Tulsa's Music Legacy
Tulsa’s music history runs deep. Its worldwide influence ranges from the legendary Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys broadcasting live from Cain's Ballroom in the 1920s, to evolving the Tulsa Sound in the 1950s and 1960s. The Jim Halsey Company moved to Tulsa in the 1970s and established the largest country music agency in the world, representing 42 of the biggest stars include Roy Clark, Oak Ridge Boys, Hank Thompson, Wanda Jackson, Reba McEntire, The Judds, The Gap Band, and more.
During that same decade, Leon Russell's Shelter Records and The Church Studio emerges, and the late 1990s sees the Grammy-nominated band Hanson debut their hit "MMMBop." Today, Tulsa has hundreds of musical acts that fill the city with live music every night of the week. Every genre of music is represented, with a notable hip-hop scene including 'Fire in Little Africa', a multimedia hip-hop project commemorating the 1921 massacre of Tulsa's Greenwood District known as 'Black Wall Street'. With a history so long, we can’t nearly mention everything—but there are many places throughout Tulsa that are dedicated to educating people about music history.
Experience Our History
Take a self-guided tour and find the archives of Tulsa's musical past—places like the Cain's Ballroom, Woody Guthrie Center and the Bob Dylan Center—as well as the bars, clubs, and auditoriums where our present and future cut their teeth.
Big 10 Ballroom
1624 E. Apache, Tulsa, OK, United States, 74106
Tulsa’s Big 10 Ballroom is an important part of Tulsa’s history that connects people of all ages on many different levels. In its heyday, the Big 10 hosted headliners such as Ella Fitzgerald, Count Basie, Ray Charles, Charles Brown, James Brown, Ruth Brown, the Coasters, Little Richard, the Spinners, Sam and Dave, Hank Ballard and the Midnighters, T-Bone Walker, the original Temptations, Jackie Wilson, and Ike and Tina Turner.
The venue celebrated its grand opening in 2023, and has been booking shows ever since.
Bob Dylan Center
116 E Reconciliation Way, Tulsa, OK 74103
A must-visit destination for popular music fans of any age, the Bob Dylan Center is dedicated to the study and appreciation of the renowned American singer-songwriter and his cultural significance. The Center opened in May 2022 in the Tulsa Arts District, right down the street from the museum dedicated to Dylan's idol, the Woody Guthrie Center.
Over 100,000 items from Dylan's career make up the Bob Dylan Archive collection, which rotates in and out of display at the Center, ranging from handwritten manuscripts to films, videos, memorabilia and even unreleased studio and concert recordings, among other elements.
423 N. Main St., Tulsa, OK 74103
Cain’s Ballroom is a historic concert venue best known as the birthplace of Western Swing and the home stage of Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys. Tate Brady originally built Cain’s Ballroom as a garage in 1924. Within a few years the garage passed hands to Madison W. Cain and evolved into a ballroom and a dance academy, where one could pay a dime for a dance lesson.
Wills and the Playboys played their broadcast concerts at the Cain’s on an almost daily basis from 1935 to 1942. After changing ownership multiple times in the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s, Larry Shaeffer purchased it in 1977, at which time he began booking rock bands. During the years, the venue has featured an array of acts from Jerry Lee Lewis to the Sex Pistols to Snoop Dogg. Today, Cain’s remains popular and is a top-ranked place to see a concert in the United States.
304 S. Trenton Ave., Tulsa, OK 74120
Located at 3rd Street and Trenton Avenue, Church Studio was the recording space for Leon Russell’s Shelter Records from 1972 to 1976. The building, originally constructed in 1913 for The Church of the United Brethren in Christ, became a recording mecca for music greats such as Bob Dylan, Eric Clapton, JJ Cale, Freddie King, Phoebe Snow, The Gap Band, Tom Petty and George Harrison.
Tom Petty even signed his first record deal at Church Studio. Since Russell’s parting from the building in 1976, the studio has suffused its mythic energy into other Tulsa born greats. Steve Ripley and The Tractors record their super hit “Baby Likes to Rock It” at Church Studio, which would go on to sell more than 3 million copies.
Today, musicians record at the Church Studio (ask about the local discount!), and anybody is welcome to tour. It's a definite Tulsa must-see attraction.
2809 S. Harvard Ave., Tulsa, OK 74114
Established in 1958 as The Colony Inn, The Colony has been a staple of the Tulsa music community for over 60 years. Rumors, lore and legend swirl through the air of this longtime local haunt. Depending on who you ask, Leon Russell once owned the joint, or maybe it was his girlfriend, or maybe it was the place across the street. George Harrison definitely played here. Or maybe he worked here? Or maybe that was Clapton? Didn't one of them get drunk and sleep in the dumpster? Who can remember? The 70s were weird, man.
One thing is for sure though–then and now The Colony was and is a local musician's haven–a place where artists hang out, jam together and make magic happen.
108 N. Detroit Ave., Tulsa, OK 74103
Modern American dining up top, speakeasy jazz club below. LowDown brought this new flavor combination to the Tulsa Arts District when it opened in the historic Archer Building in 2018, immediately installing itself as a twin pillar to the local music and dining scenes.
Downstairs music industry veteran Jeff Sloan keeps LowDown stocked with talent each week, from all-ages jazz jams to international jazz superstars. Lounge seating surrounds the stage, making each performance intimate and rich in detail, whether you’re seated up near the action or ordering one of LowDown's bright, fruit-forward cocktails from the bar in the back. You can hear music down there every Wednesday through Saturday.
1747 S. Boston Ave., Tulsa, OK 74119
Mercury Lounge is a neighborhood dive bar by day and a regional, benchmark music venue by night. This converted gas station in the heart of the SoBo District is bringing some of Tulsa's best original music, almost every weeknight.
There are ticketed shows many nights. Sometimes it's a regional punk band, sometimes it's a legendary songwriter–it runs the gamut. After the ticketed show, if it's a weekday, the House Resident artist will play the late show at no cover charge.
Woody Guthrie Center
102 E Reconciliation Way, Tulsa, OK 74103
The Woody Guthrie Center, home to the Woody Guthrie Archives, preserves the legacy and life story of Woody Guthrie.
Located directly across from the Guthrie Green in the Tulsa Arts District, the Center works to communicate the social, political and cultural values found in his vast body of work. It is also a repository for Woody’s writings, art and songs and an educational resource for teachers and students everywhere. Visitors will find artifacts like Woody's original handwritten lyrics to "This Land Is Your Land," as well as instruments he owned and original recordings of his work.