Who Says An Old Tiger Can’t Learn New Tricks

Who Says An Old Tiger Can’t Learn New Tricks

Who Says an Old Tiger Can’t Learn New Tricks

CL HARMON

While lis­ten­ing to Wiley Ole­son dur­ing our inter­view, I couldn’t help but think back to the first time I heard the band Survivor’s “Eye of the Tiger” from the big screen while Rocky Bal­boa was gear­ing up for the tough­est fight of his career. As he spoke, I had images of him push­ing him­self to the lim­it in the gym where he shed pounds and built mus­cles as he pre­pared for his first MMA (Mixed Mar­tial Arts) match since 2011 in Okla­homa City.

But unlike Rocky who had his tough­est fight ahead of him, Ole­son has already fought his and emerged vic­to­ri­ous­ly. The fact that he is step­ping into a ring at all is already a vic­to­ry and also what makes his sto­ry so unique. Hav­ing always been com­pet­i­tive and enjoy­ing phys­i­cal con­tact sports, Ole­son began par­tic­i­pat­ing in wrestling and foot­ball from child­hood. These child­hood activ­i­ties would set him on a path to become a pro­fes­sion­al wrestler lat­er in life. As an adult, he began pro­mot­ing him­self as a wrestler while mov­ing up the ranks and mak­ing a name for him­self with five “try­out match­es” for World Wrestling Enter­tain­ment (WWE).

In 2007 a motor­cy­cle acci­dent and sub­se­quent 21 surg­eries would end that dream. The wreck result­ed in bro­ken ribs, a punc­tured lung, torn mus­cles from his neck to his groin area, knee dam­age, shoul­der dam­age, both of which required recon­struc­tion, and even the loss of a few teeth. Also, he had a reti­na detach­ment which required anoth­er 11 surg­eries. The acci­dent was not even his fault, but one of a lapse in judg­ment by a motorist who ran a stop sign.

As a result of the mul­ti­ple surg­eries, recu­per­at­ing times and loss of his dream, depres­sion set in and the pounds began stack­ing on until he reached 305 pounds. Hav­ing a com­pet­i­tive nature and the need to feel fit again, kept his desire alive to be in a ring of one type or anoth­er. He need­ed a push through. The Army Nation­al Guard would give him just that when they ordered him to lose weight or leave the ser­vice. He has been in the mil­i­tary as a Black­hawk heli­copter mechan­ic for 19 years and did not want to leave. So he hired a per­son­al train­er, hit the gym and lost 75 pounds, 30 in the first month alone.

I’ve always been a com­peti­tor, and it’s just always going to be there,” he said. Because of this, it is not sur­pris­ing that he would seek out a new oppor­tu­ni­ty to com­pete.  He soon met a pro­fes­sion­al kick­box­er who gave lessons for the sport. This man helped train and encour­aged Ole­son to get back into a ring with the new skills he was learn­ing – which was all the encour­age­ment he need­ed to begin seri­ous con­sid­er­a­tion for fight­ing again.  The hard work and ded­i­ca­tion have paid off, and Ole­son said he is excit­ed for this first fight that the many surg­eries post­poned begin­ning in 2011 with that last fight. By the way, he won that match in the sec­ond round.

I am pret­ty excit­ed about this fight because I want to prove all the naysay­ers wrong. I have peo­ple who ask me why I am doing this and telling me just because I lost weight doesn’t mean I can fight. My goal is to prove to myself and every­one else that I, or any­one my age, can do it. I am 48 years old,” he said. As if the motor­cy­cle wreck, surg­eries, and his age were not enough bad luck, Ole­son has also had three heart surg­eries with­in the last year, the most recent in Decem­ber.

Once I win this fight, I want to declare myself a pro­fes­sion­al and then get a few pro­fes­sion­al fights under my belt. I am just so old now that no orga­ni­za­tion is going to take me on seri­ous­ly, so I will just have some fun at the local cir­cuits and make the best of it,” he said. As a result of his age and thus lack of spon­sor sup­port, Ole­son pays for all the costs asso­ci­at­ed with fight­ing him­self. He did say that he would love to have a spon­sor or two though since train­ing and equip­ment are so expen­sive.

