Q&A with Jimmy Markham

The late musician, songwriter and original member of the Tulsa Sound



Jimmy Markham was an original contributor to the Tulsa Sound. In July, the community hosted a benefit concert for Markham, who had experienced some recent setbacks. Gary Busey, Paul Benjaman and other musicians played on the Cain’s Ballroom stage. Markham, pictured here at the concert, gave remarks to the gathering of friends and music lovers.

Phil Clarkin

Jimmy Markham died at age 77, just a few days after I sat with him in his hospital room for this interview. A sweet man and a Tulsa legend, Markham and a group of local musicians are responsible for creating what we know today as the iconic Tulsa Sound: a style of music that blends rock, country, blues, jazz and rockabilly in a way that distinctly reflects decades of the
Tulsa music scene.

Markham played in several different bands during high school in the late 1950s and frequently performed alongside fellow Tulsa musicians and friends J.J. Cale, Leon Russell and many others. His career included stints in Los Angeles and Nashville, but Tulsa was always home base, where he made a name for himself as a music promoter and nightclub owner in the 1970s.

A music mentor to many with his trademark spirited vocals and salty harmonica style, Markham was inducted into the Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame in 2014 and the Oklahoma Music Hall of Fame in 2017.



 

Where did you go to school/university? Why?

I was born in Pryor and went to my first six years of school in Chouteau. Then, I moved to Tulsa where I went to Wilson Middle School, Horace Mann Junior High and Central High School.

 

What age do you feel right now and why?

My actual age is 77. I feel like I’m 177.

 

How would your friends describe you?

I’m ornery, but I hope my friends think of me as a gentle soul.

 

What would people be surprised to know about you?

I’m an open book at this day and age, and I like talking about music and my life.

 

If you could witness any event of the past, present or future, what would it be?

It was my night with Jimmy Reed. He’s a blues guy (one of the most popular and significant of the postwar era). That was in the ’60s in Los Angeles in a show and an after-hours jam.

 

What was a “worst time” and how did you pull through it?

I’ve had a number of tough times, but I’m still here. That’s a great song title incidentally. I’m going to have to use that — tough times.

 

What concerns you today?

The entire world and what’s happening to our population.

 

How do you measure success?

By keeping your mouth shut. People measure success sometimes a little too much, maybe. You don’t have to measure success by what you’ve done. It’s there, just look at it.

 

What is a favorite Tulsa memory?

My life-changing event was talking to Elvis Presley at the Tulsa Fairgrounds Pavilion. I was in high school when I met him. That may be the first chapter in my book. I was hooked when I went there to hear him play.

 

What’s your favorite type of music?

All of the above.

 

Describe a perfect weekend in Tulsa or elsewhere.

Writing a hit song wherever it might be. It might be outside.

 

What place in Tulsa do you miss most?

The Paradise Club, of course. (A nightclub located near East 61st Street and South Lewis Avenue that Markham owned and operated in the 1970s.) It opened in 1972. I ran it and managed it — the whole ball of wax. Everyone that played there was legendary.

 

What have been the most significant changes you’ve experienced in Tulsa?

I’ve seen and experienced six decades of change, so it’s hard to pinpoint one for you. I’ve seen a lot of stuff … a lot.

 

What instruments do you play?

I guess it would be harmonica nowadays. I grew up from the sixth grade on playing trumpet. I don’t play it much anymore. I beat around on the guitar.

 

What’s your definition of the Tulsa Sound?

That’s a tough question. My definition is a number of us that grew up together, playing together without saying too much about it. There were probably 15 of us. It was a natural thing, and we just locked into it. By that I mean, we grew the beat, and we could pretty much play with anybody that stepped on stage. Whatever it was, boom, we just played it.

 

Did you have any idea of the significance of the Tulsa Sound when you were jamming with your buddies in high school and afterward?

No, not at all, it’s amazing those things — you just don’t realize it when you’re in the moment.

 

How does Tulsa stack up to all of those other music cities like Nashville and Los Angeles?

