Nowata, Oklahoma

It was a fun evening showing my film in Nowata and I appreciate everyone who came out despite the threatening weather.

Welcome back. I’m keeping close to home this week with a story about a town that became famous in 1904 for having the world’s largest shallow oil field. That was the year that oil and gas was discovered and then the Missouri Pacific Railroad built a line through the area. Within fifteen years this Indian Territory trading post would become as historians say a “boom town” with a courthouse, three story bank and lots of hotels. When Highway 60 linked Nowata with Bartlesville and Ponca City in the 1920s it made the town that the Delawares called “No-weate” or “Welcome” in their native language an even more vibrant community.

Yes, I’m talking about Nowata, Oklahoma and on Saturday night my film “Footprints in the Dew: The Last Ten Tapes” will be showing at the Jack R. Ellis Memorial Theater at 7PM. Situated on the old original town square, this is a neat place that regularly features live entertainment and also has a kitchen that serves both snacks and dinner. The theater is the home of the Nowata Country Jubilee which showcases country music performers and supports a scholarship program for local students. For ticket information you can call them at (918) 273-0752.

Part of the Cherokee Nation, the entire town square was once owned by Chief Charles Johnnycake who was a registered Delaware Indian. Nowadays this early Oklahoma settlement has 130 businesses with Jane Phillips Hospital being the largest employer. In 1998 the hit movie “Possum” was filmed in Nowata and another little tidbit: on February 10, 2011 the national weather service proclaimed that Nowata had the coldest temperature ever recorded in the state at minus 31 degrees and friends that record still stands today.

Down the road for me means traveling and during the day Saturday I’ll be autographing books at the big R&K Gun and Knife Show at the Tulsa Fairgrounds. Last weekend I was doing the same thing at a gun show at the OK State Park Fairgrounds in Oklahoma City and couldn’t help but notice the new building there. Now this isn’t your typical large event center, this thing is huge. I found out that the Bennett Event Center has 201,000 s.f. of contiguous floor space for exhibits as well as an expansive lobby and a full service catering kitchen. It’s quite a structure.

I’ll end this week with a story about a man who Bartlesville just lost. I met Richard Johnson in the 1980s. A fine musician, he was playing regularly at local establishments and always drawing crowds. As time went by he put his natural talent for organization to good use. For years SUNFEST benefited from his experience in the music world but as a founder and longtime Board member Richard’s involvement with the festival went way further than that. When Richard began his company Johnson Lighting & Sound he became the go to person for private parties, concerts, festivals and fundraisers throughout the region and beyond. The Good, The Bad and The Barbeque, OK Mozart, Indian Summer Festival and the HOT Street Parties are just a few of the local events he worked with. He will be greatly missed and tomorrow night in Dewey musicians will gather from far and wide for a memorial show and benefit starting at 6PM at the Heritage Theater. Proceeds from the show will help with the medical expenses Richard incurred while ill. This should be special so check it out for sure.

Till next time, I’ll see ya down the road………………

The Art World

My adventures buying a painting…..

Welcome back. First up this week is a little definition work from the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) website, all related to art and to painting in particular:

Abstraction The process of creating art that is not representational or based on external reality or nature.

Figurative: Representing a form or Abstraction: The process of creating art that is not representational or based on external reality or nature.

Expressionism: An international artistic movement in art, architecture, literature, and performance that flourished between 1905 and 1920, especially in Germany and Austria, that favored the expression of subjective emotions and experience over depictions of objective reality. Conventions of Expressionist style include distortion, exaggeration, fantasy, and vivid, jarring figure in art that retains clear ties to the real world.

In the world of painters terms such as “reserved”, “controlled”, “bold” and “expressionist” are used to describe an artist’s style. For example, up and coming artist Greer Ross Dexter from Houston, Texas way is also the daughter of the well-known painter Robert Newton Roos, Jr., gets great praise from critics and collectors for her use of oils and broad brush strokes. This young lady’s work is based on a figurative style interpreted with abstract and expressionist techniques.

If you are like me all the terminology about painting is a bit over my head, I just like to look at paintings and I know when I’m looking at a piece I like. Everyone’s taste is different of course, whether you prefer abstract, realist, minimalist or other styles of painting.