The crowd may not hear “Eye of the Tiger” on the night he fights, but it’s a good bet that they will at least be ask­ing who let that old tiger out of his cage. Ole­son is fight­ing Lee Bell on August 3 at Riv­er Spir­it Casi­no for Dale “Apol­lo” Cook’s Extreme Fight Night.

 

How One Oklahoma Woman Gave Us Back Our History

How One Oklahoma Woman Gave Us Back Our History

How One Okla­homan Gave Us Back Our His­to­ry

CL HARMON

History Lesson

I have this vivid mem­o­ry while in junior high school of sit­ting in a class­room with oth­er stu­dents my age and feel­ing the bore­dom in that room as being suf­fo­cat­ing. Or maybe I was hop­ing that some­one would put a pil­low over my head and suf­fo­cate me to end the bore­dom. Either way, you get my point…It was a snooze fest! Back to my mem­o­ry though, this old man, who must have been in his six­ties, was ram­bling on about some world his­to­ry event in a monot­o­ne voice out of a big text­book. I don’t recall what it was, but I do remem­ber think­ing why is this old guy read­ing that from the book. I mean, hell he is old enough, Why not just tell us about his life in his own words? So I thought at the time any­way. But, I was onto some­thing. As I grew old­er, I did cul­ti­vate a love of his­to­ry and remem­bered lat­er as an adult how fas­ci­nat­ing it would have been if that old man had told his class about his­tor­i­cal expe­ri­ences through­out his own life. Or at least weaved the his­to­ry he was a part of into the his­to­ry that he wasn’t involved. If my math is cor­rect as to his age, this means that he would have been a child dur­ing the Great Depres­sion, prob­a­bly fought in WWII, wit­nessed the Kore­an and Viet­nam Wars, the tumul­tuous six­ties gen­er­a­tion and its Civ­il Rights Move­ment, JFK assas­si­na­tion and the Nixon res­ig­na­tion, among count­less oth­er his­tor­i­cal events. Why was this foun­tain of his­to­ry spout­ing out bor­ing bits of infor­ma­tion from a book when he could have been shar­ing real-life his­tor­i­cal accounts?

Pho­tos from For­got­ten Okla­homa Group on Face­book

Find­ing Fla­vor In Tech­nol­o­gy

I would ven­ture to guess that there were oth­ers like me who thought the same, many of whom left high school with dis­taste for his­to­ry. For­tu­nate­ly though and as tech­nol­o­gy advanced, his­to­ri­ans began to rec­og­nize a need to record his­to­ry from the peo­ple who lived it through doc­u­men­taries. This renewed inter­est as peo­ple was able to hear real-life accounts of actu­al bat­tles, human expe­ri­ences of pain and tri­umph and become emo­tion­al­ly involved in the expe­ri­ence. As tech­nol­o­gy pro­gressed even fur­ther into the social media soci­ety of today, peo­ple like Amy Hedges of Cleve­land, Okla­homa got involved. Not only did she just get involved, but she has also brought 60,000 oth­ers along with her to be a part of it as well.

I remem­ber when I got my first 500 likes, I freaked out! Holy cow there are 500 peo­ple who like what I am doing,”

Hedges said. She was refer­ring to her Face­book page For­got­ten Okla­homa. Like many of us, she was dis­en­chant­ed with her expe­ri­ences in his­to­ry class­es and did not ini­tial­ly have a great inter­est in the sub­ject. What she did have though was a love of pho­tog­ra­phy and old hous­es. These inter­ests cul­mi­nat­ed in a large col­lec­tion of pho­tos of old homes through­out Okla­homa; her father con­vinced her to post them on Face­book. Appre­hen­sive at first think­ing no one else would be inter­est­ed, she final­ly set up the page and began post­ing.

