| or Call: (404) 627-4734

Tweet Me!


Oklahoma is one of the "dancingest" states in the nation

State Spotlight


Became a state on..... November 16, 1907

Southern Genres..... Folk, Country, Native American, Gospel, Country, Spirituals, Blues, Funk, Jazz, Bluegrass, Opera, Rockabilly, Southern Rock, Pop, Western Swing.

Music Museums..... Oklahoma Music Hall of Fame, Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame

Even though it is known as the "buckle on the Bible Belt," Oklahoma is one of the "dancingest" states in the nation. There was a time when dance halls dotted the countryside, and citizens danced all Saturday night and prayed all Sunday morning. The music that attracted most of them was Western swing, but ethnic diversity is also found in dance halls.

America's Indian Territory

Oklahoma is a state located in the South Central United States and is the 20th-most extensive and the 28th-most populous of the 50 United States. The state's name is derived from the Choctaw words okla and humma, meaning "red people". It is also known informally by its nickname, The Sooner State, in reference to the non-Native settlers who staked their claims on the choicest pieces of land before the official opening date, and the Indian Appropriations Act of 1889, which opened the door for white settlement in America's Indian Territory. The name was settled upon statehood, Oklahoma Territory and Indian Territory were merged and Indian was dropped from the name. On November 16, 1907, Oklahoma became the 46th state to enter the union. Its residents are known as Oklahomans, or informally "Okies", and its capital and largest city is Oklahoma City.

With small mountain ranges, prairie, mesas, and eastern forests, most of Oklahoma lies in the Great Plains, Cross Timbers and the U.S. Interior Highlands—a region especially prone to severe weather. In addition to having a prevalence of English, German, Scottish, Scotch-Irish, and Native American ancestry, more than 25 Native American languages are spoken in Oklahoma, second only to California.

Oklahoma is located on a confluence of three major American cultural regions and historically served as a route for cattle drives, a destination for southern settlers, and a government-sanctioned territory for Native Americans.

Music of Oklahoma

"State Song"

"Oklahoma" is the title song from the Broadway musical Oklahoma!, named for the setting of the musical play. The music and lyrics were written by Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II. The melody is reprised in the main title of the 1955 film version and in the overtures of both film and musical productions.

Midway through the second act of the play, after the principals Curly and Laurey are married, Curly begins to sing the song and is soon joined by the entire cast as a chorus. The lyric, which briefly depicts the Midwestern twang phonetically, describes the landscape and prairie weather in positive language. It further emphasizes the wholesome aspects of rural life, and the steadfast dedication of the region's inhabitants, against the overtly stated formal backdrop of the territory's impending admission to the Union in 1907.

Hammerstein's lyric is also notable and memorable for its trochaic re-iteration of its title as a chant, and the final iambic eight-letter spelling of the title as a play on the colloquial English word "Okay". Orchestrator Robert Russell Bennett's massive 8-part chorale near the end of the song extends it to include a spelling of the name, ending with an epic ritardando leading into one last iteration of "Oklahoma!"

The state of Oklahoma officially adopted the song as its state song in 1953. It is the only official state song from a Broadway musical. State Representative George Nigh, who later served as the state's Governor, was the principal author of the legislation designating the state song.

Members of the Western Writers of America chose it as one of the Top 100 Western songs of all time.

A Rich Foundation of Cultural Folk Traditions

In the time before recorded history American Indians used songs and instrumentation to preserve identity and history. Contemporary Oklahoma Indians continue to build a cultural foundation upon these ancient music traditions. Music and dance form the core of ceremonial and social activities among Indian nations with origins in southeastern North America. Members of southeastern Indian tribal towns maintain an agriculturally based ceremonial cycle that has the stomp dance tradition at its core. Stomp dance songs are call and response, and instrumentation is provided by the dance rattles or shackles worn upon the legs of the women. Other southeastern nations have their own complexes of sacred and social songs, including those for animal dances and friendship dances, and songs that accompany stickball games.

