Well now, they call me the breeze
I keep blowin’ down the road
I ain’t got me nobody
I don’t carry me no load
There’s a handful of states that have a city that is their music city, the place where their music scene happened or happens. Seattle for Washington, Nashville & Memphis for Tennessee, New Orleans for Lousiana, etc, for Oklahoma that city is Tulsa.
The “Tulsa sound” is the sort of thing you get in a crossroads city, the local folk & country music got blending with jazz and soul beats, rock guitar and lots of blues.
Tulsa is not a big place at all, probably 350,000 but the number of acts from here and the influence is so vast and so cool. The music scene here generated Leon Russell, Cargoe, The Tractors, David Gates, The Gap Band, a bunch of Tulsa players ended up going to Los Angeles and forming the Wrecking Crew, the house band for all the Phil Spector recordings…honestly about a dozen more bands that I like but most importantly of all, the king of the Tulsa sound… JJ Cale.
JJ is one of my all-time favourite musicians, I can list off 20-30 crazy good songs of his off the top of my head.
JJ took what was a fairly local scene and started expanding it outwards, getting wider distribution for local artists and scoring a few small radio hits himself. When his record made it into the hands of Eric Clapton in the early 70’s they became friends and JJ convinced Eric and a handful of other English guitarists (inc Jeff Beck) to move to Tulsa for a while and learn the sound.
This friendship culminated in Eric recording a ton of JJ’s songs, scoring major hits with After Midnight, and Cocaine.
Clapton’s hit versions of JJ’s songs led to other artists coming to Tulsa to record their own JJ tracks, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Nazareth, Kansas, Dr. Hook, Waylon Jennings, The Band, Johnny Cash all tracked JJ down and either covered his songs, wrote new songs with him or had him produce their albums.
JJ was also an electronics wizard, inventing tons of studio equipment and getting so far into this side of things that eventually Clapton had to pull him back reminding him that every hour spent building his own vacuum tubes was an hour not spent on music.
I could write pages and pages, really, easily, on JJ Cale, I will stop here. It’s awesome that this one guy and the music scene in Tulsa can be heard in everything from the Eagles (big time) to Tom Petty, Beck, Spiritualized, The Wallflowers, Phish, Dire Straits (a ton!), dozens more.
“He was my hero.”
– Eric Clapton