A man and his guitar



Photo by Scooter Brown

According to music legend, guitarist Chet Atkins was in a Nashville studio warming up for a session. A young technician came into the studio and stood watching open-mouthed until Atkins finished.

”Gee, Mr. Atkins, that guitar sure sounds fabulous,” the tech exclaimed.

Atkins placed the guitar on its stand, smiled at the tech and said, “Well, son, how does it sound now?”

In 1975, Norman’s Rare Guitars opened in Reseda, California.  It was a small, word-of-mouth shop specializing in vintage instruments known among musicians as the go-to location for the finest guitars available in the United States. In 1978, Tulsa blues musician Steve Pryor walked in to Norman’s, knowing he wanted to buy an L-series black Stratocaster. The only specification he wasn’t sure about was the year. After a bit of discussion, ten black 1964 Stratocasters were brought out for Pryor to inspect. He spent his entire day there, trying each guitar with equal interest. By the end of the day, he walked out with the black Stratocaster he still plays today. It cost him $200 and a Music Man amplifier, which the store agreed to take in trade.

Since that time, Pryor and his guitar have traveled many miles, played thousands of venues, and shared the stage with the likes of such blues greats as Muddy Waters, John Lee Hooker, Paul Butterfield, Bugs Henderson and The Fabulous Thunderbirds. The guitar has accompanied him to his 2006 induction into the Oklahoma Blues Hall of Fame and his 2009 induction into the Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame as a blues inductee.

The first Fender Stratocaster appeared in 1954. The body of the Stratocaster was more sleek and contoured than any other guitar that preceded it. The guitar’s build allowed the musician to move more freely and allowed for greater showmanship on stage. Once it was embraced by rock icons such as Buddy Holly, George Harrison, Eric Clapton and Jimi Hendrix, the guitar’s popularity soared. Simply put, the Stratocaster looked “cool.”

Interestingly, this is one of the reasons, aside from sound, that Pryor went into Norman’s Rare Guitars that day way back in 1978 and requested a black Strat. Pryor’s guitar needed to be black for one reason and one reason only: Jimi Hendrix’s last guitar, a 1968 Stratocaster, was black, and photographed with his black Strat, Hendrix looked very cool.

Pryor has made some unique modifications to his instrument, thanks in good part to the expertise of Tulsa Guitar and Electronic’s own Steve Hickerson, known affectionately among musicians as “Doc.” Pryor explains the modifications, which involve terminology such as “bridge pickup,” “saddles,” and “open string harmonics.” Suffice it to say, the modifications have made the guitar sound better—in fact, the modifications have made the guitar sound like no other.

Photo by Seth Lee JonesWhile many musicians have given their guitars nicknames—Willie Nelson and “Trigger;” B. B. King and “Lucille;” Stevie Ray Vaughan and “Number One”—Pryor’s Strat has never had a name. But this does not mean the guitar isn’t treated well. When at home and not in its case, the guitar rests high up off the floor on a soft pallet. And only once did the beloved guitar get mistreated by its owner. In a frantic and hurried restringing session, Pryor lost his temper and threw the guitar across a concrete dressing room floor. The guitar did indeed suffer an injury, which Pryor repaired himself with a vial of super glue. Fortunately, it did not change the sound.

So, has Pryor been asked to sell his guitar? Absolutely. Has any offer tempted him to date? Nope. Pryor predicts his Strat will always be repairable, though he does occasionally toy with the idea of retiring it and getting a new one.

Has anyone else ever played Steve Pryor’s Stratocaster? Pryor hesitates, and has to think about that for just a moment. “Well, yes, sometimes, but only if I’m standing there," he says. "There’s no borrowing.”

So, now for the big question. Is it the guitar that makes the musician, or is it the musician that makes the guitar, or is it a combination of both? On this question, Pryor does not hesitate. With complete humility, he asserts that the guitar does not make the musician. What does help is a level of familiarity with the instrument. “It is really more a matter of personal comfort,” he says.

In other words, harkening back to 1978, Pryor could have walked out with any one of those ten Stratocasters that day and the results would have been the same.

Thirty four years and five albums later, thousands of live performances, and Pryor would still be the guitar virtuoso that he is today. As the world renowned Andres Segovia once explained, “Lean your body forward slightly to support the guitar against your chest, for the poetry of the music should resound in your heart.”


More on Pryor's Stratocaster

Entering the serial number printed on Steve’s guitar into a database called “The Guitar Dater Project” produces the following information: “Your guitar was made at the Fullerton Plant (Fender - Pre CBS Era), USA in the Year(s): 1964.” Leo Fender sold his company to CBS in 1965 and pre-CBS Era guitars are highly sought after by collectors.

If you place Steve’s guitar next to Strats owned by Stevie Ray Vaughan and John Mayer, the scuff marks above the pickguards on all three guitars would line-up almost exactly, reflecting similar styles of playing and hand movements. 

