A sanctuary of sound

Church Studio is a hallowed site for the Tulsa music scene.



Take a drive through downtown Tulsa late on a Saturday night and you’ll immediately notice the majestic steeples of its landmark churches. Tomorrow they’ll be beckoning believers with spiritual enlightenment and parables of the past. Tonight, however, the sanctuaries are dim — except for one.

Head north to Third Street and Trenton Avenue, and the invocation is just beginning. That’s because the Church Studio attracts a different congregation entirely. Built in 1913 for The Church of the United Brethren in Christ, this structure has one of the most historically significant lineages of any building in Tulsa.

In 1972, hometown hero and internationally acclaimed musician Leon Russell purchased the church and turned it in to a world-class recording studio for his label, Shelter Records.

Jacob MillerIf ever there was a structure that embodied the self-proclaimed Master of Space and Time, it’s the Church Studio. Enigmatic and impenetrable, the stone façade is as intimidating as it is mysterious. And yet, if you were among the chosen ones to witness Russell’s legendary jam sessions, you were baptized in the waters of one of rock ‘n’ roll’s greatest eras.

One such musician anointed into musical immortality was drummer Jamie Oldaker. His distinguished resumé includes four decades of touring with artists such as Eric Clapton, Bob Seger and Ace Frehley, to name a few. But it was Russell who first plucked him from a local jazz band.

“He used to come see me play at The Colony. His manager came one night and said ‘Leon wants you to come over to the house.’ That’s how it all started,” Oldaker says.

Most of those who were a part of the inner sanctum are reticent to reveal much about what went on behind those immense front doors.  However, it was not unusual to see George Harrison smoking a cigarette on the front steps or Tom Petty grabbing a bite across the street at The Ranch House. In fact, Petty signed his first record deal there.

And though documentation is sparse, it’s certain there was no shortage of musical luminaries visiting Russell during this time, including Bob Dylan, Eric Clapton, J.J. Cale, Freddie King, Phoebe Snow, The Gap Band, and many others.

Russell and his partner, Denny Cordell, set out to create an artistic haven for musicians and songwriters when they opened the studio. They purchased several adjacent houses, and encouraged creativity and collaboration — a strategy that galvanized the musical fusion unique to Tulsa.

During Shelter Records’ tenure at the Church Studio, from 1972 to 1976, it was the epicenter of the legendary Tulsa Sound.

In the years to follow, the Church Studio changed hands a number of times. Most notably, it was home base to Steve Ripley and The Tractors.

“I think some people think Leon had the studio in the 1970s and then it sat dormant until recently. Many people aren’t aware of all the music history at that place when Steve Ripley was there,” says Brian Horton of Horton Records, which released “The New Tulsa Sound Vol.2: The Church Studio Sessions” in February 2012. It’s an album chock full of local talent, including Dustin Pittsley, Wink Burcham, Paul Benjaman Band, Dead Sea Choir, Jesse Aycock and many others.

Aycock, a venerable staple in the Tulsa music scene, also recorded his solo album “Flowers & Wounds” at the Church Studio last year.

“The Church is totally unique and I think even the fact that it is an actual church and functioned as a church, there’s holiness to it. There’s been a lot of spirits in that place,” Aycock says.

Much like the Tulsa music scene itself, the studio has been infused with a new energy since being taken over by father and son team, Randy and Jacob Miller, in 2005.

When speaking to Jacob, a passionate, twenty-something music lover with flame red hair and an infectious enthusiasm, he wants to return it to the pith of its origin, without the exclusivity.

“I hope the studio enhances our great music community by providing a special place for people to express themselves any way they see fit,” Jacob says.

Costa StasinopoulosAnd it’s paid off; the artists have been coming in droves. However, Miller is quick to give credit to his talented team, which includes Costa Stasinopoulos, Malachi Burgess and Michael Block, for the studio’s success.

“This is definitely a team effort,” Miller says.

Though there hasn’t been a sermon preached in the building for more than 40 years, there is no shortage of spirituality and reverence.

“I don’t see us as owning the Church Studio,” Miller says. “I see us as stewards and caretakers of something amazing. The church owns itself. It was there before I was born and it will be there after my time is up.”

