Six months later, there’s enough evidence to say it: Church Studio rocks again.
Tulsa Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Leon Russell returned to his hometown of Tulsa in 1972 and purchased a church that was converted into the Church Studio.
A musical workshop and recording studio, Church Studio was used by artists rostering with Shelter Records, a label owned by Russell and Denny Cordell. And, because Russell was in the middle years of peak popularity, Church Studio attracted musical artists from around the world.
It would be a shame if this cool piece of local history was lost over the centuries and, thanks to Teresa Knox, it won’t.
Knox, current owner of Church Studio, has embraced the mission of restoring Church Studio to glory.
On March 1, 2022 – 50 years after Russell put his name on the church deed – a renovated church studio opened to visitors. On September 1, Church Studio will have been reopened for six months. During this period, Church Studio held “intimate” concerts as part of a Legacy concert series. The shows have featured Bill Champlin, Kenny Loggins, George Thorogood, Taj Mahal and Jimmy Webb. Knox said 2023 will be just as exciting.
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Knox answered questions from the Tulsa world ahead of Church Studio’s upcoming biannual anniversary.
It has been almost six months since the restored Church Studio opened its doors. Thoughts?
“Since opening in March, we have been amazed by the local support and national interest. We don’t take this for granted and want to continue doing our part to engage our local community and delight out-of-town visitors. People have visited us from over 30 countries and all 50 states.
What can you say that will help people understand how much criticism you received during opening week?
“We had over 4,000 visitors the first week, which coincided with the 50th anniversary of Leon’s purchase in 1972. We thought we had everything planned, but we weren’t prepared for this kind of traffic. We ran out of our staples like koozies, stickers, and brochures. Despite some small logistics, we loved every minute and learned a lot.
Even though it was a busy time, it had to be a good reinforcement to get people interested.
“Fans of Leon Russell, Tom Petty, Steve Ripley, Dwight Twilley and others were thrilled to see what we did during the restoration process. We heard entertaining stories and learned a lot about the history and the historical significance of the building. We also appreciate other types of tourists, such as those interested in Route 66, historic architecture and the Methodist Church. It was wonderful to show the local musicians the venue. control, the concert hall, acoustic design and studio equipment.We want to be an important resource for the music community.
What do you want to say about the concert series and why did you want to make it part of Church Studio?
“The Legacy Concert Series is a way for us to honor legends and their musical contributions while providing a unique concert experience for super fans of these artists. Performances are also recorded and videotaped for entertainment purposes. archiving and sharing with our subscribers. We interview the artists before or after the show and always ask them what they think of the studio, Leon Russell and Tulsa Sound. I am amazed at how much the pioneering influence of Tulsa has infiltrated the music world.
Who do you have on the concert schedule going forward?
“Air Supply is our next legacy artist (October 4). They’ve visited the studio twice before – once during renovations and once during the Dropkick Murphys session – and we’ve become good friends. One of our vintage microphones was purchased from Graham Russell, a Telefunken ELAM 251. Our crew listened shamelessly to yacht rock all summer in anticipation of this rare acoustic performance. Plus, we love the Russell connection; Russell Hitchcock and Graham Russell will play at Leon Russell’s.
The concerts are held in the sanctuary, so you have a show setting for around 100 people. Does it create a unique environment?
“The building is a 107-year-old structure and the performance hall was a place of worship. It creates a beautiful backdrop, emotionally and aesthetically. Combining this with Leon’s story inspires an engaging sense of unity between performers and audiences. It’s an experience like no other.
Dropkick Murphys have announced a new album inspired by Woody Guthrie which was recorded at Church Studio. Who else do you think has recorded at Church Studio lately or wants to record there?
“Tommy Emmanuel, Kenny Loggins, Bill Champlin, Dropkick Murphys, George Thorogood, Zac Wenzel, Taj Mahal, Jake & the Idols, CBS Sports, Kristin Chenoweth, ‘Discover Oklahoma’, Loyal TV, RSU TV, Mike Rowe, CBS Austin, Brad Absher, Travis Kidd, Brent Giddens, Kenny Ortega, Ariana Reagor, Kevin Chamberlin, Jordan Fisher, Walt Disney Records, Warner Brothers and Paul Benjaman.
Church Studio has attracted “named” visitors since its reopening. It’s time to give a name. Who intervened?
“Lukas Nelson, Mavis Staples, Taj Mahal, Ray Wylie Hubbard, Olivia Harrison, Tommy Emmanuel, Joe Bonamassa, 38 Special, Mannheim Steamroller, Taylor Hanson, Zachary Levi, Liz Moriando, Barry Williams, Zac Maloy, John Doe, Air Supply, C. Thomas Howell, Ashley McBride, Blackberry Smoke, Gary Busey, Kenny Ortega, Foreigner, Kristin Chenoweth, Jordan Fisher, Paul Tollett, Zach Bryan and American Aquarium.
Has the Bob Dylan Center had an impact on your operations?
“We love the Bob Dylan Center. The center team has been tremendously supportive of our efforts and sent tourists, journalists and celebrities on our way. We wouldn’t have the number of visitors we’ve had without their presence in Tulsa. There are many connections, including Steve Ripley and Leon Russell, and the studio’s Neve 8068 console is the exact one Dylan used to record “Time Out of Mind.” Visitors to the Bob Dylan Center will also notice The Church Studio Control Room, an interactive listening and mixing exhibit. We look forward to further collaborations with them.
What has been the highlight for you since Church Studio came back to life? How do you feel about all of this?
“Developing an operation that allows tourists to enjoy the exhibit space and archives without compromising the integrity of the registration process has been the best part of the Church’s renewal. We deployed a model that took lessons from the Church’s 1915 community orientation and merged it with Shelter’s artist-centric strategy.