Central to the music of the southern Plains Indians is the drum, which has been called the heartbeat of Plains Indian music. Most of that genre can be traced back to activities of hunting and warfare, upon which plains culture was based. During the reservation period, when the movement and activities of Plains Indians were severely restricted, the people used music to relieve the boredom of inactivity. They invited their neighbors to participate with them, exchanged songs and dances, and created new songs together. In this exchange are found the seeds of the modern intertribal powwow.

Another means of expression among American Indians is the courting flute. Traditionally, it was used by young men to serenade and court young women. There has been a revival in interest in the courting flute since the 1970s, and many young men rediscovered the beauty of its music. In addition, Protestant church songs, some based upon European hymns and others of tribal aspect, are common among most American Indian communities.

African American music in Oklahoma represents a strong and complex tradition that developed out of the hardships born of enslavement and the successes of freedom. Sacred music, both a capella and instrumentally accompanied, is at the heart of the tradition. Early spirituals framed Christian beliefs within native practices and were heavily influenced by the music and rhythms of Africa. Primarily based upon the call-and-response pattern of chants used as devices of communication, spirituals are probably the oldest form of African American music in Oklahoma.

Gospel, which developed after the Civil War (1861–65), relied on biblical text for much of its direction, and the use of metaphors and imagery was common. Gospel is a "joyful noise," sometimes accompanied by instrumentation and almost always punctuated by hand clapping, toe tapping, and body movement.

Shape-note or sacred harp singing developed in the early nineteenth century as a way for itinerant singing instructors to teach church songs in rural communities. They taught using song books in which musical notations of tones were represented by geometric shapes that were designed to associate a shape with its pitch. Sacred harp singing became popular in many Oklahoma rural communities, regardless of ethnicity.

The blues tradition evolved from the rural black experience and reflected the hardships of poverty and prejudice. Most blues musicians received their musical training in the church. Therefore, there are many stylistic parallels between the blues and sacred music.

If the blues grew out of the slave experience and the spiritual tradition, jazz was the music of a liberated and affluent people. Born of a blend of ragtime, gospel, and blues, Oklahoma jazz erupted in the musical crossroads that the state had become by the beginning of the twentieth century. Prominent jazz artists who later gained international fame for their creativity and innovation began their musical careers in the Second Street area of Oklahoma City, known locally as "Deep Deuce," and Tulsa's Greenwood section.

Anglo-Scots-Irish music traditions gained a place in Oklahoma after the Land Run of 1889. Because it was small and portable, the fiddle was the core of early Oklahoma Anglo music, but other instruments such as the guitar, mandolin, banjo, and steel guitar were added later. Various Oklahoma music traditions trace their roots to the British Isles, including cowboy ballads, Western swing, and contemporary country and western.

Mexican immigrants began to reach Oklahoma in the 1870s, bringing beautiful canciones and corridos—love songs, waltzes, and ballads—along with them. As in American Indian communities, each rite of passage in Hispanic communities is accompanied by traditional music. The acoustic guitar, string bass, and violin provide the basic instrumentation for Mexican music, with maracas, flute, horns, and sometimes accordions filling out the sound.

Europeans began to settle in Oklahoma in the late nineteenth century. Bohemians (later called Czechs) and Germans formed strong communities. Social activities were centered on community halls where local musicians played polkas and waltzes on the accordion, piano, and brass instruments.

Asian immigrants have also contributed to the Oklahoma folk-music mix. Ancient music and dance traditions from the temples and courts of China, India, and Indonesia are preserved in Asian communities throughout the state, and popular song genres are continually layered on to these classical music forms. Throughout Oklahoma, folk music continues to provide the framework around which traditional cultures and communities maintain identity and cohesion for future generations.