Pryor’s black Strat, upon closer inspection, has an undercoat of Sherwood Green. Fender frequently painted its guitars with two layers, sometimes to hide flaws, and sometimes to meet customer demand for a particular color. The colors chosen for undercoats were used by Fender based on availability, and combinations of primers and finishes are inconsistent. Fender custom colors were highly influenced by the colors of the most popular automobiles of the day.


Famous Stratocasters and the musicians who played them

Bill Carson

Oklahoma born country and western swing artist Bill Carson (1926-2007) is known as the test pilot of the Stratocaster. Leo Fender himself actually employed Carson as a field tester for his evolving guitar design and made suggestions to Mr. Fender, particularly regarding the contoured body shape. By 1957, he was employed by Fender on a full-time basis, rising to the head of Fender’s artist relations offices in Nashville. In 2006, one of Carson’s strats, a 1959 Fiesta Red model, sold at Christie’s Auction House for $66,000.

Eric Clapton

Eric Clapton’s Stratocaster, nicknamed “Blackie,” was a composite of three models built between 1956 and 1957. Blackie first appeared publicly in the early ‘70s and was retired in 1985. To raise funds for Crossroads, Clapton’s alcohol and drug rehabilitation center, the Strat was auctioned in 2004. Blackie fetched a record $959,500.

David Gilmour

Pink Floyd guitarist David Gilmour is the proud owner of Strat #0001, often mistakenly believed to be the first Stratocaster ever made. However, Fender did not use sequential serial numbers, so though this is not truly #1, it was manufactured in 1954. The guitar remains in service today.

George Harrison

In 1965, George Harrison obtained a Sonic Blue Stratocaster which he subsequently hand-painted with day-glo paints and nail polish. He also painted the guitar’s nickname “Rocky” on the headstock. Elsewhere on the guitar, the words “Bebopalula” and “Go Cat Go” also appear. The Strat remains in the custody of the Harrison family.

Eddie Van Halen

Eddie Van Halen, who enjoyed tinkering with instruments, combined a Stratocaster body with parts from Gibson and other guitars. The guitar is known as “Frankenstrat” and was hand-painted by Van Halen in a recognizable black/white/red design featured on the cover of the popular video game “Guitar Hero: Van Halen.” Frankenstrat is currently in retirement from touring, and in 2006, Fender issued a replica of the guitar.

Jimi Hendrix

Being left-handed, Jimi Hendrix chose most often to play a right-handed guitar flipped upside down and played from the opposite side of the body. Hendrix played a 1968 Olympic White Stratocaster when he appeared at Woodstock in 1969.  This guitar is most memorable for Hendrix’s stunning rendition of “The Star-Spangled Banner.” Most recently, the white Strat has been on display at the EMP Museum in Seattle, Hendrix’s hometown.

Frank and Dweezil Zappa

After Jimi Hendrix set fire to a Stratocaster, what was left of it (a scorched body) was gifted to his friend Frank Zappa. Zappa restored the guitar to playable condition in the mid-1970s and played it himself for several years. The guitar disappeared for a while, and reappeared when Frank’s son Dweezil found the guitar stashed under a staircase in a studio. For unknown reasons, the Strat had been dismantled and damaged. Dweezil took the guitar to the Fender custom shop, where it was once again restored and is in service today.

Stevie Ray Vaughan

Stevie Ray Vaughan’s most recognizable guitar was a 1963 Stratocaster nicknamed “Number One.” It was widely believed that Vaughan was buried with this guitar in 1990. The truth is, Number One belongs to Stevie’s brother, musician Jimmie Vaughan. The guitar was publicly displayed for the first time in 2012 at the Bullock Texas State History Museum in downtown Austin. 

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Founded in 2004, the Green Country Watercolor Society promotes awareness and interest in water media, with a focus on excellence in technique and materials, while encouraging and assisting water...

Cost: free and open to the public

Where:
McKeon Center for Creativity
910 S. Boston Ave.
TCC Metro Campus
Tulsa, OK  74119
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Sponsor: McKeon Center for Creativity
Telephone: 918-595-7339
Contact Name: Cindy Barton
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This free event features an interactive journey through the true stories of children living in developing countries like the Philippines, Kenya, Uganda and the Dominican Republic. In over 2,000...

Cost: FREE

Where:
Mabee Center
7777 S Lewis Ave.
Tulsa , OK  74171
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Join us in celebrating local tulsan CYNTHIA MARCOUX!                    TOYS - A Caricature of Reality' With a seamless blend of whimsy and...

Cost: free

Where:
MAINLINE ART BAR
111 n main st
tulsa, OK  74103
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Telephone: 918-704-3330
Contact Name: katy eagleston

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  Join us in celebrating local tulsan CYNTHIA MARCOUX! TOYS - A Caricature of Reality' With a seamless blend of whimsy and social critique, Cynthia paints hyper realistic tableaus with a...

