Friday, June 01, 2012


we must continue throughout our lives to do what we conceive to be good. - sauk warrior blackhawk (1767-1838) 
     two years ago i wrote the story of the sauk warrior blackhawk’s 1830's victory tour in the face of his captor andrew jackson and the wonderful record in paintings and drawings of the man which it produced. blackhawk for christmas.    but, of course, even these images were made through the eyes of nonindian artists and were tolerable because they were theoretically realistic.  later images tended to be reflective of prejudice and less realistic.  so today i write about the rest of the images of blackhawk.  a wisconsin blogger summed it up well in his reflecting on blackhawk’s legacy:
Rock River was a beautiful country; I loved my towns, my cornfields, and the home of my people. I fought for it. -- Black Hawk 
I came across this scene yesterday while looking for something else. It's just off the Rock River, near the intersection of Highways 26 and 106. The Rock River is a 285-mile tributary of the Mississippi River that flows through southwest Wisconsin into Illinois on its way to the Mississippi, draining the Yahara River that connects Madison's lakes along the way. It runs through some of the richest agricultural land in the world, and as the quote reminds us, European settlers were not the first people to farm here or to fall in love with the beauty of the land. I've written earlier about the tragic and misnamed Black Hawk War -- misnamed because it was less a war than a flight and a pursuit ending in a massacre -- that settled these competing claims once and for all 175 years ago this year. ... History is often written with a pen dipped in bitter irony, and there's no better example than the fact that today the legacy of Black Hawk lives on in place names and the names of organizations and country clubs throughout his people's former territory.
     i coined the phrase ‘indian kitsch’ while observing the works of euchee artist richard ray whitman, who incorporates pictorial versions of this phenomenon which surrounds us in oklahoma. but, of course, ‘kitsch’ and ‘ironic’ are words by which we avoid repeating the simple truth.  Using indian names and images is one more proof that the non-Indian world remains blind to the disrespect that has always characterized both the enemies and ‘friends’ of indian people. 
     the blogger began his essay with a tattered sign restricting use of a fishing hole to members of a vfw who comprised the blackhawing boating club. I found many more examples which come from the states that blackhawk lifed and/or fought in. rock island, illinois is a bit of an epicenter of the theoretically appreciative appropriation of blackhawk’s name and image. the sauk ‘capital’ suaukenak’ was near here for 100 years before the events that culminated in the ‘blackhawk war’. blackhawk in his autobiography described the lands and a watchtower which was used for observation up and down the rock river. The white locals later incorporated this into an inn and an amusement park using blackhawk’s name and the tower. more positively the black hawk state historic site is here along with a museum both of which actively solicit participation from descendants of the sac and fox who lived here. Blackhawk park
     but it also produced a two sided metal statue/sign with an image of blackhawk advertising for the ‘watchtower’ shopping center. A Roadside American tip
describing it offers cute insights and a terrible tag line: 
This metal statue of chief black hawk has never been painted. It is the original porcelain coating that was on the statue since installation. Not bad for a 50 year old finish. what would blackhawk -- chief of the sauks -- say, seeing his lands returned to full retail vigor? 
rock island was also the home of a company that produced ‘blackhawk pale dry ginger ale’ - and grabbed off a blackhawk image. three years ago a local couple carved a tree destroyed into ‘a likeness’ of blackhawk. The local newspaper offered a somewhat bizarre photo of the carving in front of a flag. 
     and, of course, chicago is the home of the most public totally unrealistic image of blackhawk, the emblem of the chicago blackhawks. historically the blackhawks name was supposed to have come from a world war 1 army division but ‘doughboys’ never were added to their jerseys.  
     wisconsin’s kitsch-tributions are a little more uncertain; I found two. Local lore in prairie du chien, wisconsin has a cottonwood tree said to be the black hawk tree, or black hawk's tree, where blackhawk allegedly hid. The story was debunked a century ago and fell later in a windstorm, but the spot is still marked and a piece of wood allegedly from it is housed in a local museum. I also found two images of postcard showing an indian man named whirling thunder, a guide on a boat called the blackhawk.  whirling thunder was the son of blackhawk and was often depicted in paintings of him. so this is a double insult and demeaning to the indian man in the picture. Iowa was the final home of blackhawk. He chose to be buried there only to have his body stolen from its grave by a local doctor intent on displaying his skull to the world. later the state treated him somewhat better. the statue in his honor is the best of the bunch as you’ll see later. But even there someone couldn’t resist putting a totally inaccurate depiction of him on a sign in the park named after him. finally I found some other examples of misuse and flawed portrayal of blackhawk’s image of uncertain origin: tobacco, chewing gum and a book allegedly about him. 