Native American

Oklahoma is the traditional homeland of the Caddo, Wichita, and Tonkawa people. The US federal government's Indian Removal policy of the 19th century moved many other tribes into the area, and now the state is headquarters to 40 federally recognized tribes. Oklahoma is diverse crossroads of American Indian musicians. This rich collection of traditional music is performed in powwows all over the state. Additionally, the music is enriched by Indian musician's exposure to other tribe's songs through the many intertribal meetings in the state. The American Indian Exposition in Anadarko is a longstanding gathering of Southern Plains Tribes featuring many musicians. Among Eastern tribes, stomp dances feature male singers with accompaniment by women's turtle shell leg rattles.

49 songs, a 20th-century genre based on traditional war dance songs, originated in Oklahoma among the Kiowa tribe in southwestern Oklahoma and quickly spread to other tribes through the American Indian Exposition at Anadarko. The name comes from a burlesque show that toured the area in the 1920s called the "Girls of '49" for its California gold rush theme. A 49 (or forty-nine) is a gathering following a pow-wow and the songs are usually love songs, mostly in English, with repeated refrains of vocables.


The traditional Appalachian folk ballads brought by new settlers from the South infused Oklahoma with a music about the lives of everyday people. Much of the music was overtly religious as the rural communities revolved around their churches. Another distinctive type of country music grew out of the dance halls and roadhouses, especially in the oil boom areas of eastern Oklahoma. This honky-tonk style music from Oklahoma and the surrounding states became a staple of American country music for years.


Oklahoma has had a long tradition of Gospel music. Swing Low, Sweet Chariot and Steal Away To Jesus, standard Gospel tunes, were written by Wallis Willis, a former slave in the old Choctaw Nation of southeastern Oklahoma. Alexander Reid, a minister at a Choctaw boarding school after the Civil War, transcribed the words and melodies and sent the music to the Jubilee Singers of Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee. The Jubilee Singers then popularized the songs during a tour of the United States and Europe. Albert E. Brumley, a Spiro, Oklahoma native, wrote a number of Gospel classics that have become a standard in Gospel singer's repertoires. His best-known compositions include I'll Fly Away, Jesus Hold My Hand, and Turn Your Radio On. These songs are commonplace in many church hymnals today.

Jazz & Swing

The territory bands of the 1920s and 30s brought a new style of music to Oklahoma. Many of the well-known swing musicians tuned their skills and styles touring with these regional bands. These bands brought the big-band orchestras to many communities never visited by the more popular groups from New York. Perhaps the most famous of the Oklahoma-based territory bands were the Oklahoma City Blue Devils. The Blue Devils were the foundation for Count Basie's orchestra. The Al Good Orchestra, also from Oklahoma City, began playing in the Oklahoma area in the 1940s and continue to play after Al Good's death in 2003. Bandleader Ada Leonard was born in Lawton. In addition, a number of prominent jazz musicians came from Oklahoma; these include Charlie Christian, Oscar Pettiford, Don Byas, Cecil McBee, Barney Kessel, Sam Rivers, Don Cherry, Chet Baker, Jimmy Rushing, Sunny Murray, and Jay McShann. Although most of these self-identified as African American, many (including Pettiford) were also partly of Native American ancestry.

Southern Rock & Rock n' Roll

One of the hot spots for southern rock and rock and roll in Oklahoma during the 60's was Ronnie Kaye's "The Scene" in Oklahoma City. It featured local garage rock and psychedelic bands. Musicians such as songwriter J. J. Cale, Elvin Bishop, and Leon Russell have ties to Tulsa, Oklahoma (see The Tulsa Sound), and Tulsa's Cain's Ballroom has become a notable small-venue club for touring bands. After the success of cult icons The Flaming Lips, under-the-radar act Starlight Mints, and 90's alternative groups Chainsaw Kittens and The Nixons, Norman has become a hotspot for local and nationwide indie music. Pop-rock band Hanson, who had a string of hits in the mid-90s, hails from Tulsa; as do Admiral Twin, and Caroline's Spine. Alternative-rock band The All-American Rejects was formed in Stillwater; and post-grunge band Hinder, notable for their hit "Lips of an Angel" hails from Oklahoma City. The 1990s had a Hardcore Punk Rock scene in Edmond, Oklahoma which included bands such as The Lunch Bunch, The Real Ones, Bi-Products, Aspects, Suburban Bitches, Dry Heave, The Takers, The Boxcar Children, and many more who played shows at the Edmond Legion Hall, the Edmond Armory, The Outback, Hafer Park and The Sheep Farm. Skating Polly formed in Oklahoma City in 2009.