Cost: free

Where:
mainline art bar
111 n main st
tulsa, OK  74103
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Sponsor: mainline art bar
Telephone: 918-704-3330
Contact Name: katy eagleston

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This is an ORU Baseball Game   https://mabeecenter.com/oru-baseball-2017/

Cost: $14 // $11 // $7 Plus a $2 service charge

Where:
Mabee Center
7777 S Lewis Ave
Tulsa, OK  74171
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Does your daughter know that she is a masterpiece created by God? Will she believe it in a few years, or will she succumb to the photoshop lies of culture? Secret Keeper Girl’s Purple Party...

Cost: $49

Where:
Mabee Center
7777 SOUTH LEWIS AVE
TULSA, OK  74171
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 The University of Tulsa’s Department of Theatre will present a contemporary adaptation of the Greek comedy Lysistrataat 8 p.m. March 23-25 and at 2 p.m. March 26. All performances will...

Cost: $15

Where:
Lorton Performance Center
550 S Gary Place
Tulsa , OK  74104
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Telephone: 918-631-2566

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Where:
Hard Rock Hotel and Casino - Riffs
777 W Cherokee Street
Catoosa, OK  74105
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Where:
River Spirit Casino - 5 O'Clock Somewhere Bar
8330 Riverside Pkwy.
Tulsa, OK  74137
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Cost: $5

Where:
The Venue Shrine
112 E. 18th St.
Tulsa, OK
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Telephone: (918) 949-1345
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Where:
The Blackbird on Pearl
1336 E 6th St
Tulsa, OK
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Telephone: (918) 949-1345
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Where:
Hunt Club
224 N Main St
Tulsa
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Telephone: (918) 599-9200
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Where:
Soundpony
409 N Main St
Tulsa
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Telephone: (918) 582-7669
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Where:
American Legion Post 308
11328 E Admiral Pl
Tulsa, OK
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Cost: $22-$37

Where:
Cain's Ballroom
423 North Main Street
Tulsa, OK  74103
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Telephone: 918.584.2306
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Where:
Mercury Lounge
1747 S Boston Ave
Tulsa, OK
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Where:
The Wine Loft
7890 E. 106th St. S.
Tulsa, OK
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Telephone: (918) 970-4766
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Cost: $5-$7

Where:
Savage Space
1213 East Admiral Blvd.
Tulsa, OK  74120
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Telephone: (918) 947-9806
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Cost: $10

Where:
Comedy Parlor
328 E 1st St
Tulsa, OK
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Telephone: (918) 921-3535
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Business Casual.

Cost: $75, individual tickets; $750, tables of 10

Where:
Sky Room, Hard Rock Hotel and Casino
777 W. Cherokee St.
Catoosa, OK
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Sponsor: Benefits Will Rogers Community Foundation
Telephone: 918-495-0742
Contact Name: Beth Abdo Dennis
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Cost: $75-$350

Where:
River Spirit Casino - Paradise Cove
8330 Riverside Pkwy.
Tulsa, OK  74137
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Where:
Soul City
1621 E 11th St
Tulsa, OK
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Telephone: (918) 607-6005
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Where:
Utopia Bar & Lounge
3508 S Sheridan Rd
Tulsa, OK  74145
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Where:
The Beehive Lounge
2405 E. Admiral Blvd.
Tulsa, OK
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Where:
Soul City
1621 E 11th St
Tulsa, OK
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Telephone: (918) 607-6005
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Spotlight Children‰Ûªs Theatre presents this world premiere play by Machele Miller Dill and Ed Dill.

Cost: $10

Where:
Tulsa Spotlight Theatre
1381 Riverside Dr
Tulsa, OK
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Telephone: (918) 587-5030
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Cost: $10

Where:
Comedy Parlor
328 E 1st St
Tulsa, OK
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Telephone: (918) 921-3535
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Dr. Kathy M. Campbell will facilitate this informative seminar. She will discuss hormones, their functions and how to keep in balance. Topic will include: eating and living for hormone balance....

Cost: $79.00

Where:
Medicap Pharmacy
130 S MAIN STREET
OWASSO, OK  74055
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Sponsor: Medicap Pharmacy
Telephone: 918-274-1737
Contact Name: Dena Wind
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This is an ORU Baseball Game   https://mabeecenter.com/oru-baseball-2017/

Cost: 14 // 11 // 7 plus 2 s/c

Where:
7777 S Lewis Ave
Tulsa, OK  74171
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Learn the haunted histories of some of the Brady Arts District's most notable pubs. High spirits guaranteed.

Where:
Brady Arts District
2-98 W M.B. Brady St
Tulsa, OK  74103
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Join us in celebrating local tulsan CYNTHIA MARCOUX!                    TOYS - A Caricature of Reality' With a seamless blend of whimsy and...