You have population differences, but aside from that everybody that’s here is just a hell of a player. They all play extremely well. I don’t know anywhere else where you can go and sit down and listen to some music and see that even the musicians who come in just to jam all play great.

 

Today, the Tulsa Sound is still such a huge influence on all kinds of music. Does that make you feel good to know it lives on in younger generations of bands?

Yeah, it sure does, and they’re doing it well, incidentally. They have my approval.

 

Are there some of those younger singers or generations of bands that you’ve heard in Tulsa and thought they must have been inspired by the original Tulsa Sound?

I have my favorites and everybody knows them. Seth Lee Jones, Jesse Aycock, Dustin Pittsley, Wink Burcham. I can go on all night long. I could fill up a whole book. Just keep carrying the torch.

 

Edit ModuleShow Tags

Archive »You Might Like

Untreated diabetes can wreak havoc on feet

Approximately 451,888 — 14 percent of the adult population in Oklahoma — have been diagnosed with diabetes.

From the editor: Enneagram obsessed

Numbers are my latest fascination.

Kaleidoscope Ball

Approximately 550 supporters of Emergency Infant Services attended the Kaleidoscope Ball on Sept. 17 at the Cox Business Center.
Edit Module

Add your comment:

 

Get the best in arts, entertainment and more straight to your inbox.

Join our email list

Edit ModuleShow Tags

August 2019

Featuring more than seventy works by French and European masters such as Degas, Manet, Monet, Rousseau and Van Gogh, this exhibition celebrates Mr. and Mrs. Paul Mellon’s extraordinary gift...

Cost: $15

Where:
Oklahoma City Museum of Art
415 Couch Drive
Oklahoma City, OK  73102
View map »


Telephone: (405) 236-3100
Website »

More information

Oh, Tulsa is a Living Arts biennial that celebrates visual, performance, literary, sound, video, and installation art for the Tulsa community. Eligible work includes: Tulsa residents, artists who...

Cost: Free

Where:
Living Arts of Tulsa
307 East M. B. Brady St.
Tulsa, OK  74120
View map »


Telephone: 918-585-1234
Website »

More information

KOSU Radio hosts a screening of Ken Burns new documentary “Country Music” at Circle Cinema Sun, Aug. 25 at 2 p.m., ahead of its premiere on PBS stations. This screening will provide an...

Cost: Free

Where:
Circle Cinema
10 S. Lewis Ave.
Tulsa, OK  74104
View map »


Telephone: 918-551-6768
Contact Name: Chuck Foxen
Website »

More information

Help DVIS and the Tulsa Drillers knock out violence! We are in our 16th year of raising funds for survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault. Join us by pledging per home run or making a...

Cost: $1+

Where:
Tulsa, OK


Sponsor: DVIS
Telephone: 918-508-2709
Contact Name: Jenée Day
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Featuring more than seventy works by French and European masters such as Degas, Manet, Monet, Rousseau and Van Gogh, this exhibition celebrates Mr. and Mrs. Paul Mellon’s extraordinary gift...

Cost: $15

Where:
Oklahoma City Museum of Art
415 Couch Drive
Oklahoma City, OK  73102
View map »


Telephone: (405) 236-3100
Website »

More information

Oh, Tulsa is a Living Arts biennial that celebrates visual, performance, literary, sound, video, and installation art for the Tulsa community. Eligible work includes: Tulsa residents, artists who...

Cost: Free

Where:
Living Arts of Tulsa
307 East M. B. Brady St.
Tulsa, OK  74120
View map »


Telephone: 918-585-1234
Website »

More information

Help DVIS and the Tulsa Drillers knock out violence! We are in our 16th year of raising funds for survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault. Join us by pledging per home run or making a...

Cost: $1+

Where:
Tulsa, OK


Sponsor: DVIS
Telephone: 918-508-2709
Contact Name: Jenée Day
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Talk one-on-one with reps from non-profit agencies looking for volunteers, like you! TCC faculty will be there to answer questions about Service Learning. Free and open to the public. Info:...

