansas.

I had bor­rowed my mom and dad’s Lin­coln Con­ti­nen­tal to dri­ve up there and I drove home sad. I had lost it all. I still hate Kansas because of those Mel Tillis shows,” he said in a com­i­cal tone. So now he began to regroup and a nation­al cri­sis would help him do it. At his time, his part­ner Dave Miller decides he is out. Miller felt like it was a good time to get out before suf­fer­ing anoth­er loss. Lar­ry, how­ev­er, felt it was time to delve in even deep­er. But first, he would need to regroup.

Lit­tle Wing Begins To Soar

In 1972 what would become known as the gas crunch hit the US and gas prices dou­bled. Peo­ple began imme­di­ate­ly sell­ing off their big cars with big block engines and look­ing to buy Volk­swa­gens to save on fuel costs. Broke now, Lar­ry saw this as an oppor­tu­ni­ty to make some cash that would allow him to book more shows and get back into the game. Once again he bor­rowed $3,000 from the bank and began buy­ing cheap Volk­swa­gens, fix­ing them up and sell­ing them. This and a few oth­er small ven­tures such as sell­ing fire­works allowed him to con­tin­ue fol­low­ing his dream. (For a com­i­cal sto­ry on one of those ven­ture which end­ed in cease and desists let­ters, check out the upcom­ing pod­cast.)

These ven­tures kept him afloat and gave him enough mon­ey to begin mak­ing offers again to agents. He had two suc­cess­ful shows to give him cred­i­bil­i­ty and by 1974 things had begun to move for him.  He was able to bring sev­er­al shows through­out the course of the year and was build­ing Lit­tle Wing into a rep­utable busi­ness that could deliv­er the goods to music fans.

Step­ping into 1975, things con­tin­ued gain­ing momen­tum. A phone call from Bill Elson, the man who had sold him his first show with Black Oak Arkansas, would become a call that would solid­i­fy Lit­tle Wing and pro­pel Lar­ry into Oklahoma’s pro­mot­er.  Elson pro­vides him with a tip and tells him to book a large venue for June of 1976. He explains to Lar­ry that although he may not under­stand what was hap­pen­ing, he need­ed to trust him. The biggest thing is music was com­ing and he want­ed Lar­ry to be in on it.

Lar­ry took the advice and “Show Me The Way” as it were would be the way into a new endeav­or for him. In Jan­u­ary of 1976, what would become the largest sell­ing album of that year with over eight mil­lion sales was released. Peter Frampton’s album Framp­ton Comes Alive, would go to num­ber one and become album of the year. The Framp­ton show sold over 30,000 tick­ets. But more than that, it was a tick­et into the past that would become Larry’s future.

He prof­it­ed $90,000 the first week­end and knew that Hank was def­i­nite­ly the next biggest thing in coun­try music.”

Swingin’ Into Cain’s

That past would be an old build­ing that opened its ‘swing­ing’ doors in 1924; a place of his­to­ry and ghosts of the past who spoke to Lar­ry as though invit­ing him to come and take part in mak­ing his­to­ry. With his prof­its from the Framp­ton show, he pur­chased the decay­ing prop­er­ty from its own­er Marie Mey­ers. He owned a piece of his­to­ry where Bob Wills and many oth­er great per­form­ers had enter­tained crowds of Oklahomans…he owned the Carnegie Hall of West­ern Swing. But now that he had the ‘House That Bob Built’ as it is often dubbed, what was he going to do with it. That loca­tion had become part of Tul­sa that peo­ple were mov­ing away from. Even the city wouldn’t come down to sweep the streets or change street lights, Lar­ry said. Per­haps, those ghosts from the pasts such as Bob Wills and his Texas Play­boys, Ernest Tubb, Hank Williams, John­nie Lee Wills, Tex Rit­ter and Ten­nessee Ernie Ford were ask­ing him to save their Tul­sa spir­i­tu­al pres­ence from being lost.  He oblig­ed.

Cain’s became Lit­tle Wing head­quar­ters and a spring board for ideas as to how he could make the ball­room prof­itable. Again Lar­ry reit­er­at­ed that he had no one to show him how. And yet again Lar­ry saw anoth­er oppor­tu­ni­ty. He began book­ing any­thing and every­thing he could get to play Cain’s. The oppor­tu­ni­ty arose a short time lat­er when record com­pa­nies, then in a sign­ing fren­zy for new artists, need­ed venues for these artists to per­form. These new musi­cians weren’t pop­u­lar enough to sell large venues, but would fit nice­ly into Cain’s. Lar­ry had been in a good rota­tion for a while and was on agents’ radar. This cou­pled with Tul­sa geo­graph­i­cal­ly in the mid­dle of the US placed Lar­ry on the front row of the suc­cess show.

It’s late 70’s and ear­ly 80’s by this time and Lar­ry was pack­ing the ball­room with acts that were not pop­u­lar yet but did have fol­low­ings and were on their way to the top. Some of those acts include Hank Williams Jr., Pure Prairie League, Van Halen, Moun­tain, The Pre­tenders, Bon Jovi, Annie Lennox, The Police and U2. Lar­ry was fed these “baby bands” by agents to help show­case them to the pub­lic. It kept the music going and the mon­ey flow­ing. It also cre­at­ed loy­al­ty between him and the bands. This meant that they were his in Okla­homa no mat­ter how suc­cess­ful they became. He was also still doing are­na shows in Tul­sa and Okla­homa City for the more pop­u­lar musi­cians.

One of those Cain’s shows would spark a 12 year friend­ship and oppor­tu­ni­ty that would grow into a very lucra­tive rela­tion­ship for Lar­ry. In 1978, he brought in Hank Williams Jr. At this time, Williams was still in his father’s shad­ow and des­per­ate­ly want­i­ng to find his own voice. The atmos­phere of coun­try kids at heart with rock n’ roll in their souls par­ty­ing at Cain’s would be the rev­e­la­tion he need­ed to find his voice.  In 1981, Lar­ry gets a call from Hank Jr.’s agent telling him that Hank Jr. was going to be the next big thing in music.

The agent then told him that Hank Jr. want­ed him to pro­mote his shows all across the US. Still involved with Cain’s and some­what strug­gling with that endeav­or, he didn’t have the mon­ey to fund Hank Jr. all the deposit mon­ey need­ed for a full tour. But Hank Jr. want­ed him bad­ly enough to accept Larry’s counter pro­pos­al to pro­mote week­end shows. He prof­it­ed $90,000 the first week­end and knew that Hank was def­i­nite­ly the next biggest thing in coun­try music.

Still young at this time and approach­ing mil­lion­aire sta­tus, he knew Hank Jr. shows was a ride he just couldn’t get off. His suc­cess was grow­ing and oth­er enter­tain­ers such as George Strait and Reba McEn­tire began approach­ing him to pro­mote them. Not to men­tion that he was still bring­ing big shows to Okla­homa. By 1990,  now perched high upon the mon­ey tree and hav­ing a one year-old son, he felt it was time to exit the Hank Jr. gravy train and come back home to Tul­sa. Hank did not take it well, Lar­ry said. Finan­cial­ly, he admits that it was stu­pid to end that rela­tion­ship. But he had enough and decid­ed it was time to go back home and make a lot less mon­ey but a lot more his­to­ry in Okla­homa.

We hope you enjoyed read­ing seg­ment two of our Lar­ry Sha­ef­fer sto­ry. Please check back as the third and final seg­ment will be out very soon. Thanks for vis­it­ing Unique­la­homa!

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