Cost: free

Where:
MAINLINE ART BAR
111 n main st
tulsa, OK  74103
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Telephone: 918-704-3330
Contact Name: katy eagleston

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Lavish evening to revel in fine dining, lively dancing and plenty of surprises. Black Tie.

Cost: $1000, individual tickets; $2000-$100000, sponsorships

Where:
Cox Business Center
100 Civic Center
Tulsa, OK
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Sponsor: Benefits Mental Health Association Oklahoma Housing Programs
Telephone: 918-382-2410
Contact Name: Lisa Turner
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Nicole Carrington hosts this night of Bingo, with appearances by Rainbow Granny and Trailer Trash Teresa, and a Lip Sync Contest with DJ Crystal.

Cost: $15-$25

Where:
Dennis R. Neill Equality Center
621 East Fourth Street
Tulsa, OK
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Telephone: (918) 743-4297
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  Join us in celebrating local tulsan CYNTHIA MARCOUX! TOYS - A Caricature of Reality' With a seamless blend of whimsy and social critique, Cynthia paints hyper realistic tableaus with a...

Cost: free

Where:
mainline art bar
111 n main st
tulsa, OK  74103
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Sponsor: mainline art bar
Telephone: 918-704-3330
Contact Name: katy eagleston

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The Oklahoma Swing Syndicate (TOSS) hosts a Swing dance and lessons  The Oklahoma Swing Syndicate (TOSS) is the only UNESCO recognized dance organization in Oklahoma.  We are a 501c3...

Cost: $7

Where:
Community Center - South Minister Presby Church
3500 So Peoria
1/2 west of Peoria, on 35pl behind the church
Tulsa, OK  74102
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Sponsor: The Ok Swing Syndicate
Telephone: 918-450-691
Contact Name: Rita Robbins
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 The University of Tulsa’s Department of Theatre will present a contemporary adaptation of the Greek comedy Lysistrataat 8 p.m. March 23-25 and at 2 p.m. March 26. All performances will...

Cost: $15

Where:
Lorton Performance Center
550 S Gary Place
Tulsa , OK  74104
View map »


Telephone: 918-631-2566

More information

Where:
pH Community House
306 S. Phoenix Ave
Tulsa, OK  74127
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Website »

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Where:
pH Community House
306 S. Phoenix Ave
Tulsa, OK  74127
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Where:
The Fur Shop
520 E 3rd St
Tulsa, OK
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Telephone: (918) 949-4292
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Where:
The Colony
2809 S Harvard Ave
Tulsa, OK
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Telephone: (918) 794-4208
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Where:
Soul City
1621 E 11th St
Tulsa, OK
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Telephone: (918) 607-6005
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Where:
Billy and Renee's
6373 E 31st St
Tulsa, OK
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Telephone: 918-836-0655
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Cost: $50-$85

Where:
Brady Theater
105 West Brady Street
Tulsa, OK  74103
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Cost: $49.50-$85

Where:
Brady Theater
105 West Brady Street
Tulsa, OK  74103
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Where:
Hunt Club
224 N Main St
Tulsa
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Telephone: (918) 599-9200
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Cost: $10-$12

Where:
The Beehive Lounge
2405 E. Admiral Blvd.
Tulsa, OK
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Where:
The Blackbird on Pearl
1336 E 6th St
Tulsa, OK
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Telephone: (918) 949-1345
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Where:
River Spirit Casino - 5 O'Clock Somewhere Bar
8330 Riverside Pkwy.
Tulsa, OK  74137
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Website »

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Live music, silent and live auctions, one-of-a-kind artwork by local artists and students. Black tie.

Cost: $100, individual tickets; $800, host a table; $250+ sponsorships

Where:
Tulsa Historical Society
2445 S. Peoria Ave.
Tulsa, OK
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Sponsor: Benefits Operation Aware of Oklahoma Inc.
Telephone: 9185827884 x. 103
Contact Name: Jeni Dolan
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Cost: $10

Where:
Comedy Parlor
328 E 1st St
Tulsa, OK
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Telephone: (918) 921-3535
Website »

More information

Cost: $50-$165

Where:
River Spirit Casino - Paradise Cove
8330 Riverside Pkwy.
Tulsa, OK  74137
View map »


Website »

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Where:
Soundpony
409 N Main St
Tulsa
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Telephone: (918) 582-7669
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Where:
Hard Rock Hotel and Casino - Riffs
777 W Cherokee Street
Catoosa, OK  74105
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Website »

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Treasures and antiques await at over 200 booths.

Where:
Expo Square - Exchange Center
4145 E 21st St
Tulsa, OK
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Cost: $10-$12

Where:
The Beehive Lounge
2405 E. Admiral Blvd.
Tulsa, OK
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