     iowa houses a beautiful 11 foot statute of blackhawk that I think he would have approved of.  in 1934 harry stinson created an accurate and beautiful 11 foot statue of blackhawk which overlooks a lake also named after him. the artist worked with iowa’s most well known artist grant wood, perhaps as part of a wpa art program, the statue was completely restored in 1999.  
     illinois on the other hand is  the home of the largest, probably best known and most deliberately inaccurate sculpture of blackhawk - insulting kitsch on a massive scale. in 1911, one lorado taft determined to build a massive sculture honoring indians on land he used on land housing the eagle's nest art colony, the turn of the century equivalent of an intellectual artist colony full of early day new-agers like those who beset indian people these days. the result was a concrete statue 125 feet above the rock river the rock river. 
"at the dedication of the statue on July 1, 1911, taft said that in the evenings he and members of the eagle's nest art colony walked along the bluff and would often stop at the statue's location to enjoy the view from the bluff. contemplation became habitual, arms folded, restful and reverent. black hawk came from that contemplative mood and attitude. the 48-foot (15 m) tall monolith, towering over the river, suggests an unconquered spirit through its composition blending fox, sac, sioux and mohawk cultures. taft said the statue was inspired by the Sac leader black hawk, although it is not a likeness of the chief.” 
and of course it was not a likeness of blackhawk or other tribes but it soon became officially the blackhawk statue anyway. Its size and placement continue to photograph well and probably draw numerous tourists. But it is in the end an insulting and paternalistic image not of blackhawk but of the noble but defeated savage like various works in oklahoma. I found two other non-massive and apparently respectful and accurate blackhawk sculptures the first sculpture in a set of sculptures in saint feriole island park in prairie du chien, wisconsin honored blackhawk [the only indian in the group]. blackhawk state park in illinois also includes a sculpture honoring blackhawk.

     this current effort began saturday morning when i somehow happened in a website devoted to railroad pictures and happened on an image entitled “Indian guy on hotel in rock island”. it didn’t take me too long to figure out i had stumbled on a blackhawk treasure like i had never known. a bettendorf, iowa, blogger told me much more in a wonderful piece entitled celebrating independence day
overlooking the mississippi river from the back of an office building in downtown rock Island looms a mural of black hawk, the native american leader of the sauk nation. It was on the 4th of july i noticed the painting while driving along illinois' highway 92, thinking about the declaration of independence and its meaning. my eyes were drawn to the six-story painting that looks toward the mississippi river, or the great river as it was known among the native peoples of the mississippi river basin. 
      in fact the building mural was the product of a well-known urban artist, richard haas who specializes in creating mural sculptures that change the look of a building by some alterations and the tricks of a trompe l'oeil artist. here he altered the shape of the roof and filled in four windows to create the sixty-foot high vision of blackhawk.  richard haas black hawk memorial
     haas has worked on other historical subjects including lewis and clark in oregon and the end of the chisolm trail in fort worth. perhaps more interestingly, he had a prior moment with blackhawk which basically came out oddly. In 1985 the city of madison, wisconsin, commissioned haas to design a mural which included portraits of wisconsin historic figures as medallions along with other views in ‘the artist’s illusionist style’. the project was surrounded by political and other controvery.“ it is now largely hidden by another controversial project, the monona terrace. See the olin terrace mural.  And I have not been able to find an image of his depiction of blackhawk. instead I only offer two images related to the project which I can’t really identify. i have written to the artist who was kind enough to answer that he is touring in russia and will see if he can help later in the month. 

     so the yin and yang of the life of a special man goes on.  the sac and fox can look back with pride on his real legacy.  the bettendorf blogger puts it well: 
black hawk, born before america's independence, witnessed this nation's birth and expansive growth across the north american continent. he fought against her on the side of the british in the war of 1812 in the hope of staving off the mass migration of europeans into native american land. ... in this scheme of things, black hawk stands as a witness to the incongruity of america’s ideals as avowed in the declaration of independence and the reality of her history.  on the banks of the great river, this native american warrior and freedom fighter looms as a conscience to remind us of our higher calling.