Where am I going with all this art stuff you may well ask? Saturday night out at Elder Care’s big event, The Good, The Bad and The Barbeque there was a painting in the Live Auction that was donated by Jane Johnstone and Mike McSpadden. Although they live in Texas now both Jane and Mike have history in this area. Jane is the daughter of Leo Johnstone, one of Bartlesville’s early community leaders. Mike is part of the McSpadden clan that included the legendary rodeo announcer Clem McSpadden. The two are longtime friends of the Mullendore family as well as supporters of Elder Care and they make it a point to come out to the Barbeque whenever they can. I know these two know their artwork and from my first glance I fell in love with the piece they had donated. Although I knew it would be way, way out of my league in terms of sales price I thought at least I got a chance to admire it for a while. But lo and behold this very striking black and white painting of Ogallala Sioux tribesman Black Eagle painted by none other than Greer Ross Dexter sold not way, way over my budget but just way over and I got it.

Museums are fun and they are some of my favorite places but owning a true piece of art that you can see every day is something special.

As far as Elder Care’s party, it was another big success. Perfect weather, a big crowd, great food and drinks and wonderful music along with a big dose of Oklahoma history, what more could you ask for? Once again, a dedicated group of hard working volunteers did an excellent job.

Till next time I’ll see ya down the road….

Gene Autry Oklahoma

Welcome back. In between Dallas and Oklahoma City there’s a lonely exit called “40 to Springer- Gene Autry.” You go about 5 miles to Happy Trails road and then another mile or so to Tumbleweed road and then another mile or so and then friends you have arrived in the town of Gene Autry, Oklahoma population “a few”. There’s no main street, never was, just a handful of houses and a nicely remodeled auditorium with a gymnasium next door that is also very well kept up. My travels this past weekend took me to this place because it was recommended to me by Oklahoma singer and songwriter Les Gilliam. He told me about an event they were holding there which was advertised as the first Cowboy Way Fest. Three days of basically non-stop western music with a very impressive lineup. Sons of the Pioneers, Rex Allen, Jr. and Kristy Harris were just a few of the featured performers and Kristy had just won a Wrangler Award which is the equivalent of an Oscar in the western world. It was a no brainer for me, I had to go.

When I arrived on Friday night I found dozens of musicians playing everywhere from underneath shade trees to in the gymnasium when they weren’t playing on stage in the auditorium with their regular bands and they did this all weekend. The gym was also where the vendors set up, selling everything western of course. Another big draw in the gym was the appearance of a half dozen cowboy film stars. For you folks old enough to remember the T.V. show The Virginian, one of them was James Drury who played the Virginian. A big star in the sixties, it looked like he’s just about as popular now. Members of his fan club showed up in droves and after visiting with him I can see why. Nice guy!
Roberta Shore was there too. A star of the big screen and T.V., she got one of her early breaks in T.V.’s The Shaggy Dog in 1959 and many roles followed. Emmy Award winner Gary Clarke, another big cowboy star from the sixties, Alex Cord who had a leading role in the hit T.V. show Laramie, Ken Farmer another T.V. actor who has also done over 260 commercials and even the original Marlboro Man Ben Bates, they were all there.

Les Gilliam, a man who grew up knowing Gene Autry was also there playing every day to a full house. Les is a big time headliner who I mentioned last week will be playing this Saturday night at The Good, The Bad and The Barbeque out at the Mullendore Cross Bell Ranch.

The whole Cowboy Way Fest was put on by the Gene Autry Oklahoma Museum which is open to the public Thursday-Saturday 10-5 and Sunday 12-5. I must tell you it’s a must see place for fans of the old west. Call Leslie Fisher who manages the museum for more info at 580-294-3335.

Cowboys, western music, museums dedicated to a way of life that’s all but forgotten. That’s what these cowboy festivals are all about, trying to preserve the music and traditions that are part of history now. Being a big cattle producing area we have that history right here in the northeast corner of Oklahoma and the last of one of the big ranches is the Cross Bell. For those of you who haven’t heard yet the ranch is hosting a big party benefiting Elder Care. It’s a chance to see where it all got started along with really good music, auctions like none I’ve seen before, and great food. With the weather looking good call Elder Care at (918) 335-8500 for tickets. For those of you who are not sure, tickets can be purchased at the ranch the night of the event.

Till next time I’ll see ya down the road…..