Add your comment:
A-List

 

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

Join our email list

Edit ModuleShow Tags

December 2018

We’re serving up our new chef-inspired fondue and traditional brunch options like Alpine Benedict Cheese Fondue, French Toast Fondue, Avocado Fiesta Toast plus bottomless mimosas. Reserve...

Cost: Varies

Where:
The Melting Pot of Tulsa
300 Riverwalk Terrace #190
Jenks, OK  74037
View map »


Sponsor: The Melting Pot of Tulsa
Telephone: 918-299-8000
Contact Name: Alex Cooper
Website »

More information

FlyingTee is fun for the whole family and on Sundays, kids eat free! *Limit one free meal from the kids’ menu with each purchase of an adult entrée. Not valid on brunches or holidays.

Cost: Free with purchase

Where:
FlyingTee
600 Riverwalk Terrace
Jenks, OK  74037
View map »


Telephone: 918-528-7717
Website »

More information

Funday Sunday at Gilcrease Museum On this free community day, take holiday photos with Santa Claus (2:30-4:30 p.m.), listen to musical performances, make artworks inspired by the season,...

Cost: Free

Where:
Gilcrease Museum
Tulsa, OK


Telephone: 918-596-2700
Website »

More information

Santa will be stopping by to visit the Oklahoma Aquarium on December 16 from 1:00pm - 3:00pm! Get your picture taken, decorate gingerbread cookies, make an ornament, and play on our bounce...

Cost: Free with the purchase of a general admission

Where:
Oklahoma Aquarium
300 Aquarium Dr.
Jenks, OK  74037
View map »


Sponsor: Oklahoma Aquarium
Website »

More information

What: Santa Claus at Bradford Park in Broken Arrow! Where: Capital Homes at The Reserve at Bradford Park Model Home: 1507 E Jasper Pl, Broken Arrow, OK 74011 When: Sunday, December 16, 3 pm –...

Cost: FREE

Where:
The Reserve at Bradford Park Model Home
1507 E Jasper Pl
Broken Arrow, OK  74011
View map »


Sponsor: Capital Homes Residential Group, LLC
Telephone: 918-630-9633
Contact Name: Amanda Connolly
Website »

More information

Reconnect with family and friends in the garden illuminated with colorful lights. Make s'mores over fire pits, enjoy holiday music and take in the spirit of the season in our magical garden...

Cost: Tickets are $15 for ages 13+; $5 for ages 3-12, Children 2 and under are free.

Where:
Tulsa Botanic Garden
3900 Tulsa Botanic Drive
Tulsa, OK  74127
View map »


Sponsor: Tulsa Botanic Garden

More information

Songs for a New World music & lyrics by Jason Robert Brown directed by Karlena Riggs It’s about one moment. It’s about hitting the wall and having to make a choice…...

Cost: $25.00

Where:
Studio 308
308 S. Lansing
Tulsa, OK  74120
View map »


Sponsor: American Theatre Company
Telephone: (918) 747-9494
Contact Name: Meghan Hurley
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Reconnect with family and friends in the garden illuminated with colorful lights. Make s'mores over fire pits, enjoy holiday music and take in the spirit of the season in our magical garden...

Cost: Tickets are $15 for ages 13+; $5 for ages 3-12, Children 2 and under are free.

Where:
Tulsa Botanic Garden
3900 Tulsa Botanic Drive
Tulsa, OK  74127
View map »


Sponsor: Tulsa Botanic Garden

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Whether you are ready to enroll for your first semester at OSU-Tulsa or are exploring transfer options for a future semester, let OSU-Tulsa help you get started during Transfer Days. Our advising,...

Cost: Free

Where:
OSU-Tulsa
700 N. Greenwood Ave.
Tulsa, OK  74106
View map »


Sponsor: OSU-Tulsa
Telephone: 918-594-8355
Website »

More information

Reconnect with family and friends in the garden illuminated with colorful lights. Make s'mores over fire pits, enjoy holiday music and take in the spirit of the season in our magical garden...

Cost: Tickets are $15 for ages 13+; $5 for ages 3-12, Children 2 and under are free.

Where:
Tulsa Botanic Garden
3900 Tulsa Botanic Drive
Tulsa, OK  74127
View map »


Sponsor: Tulsa Botanic Garden

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Reconnect with family and friends in the garden illuminated with colorful lights. Make s'mores over fire pits, enjoy holiday music and take in the spirit of the season in our magical garden...