Sunday, January 08, 2012


jim redcorn was a friend and regular visitor to our house during the time he lived in oklahoma city in the 70's and early 80's. he also welcomed us to the osage dances in pawhuska. he moved back to his home studio in pawhuska and we all saw him less. he died some time ago while living in pawhuska. jim's son talee printed a poem online that jim had written causing me to think back on him and be determined to write a few words remembering him.
jim was an old school indian artist trained in santa fe and mentoring others including richard whitman who came after him. he painted in gouache or watercolor and favored images of his osage tribe. he proudly claimed knowledge from classic european painting.
he came to oklahoma city in the 70's to head a project documenting undercounting of indians in the census working with our friend helen fourkiller among others. art remained his real love and he was particularly proud of an ornately framed oil painting that hung on the wall of the border crossing restaurant in norman.
he brought his own brand of happiness to me and my family and i am glad to reprint some of his art from the internet and that poem

I am a painter,
Not a writer.
I only want to paint
The beauty and the dignity
Of my people, the Osage.

One painting reflects this:
"The Playground of the Eldest Son"

The oldest son is our most favorite.
Our most honored.
Other siblings revere him.
The dance reflects this - - -

The eagle flies looking down - - -
Looking to the earth

If the mood of the people in the Osage village is good
The dance is good.

If the dancers are exhilarated by this reverence,
The people know it.

If my paintings are good
The viewers will know it.

Jim Redcorn, 1973

* Pictured in the photo are Jim's brother Charles, his son Talee, his father Harold and Jim. I have no idea why he wore the blanket that day but somehow i'm not surprised.

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Saturday, November 05, 2011

this week jesse ed davis will be inducted posthumously into the oklahoma music hall of fame class of 2011. during his oklahoma musical days he was associated with two other musicians whose place in oklahoma musical days has been at best belatedly recognized - conway twitty and wes reynolds. i've written a bit about conway twitty* here. so today i'd like to write a few words about jesse ed davis and wes reynolds

jesse ed davis is and was beloved to his kiowa people and the world of rock and roll. his cousin mary helen deer smith reports he was know as 'eddie' and was the son of vivian saunkeah, a full blood kiowa, and his father jesse edwin davis who was creek and comanche but apparently identified himself primarily with the creeks. jesse ed's death at an early age is clearly comparable as a loss to the death of another kiowa of his age, t.c. cannon because of the world class artistic talent they both demonstrated. after his death one of his national friends, jackson browne, told an oklahoma city audience how fondly he remembered jesse and his mother vivian who treated him as a son and whose home he still returns to. [courtesy: bernice benefield]
he graduated from northeast high school in 1962 and played locally with johny ware and others, attended ou and taught guitar, before leaving school and town to tour with conway twitty in the first days of his rock and roll times.
his life is chronicled by rock historian jas obrecht in part because of the list of rock superstars with whom he was associated from taj mahal to individual beatles: Jesse Ed Davis: “I Just Play the Notes That Sound Good”. near the end of his life at 43 he played with john trudell in the graffitti band. one night in 1987 while playing in the palomino club with taj mahal they were joined spontaneously on stage by bob dylan, george harrison and john fogerty producing what turned out to be a particularly special tribute to his career and ability.

wes reynolds, known as wesley during high school years, grew up around oklahoma city and spent time at northeast high school in the 1950's and according to my memory at least performed at my high school, northwest classen. i can remember him still for having the famous 'greaser/rocker' look and playing his hit 'trip to the moon' in the northwest classen high school cafeteria. his memory stuck with me all these years and i went internet searching for him and found that he was live, well and still playing in tulsa after some heady musical times of his own.
turns out he had abandoned high school [a move i wouldn't have understood at the time] to began a musical career described by his friend john wooley in a tulsa world article: Wes Reynolds has been all over America -- on and off the rock 'n' roll radar. i found that he had honed his musical skills in part at a studio run by one of child musical heroes about 100 feet from where i now live. he used to venture to the legendary studio of gene sullivan in capitol hill. sullivan as gene of 'wiley and gene' had been a local musical hero for me for as part of their bluegrass/country singing and comedy routine. his studio up the block from me now was obviously a local music epicenter featuring appearances by the likes of leon russell before he was leon and others. and wes got to play with them all. but i didn't know all that firmly north of the south canadian river.
'trip to the moon' was the result of a somewhat byzantine story of music in the first space exploration days of the 50's. nonetheless it's publication in 1957 officially began wes' rock and roll career with 'the house rockers' and other bands and took him to venues from tulsa's hard rock scene to a good part of the united states. a south dakota rock and roll association notes his playing there and being part of the bands listened to and brought there by oklahoma city's KOMA as a clear channel station. wes lived in los angeles, las vegas and miami and played with rock and roll blues legends as diverse as ricky nelson and bo diddley. he even appeared in television shows during his l.a. days.
in 1970 he returned to tulsa to raise a family and continue music as a documents his touring and tulsa years. his current web site showcases his entire career. he is an accomplished rock and roll pianist, ala jerry lee, and blues guitarist. in 2009 he was inducted into both the oklahoma historical society rock and roll hall of fame and the oklahoma blues hall of fame.** a tulsa fan, 'nurseeroc' has given included a number of wes' videos on his youtube channel. earlier this summer he wrote, produced and performed a new video 'for good'.
a recent video shows him at his simple blues man best:

