Local music producer and owner of Horton Records Brian Horton and local musician Jesse Aycock wanted to create a tribute record to Oklahoma artists that heavily influenced them and countless other musicians.
“What better way can we say thank you to these artists that influenced us all and came before us, than to cover their music,” Aycock says.
In February, a handful of Oklahoma musicians and producers headed to Leon Russell’s Paradise Studio at Grand Lake to record the first album tracked there since 1978, “BACK TO PARADISE: A Tulsa Tribute to Okie Music.” The 17-track album will be released Aug. 28 and is available on streaming services and for purchase at hortonrecords.com.
Horton and Aycock weren’t sure they would be able to use Russell’s Grand Lake studio because nothing had been recorded there in years. They pitched the idea to the studio’s current owner, Rick Husky, who was excited to offer the studio to a project that felt worthy of it.
“He had been wanting to get people in there to record for years but felt like he just hadn’t found the right project,” Aycock says. “As soon as we started kind of telling him about our idea, he instantly was pumped up about it ... It’s what Leon would want to be done here, bring a large community of musicians together to all play together in a room and just to hang out.”
During the four days it took to record the album, the handful of musicians and producers spent their days recording and working but spent their nights chatting, playing music and spending quality time together.
“I mean, it was a breeze. There were no weird hiccups — like sometimes you end up running into some weird thing like the power isn’t good or something — but it was just such a fun experience,” Aycock says.
The album is made up of covers of famous as well as little-known songs by Oklahoma musicians, all covered by a new generation of Okie musicians. From J.J. Cale to Steve Pryor, the album includes hits and buried treasures with which to get familiar.
“There’s an artist on there, Cliff Beasley, who, as far as I know, only put out this 45, and it was a really cool country song. And he’s an Oklahoma guy who just did this random song that we heard. So we had Jacob Tovar cover that song and then you know, randomly Brian and I got emails from his daughter, and she was really thankful,” Aycock says. “She kind of couldn’t believe that anybody even knew that recording existed. Unfortunately her father had just passed away recently, and wasn’t able to hear it himself. But she was like, ‘He would be so happy to know that his song is being brought back out again.’ It was extremely heartwarming.”
Paradise Studio was built in the early 1970s by Tulsa icon Leon Russell near the Grand Lake o’ the Cherokees in Tia Juana, Oklahoma. Artists who recorded there include Bob Dylan, the GAP Band and Eric Clapton.