Getting History Rolling

Fol­low­ing this mile­stone, Don Tay­lor of Ral­ston joined in and began post­ing too. He is a Pawnee Coun­ty his­to­ry enthu­si­ast and has a large col­lec­tion of state his­tor­i­cal mem­o­ra­bil­ia which he felt fit nice­ly with what Hedges was doing. Tay­lor had set in motion a prac­tice of vol­un­tary sub­mis­sions into play, and sud­den­ly they were com­ing in from all over the state. Hedges explained that it was ini­tial­ly only aban­doned hous­es, but when Tay­lor began post­ing old pho­tos of oth­er objects and peo­ple, it start­ed to take on a life of its own.

We were real­ly rolling on this deal! Word got out, and more peo­ple were send­ing in pho­tos want­i­ng me to repost them. I had so many that it was out of con­trol,” Hedges said. She had struck a vein and hit a gush­er it seemed. Try­ing to keep up was becom­ing a full-time job. She want­ed everyone’s sub­mis­sions to get expo­sure, but it was over­whelm­ing to keep up with the flow. She thought chang­ing the page into a group would help. At this point, she had 20,000 peo­ple on her page. She said many peo­ple were con­tact­ing her by mes­sen­ger ask­ing why their pho­tos had not been shared. She had a year back­log and was work­ing to get post­ed.

The group idea seemed like less work because peo­ple could post their own pho­tos and mem­o­ries. As with most things in life, it was, and it wasn’t. New prob­lems arose such as peo­ple want­i­ng to post entire fam­i­ly pho­to albums or just pho­tos of the state with no his­tor­i­cal sig­nif­i­cance. This led to the need for more new rules, guide­lines and page admin­is­tra­tors. How­ev­er, Hedges dealt with each new issue, and the group con­tin­ued grow­ing. In fact, she even expand­ed out­side of cyber­space and orga­nized “group meet-ups” every few months which are field trips to his­tor­i­cal places. These meets give mem­bers an oppor­tu­ni­ty to meet and share per­son­al his­to­ries.

Also, the group sells mer­chan­dise, sell­ing t‑shirts and cal­en­dars and then donates part of the pro­ceeds to muse­ums in need of repairs.

I am still flab­ber­gast­ed every day. It’s crazy! I nev­er imag­ined that it would get so big.

From Snooze To Schmooze

I am still flab­ber­gast­ed every day. It’s crazy! I nev­er imag­ined that it would get so big. And hon­est­ly, we are grow­ing so fast that we have almost one hun­dred requests per day to join. And our engage­ment lev­el in the group is so high, it’s unbe­liev­able. When I checked recent­ly, we had 253,000 engaged,” Hedges said. She also receives fan mail. She said that peo­ple mail her cards telling her how much the site has touched their lives and the dif­fer­ence she is mak­ing. In some cas­es, mem­bers have even con­nect­ed with fam­i­ly mem­bers they didn’t even know they had. She is in awe as to how many peo­ple have con­nect­ed through the group and became friends. Many of these peo­ple have become such good friends that they take “For­got­ten Okla­homa vaca­tions” where they trav­el and take pho­tos for the site, she said.

Hedges said what she loves most about the group is that it gets peo­ple excit­ed about his­to­ry and com­pels them to research their own fam­i­ly his­to­ries. It encour­ages them to take the bore­dom out of his­to­ry and brings the old mun­dane pages of a text­book to a liv­ing breath­ing his­to­ry. Hedges and her group mem­bers have tak­en the next step in the evo­lu­tion of learn­ing his­to­ry. They have tak­en the tra­di­tion­al snooze­fest of old and turned it into a vibrant schmooze­fest for any­one who wish­es to under­stand the peo­ple who made Okla­homa his­to­ry. So for­get about the Okla­homa class that killed off your inter­est in his­to­ry and become revived with the For­got­ten Okla­homa that has brought the sub­ject back to life.