i finally got to see wes perform one song in tulsa earlier this year 50+ years after that school cafeteria and am eagerly awaiting a next time. he wrote to me this morning and reported he and jesse ed traded guitar licks and rock and roll star dreams in oklahoma city in their teens and saw each other shortly before jessie ed's death. so today i happily celebrate two of my oklahoma city contemporaries who followed their rock and roll dreams.

* suffice it to say that conway twitty has not been in made a member of any oklahoma hall of fame musical or otherwise and that is just plain wrong.
** his nomination for the oklahoma music hall of fame without election in 2005 is clearly a blot on that group's reputation. but it's probably not a good week to push that cart.

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Sunday, July 17, 2011

i often notice that aging produces a variety of seemingly surprising or inappropriate reaction to thoughts of things newly or always around me whether natural or manmade. simply put, i get into them what seems to be more than i ever have. one result is a desire/need to record or pass on my new 'discoveries'. but there is an even more surprising aspect of the phenomenon. i find that often what catches my eye has been literally in plain sight and maybe even all around me all along. art deco generally and what i call courthouse deco has in fact been all around my workspaces, courthouses at a number of venue, and within my view all round oklahoma city, even in capitol hill, and not just in tulsey town.
tulsa is still legitimately oklahoma's official art deco capitol and my official starting place for appreciating art deco. art deco is instantly in sight downtown and elsewhere and the community trumpets its art deco. oklahoma city's art deco came into view for me more when the courthouse was massively - and wonderfully refurbished in the late 90's. the refurbishing accented the art deco within, particularly by wonderful subtle but strong painting of the interior. once my eyes were reopened i noticed that city hall and the civic center auditorium directly to the west had art deco exteriors and the first national bank building was art decvo all the way. and i started noticing the art deco in other courthouses around here, particularly grady and pott counties.
the courthouses
by my count there are ten courthouses that have some claim to being art deco and one that i think deserves mention with an asterisk. most were built in the 1930's. two architects, solomon layton and walter vahlberg were responsible for 5 of the 10 but apparently did not collaborate. almost all have the outside trappings of art deco and some show art deco on the inside. [1] the outsides typically display half sculptures coming out of the granite walls - i saw them described as friezes. these sometimes geometrical design and other times iless than successful attempts to show indian people and white settlers symbolically. the building also often use aluminm for elaborate window grills and sometimes the sculpture.

oklahoma county - oklahoma city

the oklahoma county was built in 1937 with pwa funds. here is where it all started for me. art deco abounds inside and out. check out the whole front of the building, the mailboxes by the elevator with the streamline airplane image, the light fixtures. there are so many things to see that i suspect i'll need to make some kind of slide show and the whole outside but especially take a little while to stand on the second floor and look around. bad and good has happened to me on this floor in the 40 years i have been visiting. today i often stop just to take in the view to make the day bearable. the floor was originally the first floor which you entered from the front steps until 'security concerns' closed those doors. that's truly sad because walking past the outside onto this floor was meant to be.
'There are many art deco structures, but none with a space to match the two-story lobby with its third-floor overlooks, its terrazzo compass in the floor or marvelous abstracted wagon wheel chandeliers. And none with the whimseyed art deco meets American West ornament," he said.'
grady county - chickasha

the courthouse in chickasha was designed by the same architect as oklahoma county courthouse some three years earlier and like it contains wonderful interior art deco details in the stairways, halls and courtrooms. unfortunately it has not had a similar spruce up update which it very much deserves. the entrance includes lantern structures which reappear before later in oklahoma county and a more bizarre than average version of the classic frieze.