Cost: free & open to the public

Where:
McKeon Center for Creativity
910 S. Boston Ave.
TCC Metro Campus
Tulsa, OK  74119
View map »


Sponsor: Tulsa Community College
Telephone: 918-595-7339
Contact Name: Cindy Armstrong

More information

Featuring more than seventy works by French and European masters such as Degas, Manet, Monet, Rousseau and Van Gogh, this exhibition celebrates Mr. and Mrs. Paul Mellon’s extraordinary gift...

Cost: $15

Where:
Oklahoma City Museum of Art
415 Couch Drive
Oklahoma City, OK  73102
View map »


Telephone: (405) 236-3100
Website »

More information

Oh, Tulsa is a Living Arts biennial that celebrates visual, performance, literary, sound, video, and installation art for the Tulsa community. Eligible work includes: Tulsa residents, artists who...

Cost: Free

Where:
Living Arts of Tulsa
307 East M. B. Brady St.
Tulsa, OK  74120
View map »


Telephone: 918-585-1234
Website »

More information

Who wants to CHALK 🎨 some 🎃Pumpkins🎃?! Join us on Tuesday August 27, 2019 at Zios (81st and Lewis)! Click the link below to register 👇...

Cost: $35.00

Where:
Zios
8112 S Lewis Ave
Tulsa, OK  74137
View map »


Sponsor: Chalked Squared
Telephone: 918-284-6492
Contact Name: Elizabeth Hardy
Website »

More information

Weary of that old workout routine? Bored with basketball? Soccer getting stale? How about the sport of kings? Try FENCING! Give us 2 hours and we'll give you an active, physically and mentally...

Cost: Free

Where:
Southminster Presbyterian Church Community Center
3500 S Peoria
Tulsa, OK  74106
View map »


Sponsor: Tulsa Fencing Club
Telephone: 918-92-2663
Website »

More information

Help DVIS and the Tulsa Drillers knock out violence! We are in our 16th year of raising funds for survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault. Join us by pledging per home run or making a...

Cost: $1+

Where:
Tulsa, OK


Sponsor: DVIS
Telephone: 918-508-2709
Contact Name: Jenée Day
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Featuring more than seventy works by French and European masters such as Degas, Manet, Monet, Rousseau and Van Gogh, this exhibition celebrates Mr. and Mrs. Paul Mellon’s extraordinary gift...

Cost: $15

Where:
Oklahoma City Museum of Art
415 Couch Drive
Oklahoma City, OK  73102
View map »


Telephone: (405) 236-3100
Website »

More information

Oh, Tulsa is a Living Arts biennial that celebrates visual, performance, literary, sound, video, and installation art for the Tulsa community. Eligible work includes: Tulsa residents, artists who...

Cost: Free

Where:
Living Arts of Tulsa
307 East M. B. Brady St.
Tulsa, OK  74120
View map »


Telephone: 918-585-1234
Website »

More information

Why walk through grief alone when you can participate in GriefShare’s highly acclaimed 13-week video-based support group with others experiencing the same? This group offers a comfortable...

Cost: $15

Where:
Asbury United Methodist Church
6767 S Mingo Rd
Tulsa, OK  74133
View map »


Sponsor: Asbury LifeCare Ministry
Telephone: 918-392-1146
Contact Name: Ruth Winn
Website »

More information

Help DVIS and the Tulsa Drillers knock out violence! We are in our 16th year of raising funds for survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault. Join us by pledging per home run or making a...

Cost: $1+

Where:
Tulsa, OK


Sponsor: DVIS
Telephone: 918-508-2709
Contact Name: Jenée Day
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Have you been dreaming of owning one of the world's best charcoal grill? Been waiting for the right time to buy a new Hasty-Bake Charcoal Grill or add another one to your collection? Well, this...

Cost: FREE

Where:
Hasty-Bake Charcoal Grills Retail Showroom
1313 South Lewis Avenue
Tulsa, OK  74104
View map »


Sponsor: Hasty-Bake Charcoal Grills
Telephone: 918-665-8220
Contact Name: Jennifer Caudle
Website »

More information

Have you been dreaming of owning one of the world's best charcoal grill? Been waiting for the right time to buy a new Hasty-Bake Charcoal Grill or add another one to your collection? Well, this...