Check it out Here

Pho­to from For­got­ten Okla­homa Group on Face­book

Oklahoma Brewer Looks to the Renaissance of Today

Oklahoma Brewer Looks to the Renaissance of Today

Renais­sance Brew­ing Brings Okla­homa The Time­less Taste Of The Ages

5

APRIL, 2018

Beer
Brew­ery
Okla­homa

It’s Beer Thir­ty! Yes, it is time to soak up the suds, open up the taps, and let the gold­en elixir flow. It is a potion of old dat­ing back over 5,000 years to Ancient Egypt, Mesopotamia, and Chi­na.  It was history’s first keg­ger which began with the world’s first civ­i­liza­tions.  Inter­est­ing, don’t you think…as soon as man real­izes he can use fire for some­thing else oth­er than stay­ing warm…he brews a beer with it? Beer is one of those man-made cre­ations that appear to just keep get­ting bet­ter with time, nev­er los­ing its lus­ter.  It’s a recipe that tran­scends bor­ders and beliefs with its ingre­di­ents that draw peo­ples togeth­er into a toast to cel­e­brate a taste for life…and the occa­sion­al buzz of course.

Thanks, in part, to some new alco­hol-relat­ed laws in Okla­homa and the con­tin­ued desire to brew and toast, the state has seen an enthu­si­as­tic jump­start to what could become a thriv­ing indus­try. Beer brew­ing is heat­ing up. Although it has been legal to home brew beer since 2010, sell­ing to the pub­lic on a brew­ery site has not been a legal option since August of 2016. With these and oth­er legal changes, the oppor­tu­ni­ties for brew­eries to make income out­side the whole­sale mar­ket have cre­at­ed quite a buzz them­selves amongst wannabe brew­ers in the state.

The tap­room at Renais­sance Brew­ery.

C.L. Har­mon

One of those beer enthu­si­asts is a real Renais­sance man by the name of Glenn Hall. The def­i­n­i­tion, accord­ing to the dic­tio­nary, is a man who has exper­tise in sev­er­al dif­fer­ent sub­ject mat­ters. Hall def­i­nite­ly fits into this cat­e­go­ry when it comes to build­ing Oklahoma’s first brew­ery from the ground up.  The project began six years ago when he and his wife Sarah began look­ing for indus­tri­al zoned prop­er­ty to build what is now Renais­sance Brew­ing Com­pa­ny locat­ed in the heart of mid-town Tul­sa.

This loca­tion was orig­i­nal­ly three sep­a­rate lots with dilap­i­dat­ed homes on them and zoned for com­mer­cial use.  He spent 2011-12 acquir­ing the prop­er­ties and then the fol­low­ing year he spent doing intern­ships at dif­fer­ent brew­eries and acquir­ing his for­mal edu­ca­tion in the beer brew­ing sci­ences. He also attend­ed the World Brew­ing Acad­e­my achiev­ing his Mas­ters in Brew­ing Tech­nol­o­gy and spent time in, Munich, Ger­many for his appren­tice­ship in 2013. He then spent the entire year of 2014 get­ting his new prop­er­ties zoned for indus­tri­al use.  It was an ardu­ous endeav­or, but suc­cess for the cou­ple and paving the way for oth­ers to get prop­er­ties zoned indus­tri­al much eas­i­er was the result.

We were the first brew­ery to ever chal­lenge any of the zon­ing laws in Tul­sa and the first and only brew­ery in Okla­homa to build from the ground up”.

We were the first brew­ery to ever chal­lenge any of the zon­ing laws in Tul­sa and the first and only brew­ery in Okla­homa to build from the ground up,” Hall said. He also helped city lead­ers under­stand what brew­eries are real­ly about. Although the city did have some expe­ri­ence work­ing with Marshall’s Brew­ing, also in Tul­sa, that brew­ery had been zoned indus­tri­al from the begin­ning. So Renais­sance Brew­ery and the City of Tul­sa became class­mates of sort of Build­ing a brew­ery 101.

After nine months of wait­ing on per­mits, the Halls began build­ing in Decem­ber of 2015. The con­struc­tion would take two years to com­plete. The colos­sal effort of build­ing as opposed to tak­ing a much eas­i­er job work­ing for an exist­ing brew­ery boils down to a sim­ple phi­los­o­phy; “I just like my own stuff,” he quipped. In actu­al­i­ty, he is one of those peo­ple who believe in invest­ing in his own ideas over those of oth­ers.