okfuskee county - okemah
i include this courthouse here because it was designed by the same architect some eight years before grady. 1926 is a little early for art deco and there would seem to be a question whether it qualifies for the term. i spot the decorations at the top of each floor and on the second floor east wall facing to the right. one person described it as having 'an interesting wedding cake look'.
cleveland county - norman

the cleveland county courthouse was built in 1939. it's been described as the popular combination of ' the classical revival form with art deco ornamentation. the upstairs courtooms in the old building and stairways continue art deco based looks.

haskell county stigler
i've included this 1931 courthouse here because the architect is the same. this courthouse is obscure to me but it has two claims to fame, one for art deco period. it's arguably art deco in design but has a somewhat bizarre color scheme - a kind of turquoise blue upper floor. the courthouse is also famous for posting a copy of the ten commandments on the grounds. the tenth circuit court of appeals had to order its removal for obvious constitutional grounds. the fact that adultery was misspelled on the sign was not listed as a grounds.

pottawatomie county - shawnee
i've always liked the inside of the pott county courthouse - except for the stairs. signs of art deco are present in the stairways, the courtrooms and on the outside. the single relief aluminum indian images are singular but i don't yet have a picture of them.
pawnee county - pawnee
the pawnee county courthouse is genuine art deco on the outside but the most memorable decoration is the 4 relief works. two on the left, literally the west, show indians facing off against the images on the4 east of approaching settlers.

other counties
for now i'll content with myself with notes as to four other counties. the adair county courthouse in stilwell was bilt in 1931 and includes indian images in the art deco front decorations. the woodward county courthouse built in 1936 has classic art deco accutrements on the outside. the wagoner county courthouse in wagoner was built in the late 30's but seems to have has its art deco moments covered up. it is however still decribed as art deco. I have not been in the refurbished pontotoc county courthouse in ada but two things have always made me think art deco when i'm near the place. first the suggs clinic, a classic art deco building is right across the street. second, the courthouse elevator doors have always sported a clear art deco pc insignia.

i'd love to add inside pictures to this blog and have the whole subject develop more. for now i just suggest you avoid the classic courthouse bad times by looking around at the art deco.

A number of flickr sites have courthouse pictures. One of the most comprehensive is available at 'courthouselover's' oklahoma collection. I combined other pictures on flickr for two collections: oklahoma courthouse deco and deco ii.
Three websites provide good materials on the oklahoma county courthouse: two with good histories of the courthouse: oklahoma county's site and living places. oklahoma county lawyer doug loudenback's blog includes a Civic Center page which gives the history of the whole area from the courthouse to the police station which was a major civic improvement plan in the 1930's.
A tulsa art deco website has a good art deco primer.


Thursday, July 07, 2011


’"Conway Twitty, ... seems to have been written out of rock'n'roll history for some reason. Perhaps his rock'n'roll output was overshadowed by his incredible success as country singer. ... Compared to George Jones, Jerry Lee Lewis, Buck Owens and Merle Haggard who all made their best country sides during that same time period, Twitty's country output is nothing special. But his rock'n'roll sides (1957-63), to my ears, are much better, in fact he cut out a pretty nice niche for himself as a rocker, with a penchant for making histrionic ballads sound just a tad sleazy. "’
A blogger who calls himself Hounddog and is responsible for my title.

When Conway Twitty opened his Twitty Burger restaurant in 1970, he was 36 years old , a resident of far south oklahoma city, and an established country music star, and he had settled comfortably into life under a stage name like few others. [Check out: TWITTY BURGERS, ROCK N ROLL, POETRY AND THE LAW - PART 1.] By 1975 he had moved on to Nashville, and our local memories had begun to get more remote, particularly after his death in 1993.
What had also disappeared was the story of his transformation from a small town country boy talented in country music and baseball to a career as an early years rock and roller with a new name, records, movies and a life living and performing all over the country. In fact the story really lasted less than 10 years but it was full of action and featured his performing music in a way his later country career belied. I continue to write so we won't forget either part of the Conway Twitty story.