Cost: FREE

Where:
Hasty-Bake Charcoal Grills Retail Showroom
1313 South Lewis Avenue
Tulsa, OK  74104
View map »


Sponsor: Hasty-Bake Charcoal Grills
Telephone: 918-665-8220
Contact Name: Jennifer Caudle
Website »

More information

Featuring more than seventy works by French and European masters such as Degas, Manet, Monet, Rousseau and Van Gogh, this exhibition celebrates Mr. and Mrs. Paul Mellon’s extraordinary gift...

Cost: $15

Where:
Oklahoma City Museum of Art
415 Couch Drive
Oklahoma City, OK  73102
View map »


Telephone: (405) 236-3100
Website »

More information

Oh, Tulsa is a Living Arts biennial that celebrates visual, performance, literary, sound, video, and installation art for the Tulsa community. Eligible work includes: Tulsa residents, artists who...

Cost: Free

Where:
Living Arts of Tulsa
307 East M. B. Brady St.
Tulsa, OK  74120
View map »


Telephone: 918-585-1234
Website »

More information

See The Dinosaurs and Unicorn Come Alive At The Circus   The 2019 edition of CIRCUS SAURUS will feature artists from around the world.  Immerse yourself into a mythological quest...

Cost: Advance Tickets $14- Adult $6 child

Where:
West of Plaza Santa Cecilia
2160 S. Garnett Rd.
Tulsa, OK  74129
View map »


Sponsor: Carson & Barnes Circus
Telephone: 580-743-7292
Contact Name: Circus Saurus
Website »

More information

Help DVIS and the Tulsa Drillers knock out violence! We are in our 16th year of raising funds for survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault. Join us by pledging per home run or making a...

Cost: $1+

Where:
Tulsa, OK


Sponsor: DVIS
Telephone: 918-508-2709
Contact Name: Jenée Day
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

The Lazy V 105’ Pasture Festival is an annual action-packed, four-day phenomenon of live events at Riverbend Arena at Owens Ranch in Inola, Oklahoma that includes: team roping, calf roping,...

Cost: $15 - $40

Where:
Riverbend Arena at Owens' Ranch
12900 E. 600 Rd.
Inola, OK  74036
View map »


Sponsor: Riverbend Arena at Owens' Ranch
Telephone: 405-417-6191
Contact Name: Eric Owens
Website »

More information

Have you been dreaming of owning one of the world's best charcoal grill? Been waiting for the right time to buy a new Hasty-Bake Charcoal Grill or add another one to your collection? Well, this...

Cost: FREE

Where:
Hasty-Bake Charcoal Grills Retail Showroom
1313 South Lewis Avenue
Tulsa, OK  74104
View map »


Sponsor: Hasty-Bake Charcoal Grills
Telephone: 918-665-8220
Contact Name: Hasty-Bake Retail Showroom
Website »

More information

Featuring more than seventy works by French and European masters such as Degas, Manet, Monet, Rousseau and Van Gogh, this exhibition celebrates Mr. and Mrs. Paul Mellon’s extraordinary gift...

Cost: $15

Where:
Oklahoma City Museum of Art
415 Couch Drive
Oklahoma City, OK  73102
View map »


Telephone: (405) 236-3100
Website »

More information

See The Dinosaurs and Unicorn Come Alive At The Circus   The 2019 edition of CIRCUS SAURUS will feature artists from around the world.  Immerse yourself into a mythological quest...

Cost: Advance Tickets $14- Adult $6 child

Where:
West of Plaza Santa Cecilia
2160 S. Garnett Rd.
Tulsa, OK  74129
View map »


Sponsor: Carson & Barnes Circus
Telephone: 580-743-7292
Contact Name: Circus Saurus
Website »

More information

Help DVIS and the Tulsa Drillers knock out violence! We are in our 16th year of raising funds for survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault. Join us by pledging per home run or making a...