I had a real­ly good job in IT for 16 years with a good salary. I basi­cal­ly let that go to move back­ward,” he quipped. “I have been brew­ing since 1994 and so I have always loved the brew­ing aspect. I like the engi­neer­ing side of brew­ing and the equip­ment even more than the beer. I have want­ed to do it pro­fes­sion­al­ly for a long time. This has actu­al­ly been a 20-year plan or vision if you will.  When Hall com­plet­ed his appren­tice­ship in Munich, Ger­many, he knew it was time to fol­low the teach­ing of philoso­pher Pla­to who said, “He is a wise man who invent­ed beer”.  The time had come to become a real Renais­sance man and apply his new knowl­edge to the art of craft beer. In his efforts, he became the gen­er­al con­trac­tor for the con­struc­tion, along with han­dling many oth­er aspects of design­ing, financ­ing and build­ing a brew­ery from the ground up.

Hall explained that the brew­ery itself is debt free, leav­ing only the con­struc­tion loan and oper­a­tions costs. In essence, the cou­ple already has over 50 per­cent equi­ty in the enter­prise.  The brew­ery paid for itself with­in two months of its pub­lic open­ing on Jan­u­ary 11. In addi­tion, he and his wife are proud of the fact that they have made the neigh­bor­hood a bet­ter place and increased prop­er­ty val­ues by remov­ing decay­ing struc­tures and build­ing an asset with­in the com­mu­ni­ty.

The busi­ness is real­ly doing what we believed it could. Of course, we have to grow it more to get where we want to be. One of those future visions is com­plet­ing two bed and break­fast type apart­ments on the sec­ond floor where ‘beer trav­el­ers’ can stop in Tul­sa and spend a cou­ple of nights”.  The vision begin­ning to bring peo­ple into the brew­ery and allow them to expe­ri­ence some of the craft beers Renais­sance has to offer. They believe the idea of peo­ple being able to stay in a brew­ery and be exposed to the oper­a­tion will be very entic­ing to beer enthu­si­asts.

Our main focus is here at the brew­ery,” Hall said. He explained that it is not their intent to sat­u­rate the mar­ket and push the beer into the main­stream.  He and Sarah want to use the brew­ery as some­what of a social gath­er­ing. A place for tasters in the tap room, occa­sion­al beer din­ners where din­ers can try new beers and have meals pre­pared by chefs, have short order foods and even become a place to host events.

We are not going to beg and plead to get our taps every­where. We want those places that like our beer to car­ry us. We want to estab­lish rela­tion­ships with var­i­ous estab­lish­ments that we real­ly like and who like us,” Hall said. Renais­sance actu­al­ly got start­ed and was able to get into the whole­sale mar­ket by using its own equip­ment to brew at the Dead Armadil­lo brew­ery loca­tion. While there, they were able to get their four flag­ship beers per­fect­ed and avail­able to the whole­sale mar­ket.

Since the open­ing of the brew­ery, the main focus has been to get the tap­room open. Now that this is com­plet­ed and patrons are stop­ping by to try their beers, they have begun to work on brew­ing new ones. They pride them­selves on hav­ing a vari­ety of spe­cial­ty beers every week, along with their sea­son­al line-up for the year.  Every Wednes­day they release a new beer list which always sells out with­in that week.

We now have peo­ple show­ing up ear­ly in the week to try some of our new spe­cial­ty beers.” Thus far, the brew­ery has pro­duced 40 dif­fer­ent beers that are “proven recipes,” Hall said. The tap room is vital to the exper­i­men­ta­tion process, he explained. As they pro­duce these spe­cial­ty beers, the cus­tomer demands them allow them to see which ones are pop­u­lar and could even­tu­al­ly become flag­ship brews. Cur­rent­ly, there is Renais­sance Gold, Indi­an Wheat, Gam­ma Ray IPA and Black Gold as flag­ships.  Renais­sance Gold and Indi­an Wheat are light beers, Gam­ma Ray IPA is more of a hop­py beer and Black Gold is a dark beer.

We are sell­ing every­thing we can make right now,” Hall said.  This is with nine cur­rent part-time employs and a few tanks. Renais­sance has built in the capac­i­ty for sev­er­al more tank oper­a­tions, but Hall said that grow­ing slow­ly and using earned cash flow to move for­ward is much more of a pri­or­i­ty than quick expan­sion.