Conway Twitty was born Harold Jenkins 1933 in a town called Friar's Point, Mississippi, some 70 miles down the Mississippi River from Memphis. His family moved across the river to the Helena, Arkansas area. The area up to Memphis along the delta was a musical hotbed for the beginning intertwining of black and white country music that would become rock and roll and rockabilly. Harold had his own country band by the age or ten, performed regularly in the area as a teen-ager and even had a radio show. At 21 his career was interrupted by the Army which sent him to Japan until 1956 where he managed to play a lot of music and a little baseball. [1] The Army had taken him away from the delta area right when Sam Phillips and Sun Records were overseeing the real beginnings of rock and roll. Harold /Conway was never known to be slow and he turned his life over to rock and roll in the next 5 years with such speed and gusto that I’m hard put to actually assign dates to the happenings except as dates on his pictures give clues.
1] As Harold he formed a rockabilly band called the Rockhousers.
2] He took his band with him to audition for Sam Phillips and placed himself under the wing of Sam Phillips who, no doubt, did help train him:
Phillips didn’t bite at first, but he liked Jenkins’ original composition,
Rockhouse, enough to acquire the publishing, and then pass the tune
on to Roy Orbison. Orbison rewrote some of the lyrics and recorded it.
Jenkins recorded several songs for Sun, but none were released until
well after his later success on other labels.

3] He recorded a small number of songs for Sun but they didn’t pass sam’s tests and Sun didn’t release them. He never appeared in publicity with Sun’s big boys. But later when his career took off with other labels Sun released the songs and included them in compilations. I played history detective and found a picture of a wall in sun with various sun performers’ pictures. ‘On closer inspection’ I found that they did have a picture of conway but it was in fact a photo of him from another label.
4] He acquired a manager Don Seat who may or may not been responsible for Harold officially changing his name to Conway Twitty, using the names of small towns in Arkansas and Texas, which was officially adopted in 1957.
5] Seat got Conway a deal with Mercury Records which went nowhere. Then he sent Conway to play at a club called the Flaming Lounge in Ontario, Canada where he polished his act and became a local star. He also spent similar time in Des Moines, Iowa., somewhere along the way.
6] And then Seat managed to get him a deal with MGM records where his career as a successful rocker began with his first national hit “ It’s Only Make Believe” in 1958. [1] Check out Danny Boy from the MGM years and tell me doesn't sneak up on you and get you rockin along.
7] Seat even steered Conway into hollywood and 3 unexceptional teen movies. In one of them "College Confidential', he got to 'neck' with Mamie Van Doren, a sex symbol of the time. And there was one story from along those time that produced a truly singular item on Conway's resume. His name was adapted for a musical based on elvis’ going into the army. The main character was called 'Conrad Birdie', and the musical, which later became a movie, was entitled 'Bye Bye Birdie'. I didn't research whether he got credit or remuneration
8]. Conway continued to travel and perform, even in Oklahoma City. But in 1960 he began writing country songs again and sang a variety of songs. In 1962 MGM let him go and in 1965 at Tony Mart's nightclub in Summer's Point, NJ, Twitty ‘put down his guitar, walked off stage, and made his move full time into the "Country" arena. It wasn’t too hard because he had been recording under a new label’s Nashville branch anyway.

Levon Helm, later of fame with 'The Band' backing up Bob Dylan gave us a personal vision of conway/harold and the delta rockabilly days. I was lucky enough to borrow his 1994 autobiography, This Wheels on Fire”. [2] There Helm tells of the local music scene that included ‘Elvis, Jerry Lee and ‘our own Phillips County hero Harold Jenkins, before he was known under his stage name: Conway Twitty.’ He also tells of then Harold and his Rockhousers performing at a local store opening where he and his sister sang a few songs before the rockhousers kept the crowd dancing with rockabilly. More importantly for Levon that turned into his first real public performance when Conway let him play a song when was appearing at a West Helena club and includes the following:
One night I'm in there listening to Conway Twitty and the Rock Housers, who were the best band around. Oh boy, were they. Conway was from Friars Point, Mississippi, but moved to Helena when he was about ten so his daddy could pilot Charlie Halbert's ferry. His first band was the Phillips County Ramblers, a country-style group but that changed when Elvis's "Mystery Train" inspired young Jenkins to begin writing rockabilly songs. He went Add Imageup to Memphis worked with some of the Sun musicians, like Elvis, Carl Perkins, Jerry Lee, and often came through our area with a series of good bands. ...
So I'm in the Delta Supper Club, and Conway's doing "Jenny, Jenny," and the place is just going nuts. He had all the rock moves—the stutter, the twitches, the strut—and the band, ..., provided a raw rockabilly jolt. Girls loved Conway's big, heavy-lidded good looks and long hair reminded 'em a little of Elvis.”
The next day Conway left for his Canada adventure.