Cost: Tickets are $15 for ages 13+; $5 for ages 3-12, Children 2 and under are free.

Where:
Tulsa Botanic Garden
3900 Tulsa Botanic Drive
Tulsa, OK  74127
View map »


Sponsor: Tulsa Botanic Garden

More information

Every Wednesday Live Event Trivia is at The Willows Family Ales - Show starts at 7 and is free to play! Movie scenes, Finish the Lyric, Classic Trivia, and more! The crew from T-Town Tacos will be...

Cost: Free

Where:
The Willows Family Ales
418 south peoria ave
tulsa, OK  74120
View map »


Sponsor: The Willows Family Ales
Telephone: (918) 895-6798
Contact Name: Julian Morgan
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Mothers of Preschoolers (and preschool means prior to school, ages 6 weeks to 5 years old). MOPS warmly welcomes any mom that has at least one child age 6 weeks to 5 years old. By joining MOPS, you...

Cost: Free

Where:
Eastwood Baptist Church
948 S 91st E Ave
Tulsa, OK  74112
View map »


Sponsor: Eastwood Baptist Church
Telephone: 918-836-8686
Contact Name: Shirley Pittenger
Website »

More information

Reconnect with family and friends in the garden illuminated with colorful lights. Make s'mores over fire pits, enjoy holiday music and take in the spirit of the season in our magical garden...

Cost: Tickets are $15 for ages 13+; $5 for ages 3-12, Children 2 and under are free.

Where:
Tulsa Botanic Garden
3900 Tulsa Botanic Drive
Tulsa, OK  74127
View map »


Sponsor: Tulsa Botanic Garden

More information

Local, Live Music at the The Willows Family Ales taproom EVERY Thursday at 7:30pm. Surprise food vendor to be announced SOON!! 11/1 ---- Eric Himan 11/8 ---- Wendy Nichol Hall 11/15---...

Cost: FREE!!

Where:
The Willows Family Ales
418 south peoria ave
418 South Peoria Ave
Tulsa, OK  74120
View map »


Sponsor: The Willows Family Ales
Contact Name: Julian Morgan

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Its that time a year again and that means our 3rd annual Mens Shopping Event is here!! We are so excited to be having this event! This year we are doing things a little different, instead of one...

Cost: 0.00

Where:
Rhanes Spa
6422 S Elm Pl
Broken Arrow, OK  74011
View map »


Sponsor: Rhanes Spa
Telephone: 918.872.9211
Contact Name: Angela or Dakota
Website »

More information

Reconnect with family and friends in the garden illuminated with colorful lights. Make s'mores over fire pits, enjoy holiday music and take in the spirit of the season in our magical garden...

Cost: Tickets are $15 for ages 13+; $5 for ages 3-12, Children 2 and under are free.

Where:
Tulsa Botanic Garden
3900 Tulsa Botanic Drive
Tulsa, OK  74127
View map »


Sponsor: Tulsa Botanic Garden

More information

Philbrook Festival is back and better than ever! Enjoy the most beautiful place in Oklahoma during the most wonderful time of the year. The Museum comes alive with festive holiday events, Santa,...

Cost: $5/Philbrook Members, $15/Public, Free/17 & Under

Where:
Philbrook Museum of Art
2727 S. Rockford Rd.
Tulsa, OK  74114
View map »


Sponsor: Philbrook Museum of Art
Telephone: 918-748-5300
Website »

More information

This is the first of an annual event exclusively for Millennials (The Mille). Come out and have a good time while knowing you're supporting a good cause!    All proceeds will go to...

Cost: Starting at $30.00

Where:
NOAH'S Event Venue
12710 East State Farm Blvd
Tulsa, OK  74146
View map »


Sponsor: Push Push Pray Foundation
Telephone: 918-250-3709
Contact Name: Sharon Thomas
Website »

More information

The Vox Solaris Chamber Choir will present its Winter 2018 Concert on December 21, 2018 at St. Patrick's Episcopal Church.  The choir is a non-profit organization and all ticket and donation...

Cost: $15 General Admission / $5 Students & Senior Citizens

Where:
St. Patrick's Episcopal Church
4250 W. Houston St.
Broken Arrow, OK  74012
View map »


Sponsor: Vox Solaris Chamber Choir
Website »

More information

Songs for a New World music & lyrics by Jason Robert Brown directed by Karlena Riggs It’s about one moment. It’s about hitting the wall and having to make a choice…...