I am a Renais­sance man because I like to do so many of the things myself,” Hall said about his involve­ment with the day to day oper­a­tions of the brew­ery. Although he calls him­self own­er and brew­er, he is also the book­keep­er, jan­i­tor, recipe mak­er and pack­ager as well.  With his renais­sance men­tal­i­ty, and the neigh­bor­hood being known as the Renais­sance area, it seemed as though the name was meant to be.

Still 5,000 years lat­er that crisp and often bit­ter drink we call beer is still as pop­u­lar as it has been through the ages. Hall has now joined the ranks of many before him who have tak­en what nature pro­vides to quench a thirst that seems nev­er-end­ing. Although it is dis­put­ed that Ben Franklin ever said, “Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be hap­py,” some­one cer­tain­ly said it. And who­ev­er it was, I bet that man was a Renais­sance man just like Glenn Hall.

The Renais­sance area is in the heart of Tul­sa’s his­toric mid­town, bor­der­ing streets are East 11th to 15th and from South Har­vard to Lewis with the brew­ery locat­ed at 1147 S Lewis Ave. Hours are Wednes­day-Fri­day from 4–9 pm, 12–9 pm on Sat­ur­day and 12–6 pm on Sun­day.  For more infor­ma­tion about their flag­ship beers, vis­it renaissancebeer.com. To try one of their spe­cial­ty beers, stop by and bel­ly up to the bar.

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!

 

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!

The Oklahoma Music Legend You Missed — Part 1

The Oklahoma Music Legend You Missed — Part 1

Lar­ry Sha­ef­fer­’s Lega­cy

01

MARCH, 2018

Music
Life
& The Best Music in Okla­homa

PUBLISHER’S NOTE:  Due to the expanse of Lar­ry Shaeffer’s career, we have opt­ed to release this sto­ry in three posts. The first seg­ment cov­ers the begin­ning of his career and his rise to suc­cess. The mid­dle and final seg­ments will touch on his own­er­ship of Cain’s Ball Room in Tul­sa, pro­mot­ing con­certs and the growth of Lit­tle Wing Pro­duc­tions.

There is a good chance you nev­er met this man or have even heard of his name for that mat­ter, but odds are that this man was prob­a­bly part­ly respon­si­ble for some great mem­o­ry in your life. This, of course, is con­tin­gent upon you grow­ing up in Okla­homa in the 1970s 80s or 90s and lik­ing music…and who doesn’t like music? If you are one of us who have met him, it’s a sure bet that you wouldn’t for­get him. Once you meet, it becomes clear as to how this man from the Key­stone Lake area became syn­ony­mous with enter­tain­ment in Okla­homa.

 

Rhine­stone Rev­e­la­tion

Grow­ing up in rur­al Okla­homa in the mid-fifties, wasn’t exact­ly a breed­ing ground for the type of dream that would become Larry’s career. There was, how­ev­er, one “win­dow to the out­side world” back then and it was tele­vi­sion. Music tele­vi­sion at that time was in its infan­cy, but it did pro­vide enter­tain­ment such as the Lawrence Welk Show, Ed Sul­li­van Show and Dick Clark’s Amer­i­can Band­stand. These pro­grams struck a chord in the pre-teen Sha­ef­fer and an inter­est in music began to cul­ti­vate with­in him.

A spe­cif­ic inci­dent on a day trip to down­town Tul­sa in 1955 or 56’ would fur­ther his desire to grav­i­tate toward the music indus­try. He and his par­ents were walk­ing along Den­ver Avenue one after­noon near what used to be the Cimar­ron Ball Room when he saw what he said was, “the most unbe­liev­able vision he had ever seen”. At that moment he was blind­ed by these beams of sun­light that were reflect­ing off the rhine­stones from the suit that Leon McAu­li­ffe of Bob Wills & The Texas Play­boys band was wear­ing as he exit­ed the ball­room.

Let’s start from the begin­ning, shall we?

