Oklahoma is steeped in country and western music tradition and has produced some of the brightest stars in the industry. Catch some of Oklahoma’s country and western singing sensations and scoot your boots at our dancehalls, festivals and musical venues.
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In the mid-1930s Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys rose to stardom in Tulsa where they broadcast a daily 45-minute live radio show from Cain’s Ballroom. Cain's Ballroom became homebase for the kings of western swing and they played on shows to crowds of enthusiastic swing dancers on Thursday and Saturday nights at the renowned dancehall.
Since those early days, Oklahoma has produced a plethora of country music stars including Roy Clark, Reba McEntire, Toby Keith, Garth Brooks, Carrie Underwood, Vince Gill, Blake Shelton, Ronnie Dunn, Mel McDaniel, Hoyt Axton, Roger Miller and many others.
With that pedigree, it’s no surprise that Oklahoma’s country and western music scene continues to rock. Here are some of the places to check out the stars, both established and rising:
The American Heritage Music Festival is held annually in Grove near Grand Lake. Central to this June festival is the Grand Lake National Fiddle Fest and the Grand Lake National Clogging Contest, both of which are sanctioned events drawing strong talent competing for cash prizes. There are also banjo and mandolin contests, all organized by fiddler Jana Jae, who has played with The Oakridge Boys, Chet Atkins, Roy Clark and the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band. Johnny may not wager his soul against a fiddle of gold here, but there’s plenty of first-class fiddlin’.
Former music journalist Greg Johnson’s Blue Door hosts up-and-coming songwriters as well as established acts. Along with country music, Blue Door acts also include bluegrass, folk, blues and rock. Elk City native, Jimmy Webb, who wrote such tunes as Up, Up and Away, By the Time I Get to Phoenix, Wichita Lineman, Galveston and MacArthur Park is a frequent guest.
Cain’s Ballroom is an Oklahoma classic any time, bringing some great country acts to its intimate dancehall setting. You’ll find folks dancing to the likes of Lyle Lovett and Willie Nelson at times, but the club known as “The House that Bob Built” remembers its roots - let the Bob Wills Birthday Bash, held in early March each year, take you back to Tulsa with a variety of western swing in the Playboys’ tradition.
The Oklahoma Rodeo Opry is in Historic Stockyards City – Oklahoma City's cowboy central. The cast and guests perform weekly in a charming theater. Although you won’t likely see any major recording artists, you might catch a future star and you’ll certainly be entertained by a very professional ensemble.
Oklahoma native and country superstar Toby Keith has a chain of venues that are part country music nightclub, part restaurant and part bar, so you can have a steak or some ribs and stay to dance to live country music. You’ll find Oklahoma City’s version in the lower Bricktown Entertainment District area, the Tulsa incarnation inside the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino and inside the WinStar World Casino in Thackerville.
Western Swing Weekend is held the first weekend in November at the Lodge at Sequoyah State Park near Wagoner. This one’s a good chance to catch the flavor of pioneers such as Bob Wills while enjoying a great state park with good accommodations on the shores of Fort Gibson Lake.