Harold was Conway Twitty when he came to OKC to play at the old Springlake Amusement Park back then and gave me one of my few tastes of real rock and roll. I’m not sure if I was there for the time he caused a mini-riot there 1961. His friend Gene Jones tells the story and provides these two picture of one of the quiter moments.

When Conway appeared at the Springlake Amusement Park Amphitheater in 1961, a riot resulted with fans mobbing the stage and Conway retreating to a small building behind the stage that served as a dressing room. The band and other Members of the show barricaded the doors to keep fans away for fear of harm to him until Park Security arrived to restore order. After that show the Park installed an eight foot cyclone fence between the stage and the audience to keep that from happening again. From that time until the Park was closed several years later, the fence was known as the "Conway Twitty Fence.

So truth is Conway's rock and roll years are worth viewing and listening to, both for the music and to watch his hair style evolve.

[1] His Army music days were documented by Gene Jones who played with him in the army in stories and photographs including one of Conway playing with legendary Kiowa guitar player Jesse Ed Davis. His website is good for stories and pictures. I have also used photographs from an 8 CD set which in fact has all of Conway's rock time music. The photos were provided to a newfound internet friend in Finland, Marko Velijalainen, who used some of them in some youtube videos of Conway's rock songs. I have these and a number of other links as a word perefect file if anyone wants to check it out.
2] From Gary Ackley, a long time Assistant District Attorney in oklahoma county, who, much to my pleasure, has always been willing to discuss much more than just the law. He and I both recommend the book for a wonderful range of stories from the front lines of the best of the rock world.
3] The later picture in bad color of Conway at springlake was provided by Kitty Houston who apparently is still singing around the city. She tells stories in her website about hanging out with him because she was married to one of his players.

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Tuesday, June 28, 2011


go by 7200 south western in oklahoma city and you’ll see the current home of southwest monuments, a company apparently dedicated to entirely obliterating and ignoring the iconic status of their building in the history of oklahoma city music and restaurants, bad poetry and even bankruptcy law. the building was built in 1969 or 70 as the center piece of what the late conway twitty envisaged as a chain of restaurant celebrating his personal creation, the twitty burger.

we used to go there in my baby lawyer years and the place had genuinely good food - the first place I ever knew that served the now ubiquitous ham or other meat biscuit. at the time it entranced me as an almost illegal mixing of the biscuit and meat. the twitty burger itself was distinguished by inclusion of a breaded deep fried pineapple slice. maybe it would have done well ion the new era of bread and fry everything but it didn’t do much for me at the time.

the building itself was - and is - actually well done. an oklahoma city history blogger, who managed to publish before me, described it as: ‘western décor with rough hewn beams on a cathedral ceiling, natural stone and leather.”*
Steve Lackmeyer - The Famous Twitty Burger. the building was shaped like a ‘t’ and parking was under a ‘c’ shaped covered canopy - in other words, conway twitty’s initials were incorporated. part of the ‘c’ has since been removed. one of my most enduring memories was driving behind the c and t in the back and almost getting run down by conway himself in a cadillac convertible - he was there sometimes as I remember . this slideshow includes memorabilia of the restaurant and a goodby sign on another of conway’s enterprises:

early this year i ventured into the building in hopes of confirming my memories and discovered the interior still looked good. unfortunately this is where and when I got to deal with present property owners. actually i only got to deal with the owner’s daughter who worked there but i was denied an ‘interview’ with management and refused the right to take pictures. maybe i should organize a boycott of their business by avid conway fans, most of whom are probably perfect for their company demographics. but for now i propose to tell you two more stories in separate editions: the story of conway in his rock and roll years; and the postscript to the demise of the twitty burger chain which is a story in itself. stay tuned

p.s. when i do my blogs, i usually do a bunch of research which creates a word perfect file with copies of all my internet sources. i am happy to send them to anyone who wants to check further.

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Saturday, May 21, 2011

take me home little blue, take me home
i haven't been here lately but i see there are new ways to use google, etc. to make short blog entries. so i'm using a story on some hard times for the little blue and a burst of energy helped by a wonderful penquin quilt from a special friend to slow down my facebook dependence and make something i can be permanently proud of. this is tentatively entitled: capitol hill - where elegant penguins live.
the sad story with an upside, people helping little blues for whom this blog is named - and a picture of their cuteness:

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