I was so zapped by that event that I asked my mom who that man was. She said that was Leon McAu­li­ffe, ‘take it away Leon’. McAu­li­ffe was Wills’ steel gui­tarist and he was famous for the song Steel Gui­tar Rag, which just hap­pened to be a song Lar­ry knew well. Wills would intro­duce the song with the phrase “take it away Leon” which became every bit as pop­u­lar as the song itself. That moment would always stay with him. Years lat­er the two men would become friends and Lar­ry would even acquire McAuliffe’s steel gui­tar which he still owns.

This would be the first major event in Larry’s life that would guide him toward the music busi­ness. He would even­tu­al­ly take his first active step down this path by acquir­ing a gui­tar and tak­ing lessons.  The path ahead would be one that would shine on in Okla­homa his­to­ry as bright as any rhine­stones in the sun ever could.

The Bea­t­les’ per­for­mance that night is when my inten­si­ty for my involve­ment in the music busi­ness start­ed.”

The Day Rock n’ Roll Came To Town.

For Lar­ry, every­thing real­ly got rolling for him on Feb­ru­ary 9, 1964, when he wit­nessed the sec­ond event which would fur­ther his path along the long and wind­ing road into the music busi­ness. That was the night the Bea­t­les played the Ed Sul­li­van Show. The fol­low­ing day in the cafe­te­ria at school, he and a few friends agreed that rock n’ roll was the life for them. Their eyes had been opened to an oppor­tu­ni­ty that had nev­er before seemed real, let alone attain­able. Already play­ing steel gui­tar at this time, an art that he quipped he was not very good at, it wouldn’t take long for him to form a band.

The Bea­t­les’ per­for­mance that night is when my inten­si­ty for my involve­ment in the music busi­ness start­ed.” He said.  He explained that Man­n­ford High School where he attend­ed had maybe 40 stu­dents in his class. The major­i­ty of these kids had an old car or at least access to their par­ents ‘cars and thus had a life if you will. The remain­ing stu­dents, of which group he was in, are what Lar­ry called the “school bus boys”,…the guys with no girl­friends, future or even rea­son to live he jok­ing­ly quips, were the ones most affect­ed by the Bea­t­les’ per­for­mance.

Tak­ing The Stage

From that came the cre­ation of their local band the Under­tak­ers. It was a way to cre­ate an iden­ti­ty for these school bus kids and make a few bucks to buy an old Thun­der­bird, Chevy or anoth­er car to cruise around in. So it wasn’t so much about fame and for­tune back then for the wannabe musi­cians as it was about girls, cars and a few more dol­lars than work­ing at a gro­cery store or gas sta­tion could pro­vide.

We were gig­ging on week­ends and going from school bus kids with three dol­lars in our pock­ets to hav­ing $100–150 on Mon­day morn­ings after the shows. “ That was a lot of mon­ey in the late 60s. He said that it changed the way we saw life.” Being able to afford cars and per­form songs in front of live audi­ences at sock hops and local func­tions fanned the flames of desire with­in these young rock­ers. It was just fun and excit­ing for a bunch of kids to be on stage and get paid for it. Hav­ing mon­ey to ditch the school bus prob­a­bly felt good too for these teens.

But for Lar­ry, there was more to it than just play­ing gigs. He saw an oppor­tu­ni­ty, the writ­ing of song lyrics on the wall if you will. There could be a real future in music. Since that per­for­mance by The Bea­t­les, young musi­cians began pop­ping up every­where. This was not a fad that was going to fade away.

Call­ing Dr. Sha­ef­fer…

Nor was it going to fade to black after he grad­u­at­ed high school, but col­lege, not rock n roll seemed to be in his future as far as his par­ents were con­cerned. They want­ed him to go to med­ical or den­tal school and so North­east­ern State Uni­ver­si­ty in Tahle­quah, Okla­homa is where he wound up…for a while any­way. It wouldn’t take long for the 17-year-old Sha­ef­fer to real­ize that the pre-med class­es were of absolute­ly no inter­est to him. Nor was pulling teeth and treat­ing ear infec­tions.