Cost: $25.00

Where:
Studio 308
308 S. Lansing
Tulsa, OK  74120
View map »


Sponsor: American Theatre Company
Telephone: (918) 747-9494
Contact Name: Meghan Hurley
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Its that time a year again and that means our 3rd annual Mens Shopping Event is here!! We are so excited to be having this event! This year we are doing things a little different, instead of one...

Cost: 0.00

Where:
Rhanes Spa
6422 S Elm Pl
Broken Arrow, OK  74011
View map »


Sponsor: Rhanes Spa
Telephone: 918.872.9211
Contact Name: Angela or Dakota
Website »

More information

We’re serving up our new chef-inspired fondue and traditional brunch options like Alpine Benedict Cheese Fondue, French Toast Fondue, Avocado Fiesta Toast plus bottomless mimosas. Reserve...

Cost: Varies

Where:
The Melting Pot of Tulsa
300 Riverwalk Terrace #190
Jenks, OK  74037
View map »


Sponsor: The Melting Pot of Tulsa
Telephone: 918-299-8000
Contact Name: Alex Cooper
Website »

More information

Reconnect with family and friends in the garden illuminated with colorful lights. Make s'mores over fire pits, enjoy holiday music and take in the spirit of the season in our magical garden...

Cost: Tickets are $15 for ages 13+; $5 for ages 3-12, Children 2 and under are free.

Where:
Tulsa Botanic Garden
3900 Tulsa Botanic Drive
Tulsa, OK  74127
View map »


Sponsor: Tulsa Botanic Garden

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

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
View map »


Sponsor: The Ok Swing Syndicate
Telephone: 918-450-691
Contact Name: Rita Robbins
Website »

More information

  Brian Nhira & Friends from ‘The Voice’ to Perform 3rd Annual Tulsa Christmas Concert at the TCC VanTrease PACE.   Tulsa, OK -- Brian Nhira, an incredibly gifted...

Cost: Tickets starting at $25

Where:
TCC Vantrease PACE
10300 E 81st St.
Tulsa
Tulsa, OK  74033
View map »


Sponsor: Brian Nhira Music & Good Life Music & Media Lessons
Telephone: 918-704-8855
Contact Name: Jasper Nhira
Website »

More information

Come see ORU Mens Basketball vs Tulsa

Cost: $15-25

Where:
Mabee Center
7777 South Lewis Ave
Tulsa
Tulsa, OK  74171
View map »


Telephone: 918-495-6000
Contact Name: Mabee Center
Website »

More information

Co-hosted by Josh New and the Tulsa Artist Fellowship, a cultural initiative of the George Kaiser Family Foundation, Karl Jones presents Figures in Skating, an evening performance of mixed media,...

Cost: $5.00

Where:
Loose Leaf Co.
2308 E. Admiral Blvd.
Tulsa, OK  74110
View map »


Sponsor: Tulsa Artist Fellowship & Josh New
Telephone: 202-468-5275
Contact Name: Karl Jones
Website »

More information

Songs for a New World music & lyrics by Jason Robert Brown directed by Karlena Riggs It’s about one moment. It’s about hitting the wall and having to make a choice…...

Cost: $25.00

Where:
Studio 308
308 S. Lansing
Tulsa, OK  74120
View map »


Sponsor: American Theatre Company
Telephone: (918) 747-9494
Contact Name: Meghan Hurley
Website »

More information

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

TULtalk


Get a taste of the coasts at the new Peacemaker

Lobster rolls and seafood boils top the menu at the St. Louis-born restaurant, which opened a new location in Tulsa.

Comments

Ordering Christmas to-go

You can’t go wrong picking up anything at Stonehorse Market in Utica Square.

Comments

3 winning cookie swap recipes

If you only make one thing this holiday season, it might well be a cookie. Here are some go-to recipes for your next cookie swap.

Comments

Chef Justin Thompson just released a new cookbook

“Trial and Error” presents many of the most pivotal dishes and recipes to his life and career as a chef.

Comments

Pure makes your holidays a little healthier

Whether you want to do a one-day juice fast or start adding more plant-based foods to your diet, Pure Food and Juice is a good place to start.

Comments