Cost: $1+

Where:
Tulsa, OK


Sponsor: DVIS
Telephone: 918-508-2709
Contact Name: Jenée Day
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Have you been dreaming of owning one of the world's best charcoal grill? Been waiting for the right time to buy a new Hasty-Bake Charcoal Grill or add another one to your collection? Well, this...

Cost: FREE

Where:
Hasty-Bake Charcoal Grills Retail Showroom
1313 South Lewis Avenue
Tulsa, OK  74104
View map »


Sponsor: Hasty-Bake Charcoal Grills
Telephone: 918-665-8220
Contact Name: Hasty-Bake Retail Showroom
Website »

More information

The Lazy V 105’ Pasture Festival is an annual action-packed, four-day phenomenon of live events at Riverbend Arena at Owens Ranch in Inola, Oklahoma that includes: team roping, calf roping,...

Cost: $15 - $40

Where:
Riverbend Arena at Owens' Ranch
12900 E. 600 Rd.
Inola, OK  74036
View map »


Sponsor: Riverbend Arena at Owens' Ranch
Telephone: 405-417-6191
Contact Name: Eric Owens
Website »

More information

Featuring more than seventy works by French and European masters such as Degas, Manet, Monet, Rousseau and Van Gogh, this exhibition celebrates Mr. and Mrs. Paul Mellon’s extraordinary gift...

Cost: $15

Where:
Oklahoma City Museum of Art
415 Couch Drive
Oklahoma City, OK  73102
View map »


Telephone: (405) 236-3100
Website »

More information

See The Dinosaurs and Unicorn Come Alive At The Circus   The 2019 edition of CIRCUS SAURUS will feature artists from around the world.  Immerse yourself into a mythological quest...

Cost: Advance Tickets $14- Adult $6 child

Where:
West of Plaza Santa Cecilia
2160 S. Garnett Rd.
Tulsa, OK  74129
View map »


Sponsor: Carson & Barnes Circus
Telephone: 580-743-7292
Contact Name: Circus Saurus
Website »

More information

Enjoy smooth jazz, end-of-summer breezes, chilled wine and high-end concessions.  Book a room and/or tickets now. This year’s event is more of a ‘boutique’ event with a portion of all...

Cost: $20-$179

Where:
POSTOAK Lodge and Retreat
5323 W. 31st St. N.
Tulsa, OK  74127
View map »


Telephone: 918-425-2112
Website »

More information

America’s LARGEST interactive comedy murder mystery dinner show is now playing at the Hilton Garden Inn Tulsa Broken Arrow! At The Dinner Detective, you’ll tackle a challenging crime while you...

Cost: 59.95

Where:
Hilton Garden Inn Tulsa- Broken Arrow
420 W Albany St.
Broken Arrow, OK  74012
View map »


Telephone: 866-496-0535
Contact Name: The Dinner Detective
Website »

More information

Help DVIS and the Tulsa Drillers knock out violence! We are in our 16th year of raising funds for survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault. Join us by pledging per home run or making a...

Cost: $1+

Where:
Tulsa, OK


Sponsor: DVIS
Telephone: 918-508-2709
Contact Name: Jenée Day
Website »

More information

Where:
ONEOK Field
201 N Elgin Ave
Tulsa, OK
View map »


Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...
Edit ModuleEdit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

What's New


3.02: Getting Schooled — Dr. Deborah Gist

A conversation with Dr. Deborah Gist, superintendent of Tulsa Public Schools, about the new school year and managing one of the state's largest public school districts with low funding.

Comments

Oklahoma's Best-Sellers: Aug. 18

Based on total number of book sales at Magic City Books, Best of Books in Edmond, Brace Books and More in Ponca City, and Full Circle Bookstore in Oklahoma City.

Comments

How do you create affordable housing for all Tulsans?

Q&A with Becky Gligo, City of Tulsa's first housing policy director

Comments

Video: Onifade's Cookie Co.

Comments: 1

3:01: Higher Education - Dr. Leigh Goodson

Dr. Leigh Goodson, president and CEO of Tulsa Community College, on TCC's 50th anniversary, the Tulsa Achieves program and the importance of going to college in 2019.

Comments