Wait a minute “,  he thought. “I don’t want to be a den­tist, doc­tor or sell life insur­ance. I don’t want to be a school teacher either…I want to be in the music busi­ness.” He told him­self this back in the late 1960s.  By his own admis­sion, he didn’t even know what the music busi­ness was, but he knew that what­ev­er it was, he had to be a part of it. How­ev­er, it would still be a while before he could make his pitch into the music busi­ness world.

Unwill­ing­ness To Adapt

By mid-Decem­ber 1970 he had grad­u­at­ed from the Uni­ver­si­ty of Tul­sa. The day after grad­u­a­tion, he was on a bus head­ed to the induc­tion cen­ter for the US Army hav­ing received his draft notice. Although he was will­ing to serve his coun­try, in his heart, he knew that he marched to a dif­fer­ent drum­mer than most oth­ers.

They wouldn’t run the [email protected]& !^%n army the way I want­ed them to,” Lar­ry joked. He and the army’s prob­lem of not see­ing eye to eye soon led to an ear­ly hon­or­able dis­charge for Unwill­ing­ness to Adapt to Mil­i­tary Life. (For more of Larry’s opin­ions and thoughts on the late 1960’s polit­i­cal sta­tus, the Viet­nam War and his col­lege degree, tune into the upcom­ing pod­cast due out soon.)

By June of 1971, he was out of the Army and it was “real­i­ty time” as he called it. He had a col­lege degree which was not worth the paper it was print­ed on as far he was…and is still con­cerned. So with col­lege and the Army behind him, he began haul­ing hay for a com­pa­ny out of Terl­ton, Okla­homa receiv­ing three cents per bale.

It’s Ele­men­tary My Dear Lar­ry

At this time, I had no idea as to how I was going to get into the music busi­ness. All I knew was that I was not think­ing about hay bales. I didn’t have any desire or hopes that I could be a pro­fes­sion­al musi­cian either”.  With pres­sure from his par­ents and oth­ers ask­ing about his future plans, the winds of fate blew an idea his way. An ele­men­tary school friend reached out to him after hav­ing moved back from Texas. His old friend David Miller was now a bar­ber work­ing in Prattville, Okla­homa. He had been a rock n roll singer in Lub­bock, Texas with a band called The Trac­ers and was inter­est­ed in keep­ing a foot on the stage in the music busi­ness.

After return­ing, he had heard that Lar­ry had had the band The Under­tak­ers. Larry’s band would per­form until 1969 when the draft­ing of mem­bers and oth­er issues forced them to quit. So with no band, no prospects and a job bal­ing hay, Lar­ry was eager to hear what David had to say. Miller tells him of a man he had met while in Lub­bock who had been a friend of the famous musi­cian Bud­dy Hol­ly. What he tells him about this man was just what Lar­ry need­ed to hear…his way into the music busi­ness. Miller told him how this man he met had become a local con­cert pro­mot­er and made trun­k­loads of cash.

Long Dis­tance Long­ing

That con­ver­sa­tion with David was the first sign of light of me tak­ing some seri­ous direc­tion toward any­thing musi­cal­ly ori­ent­ed. We part­nered up and decid­ed to pro­mote a show.” Lar­ry said.  Lar­ry start­ed call­ing agents in New York and Los Ange­les but was not hear­ing any­thing that was music to his ears. The two were using Miller’s bar­ber shop as an office using a show­er cur­tain to sep­a­rate two of the six bar­ber chairs as an office and the out­side pay­phone as their busi­ness phone.

For an entire year, not one sin­gle book­ing agent would take his call. Although frus­trat­ed, he kept pump­ing dimes and quar­ters into that pay­phone. Final­ly, an agent named Bill Elson from Pre­miere Tal­ent in New York City did take his call. More than that though, he lis­tened to Larry’s pitch and agreed to take a chance on him. Although Elson had some of the biggest names of the time on his ros­ter, he found one band to offer him. After that call, both men bor­rowed some mon­ey, had posters print­ed up and called them­selves con­cert pro­mot­ers. Elson had agreed to let Lar­ry bring Black Oak Arkansas to Tul­sa. And with that came Jim Dandy to the res­cue and the birth of Lit­tle Wing Pro­duc­tions.

Please check back in the very near future for part two of this sto­ry. Thanks for read­ing!

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