Western or Cowboy

Prior to Oklahoma's opening for settlement, cowboys pushing cattle from Texas to the railheads developed a style and subject of music that became known as Cowboy or Western. As they settled on the ranches they continued their traditional style of singing. The romanticism of the cowboy in the popular culture brought a wider audience to the music. Although the writers of these traditional Western songs are mostly unknown, Dr. Brewster Highley, author of perhaps the most famous of the cowboy ballads, Home on the Range, followed the frontier into Oklahoma where he died in 1911.

Otto Gray and his Oklahoma Cowboys were the first nationally popular cowboy band. Formed in 1924 by William McGinty, Oklahoma pioneer and former Rough Rider, the band performed on radio and national vaudeville circuits from 1924 through 1936. Otto Gray, the first "Singing Cowboy", and all of the band members were recruited from Oklahoma ranches.

Western Swing

Oklahoma was a center for the development and spread of Western swing. Performers playing the traditional western music, influenced heavily by the territory bands, added fiddles and steel guitars to their orchestras to produce a new and very popular type of music. Bob Wills, and His Texas Playboys, based in Tulsa, influenced this music for more than a generation. One of the more distinctive early Western swing bands from Oklahoma was Big Chief Henry's Indian String Band, a family group of Choctaw Indians, who performed out of Wichita, Kansas, during the 1920s, and who were recorded by H. C. Speir of Victor Records in 1929. Bob Dunn was a pioneer steel guitarist born in Beggs.

Musicians & Bands with Oklahoma ties

Gene Autry, raised in Oklahoma, originally billed as Oklahoma's Yodeling Cowboy.
Elvin Bishop, lived in Tulsa during his youth.
Jason Boland & the Stragglers, formed in Stillwater, Oklahoma.
The Call, lived in Oklahoma City.
Bob Childers, raised in Ponca City, Oklahoma.
Charlie Christian, raised in Oklahoma City.
Roy Clark, based in Tulsa.
Eddie Cochran, great early rocker, talked proudly of his parents' origins in Oklahoma.
David Cook, based in Tulsa.
Ronnie Dunn of Brooks & Dunn, raised in Tulsa.
Steve and Cassie Gaines of the band Lynyrd Skynyrd grew up in the Miami, Oklahoma area.
The Gap Band, formed in Tulsa.
The Great Divide, based in Stillwater, Oklahoma.
Merle Haggard, son of dust bowl immigrants from Oklahoma to California; their experience is reflected in his music.
Michael Hedges, Pioneered percussive finger style guitar, raised in Enid.
John Humphrey Drummer of the band Seether and former drummer of The Nixons raised in Moore, Oklahoma.
Christian Kane of Kane (American band) raised in Norman, Oklahoma and attended University of Oklahoma.
Jeff Keith Lead singer of the band Tesla, lived in Idabel, OK and attended Idabel High School.
Jimmy LaFave, Stillwater, OK, now based in Austin, Texas
Stoney LaRue, raised in rural southeastern Oklahoma, began music career in Stillwater, Oklahoma.
Roger Miller, raised in Erick, Oklahoma.
Jamie Oldaker, Carl Radle, Dick Sims of Tulsa, played back up for Eric Clapton on several famous Clapton compositions including "461 Ocean Blvd" and "Slowhand."
Tom Paxton, raised in Bristow, Oklahoma, folk singer and songwriter. He is a graduate of the University of Oklahoma.
Joe Don Rooney of Rascal Flatts, raised in Picher, Oklahoma.
Eldon Shamblin, born in Clinton, Oklahoma, played guitar for many years with Bob Wills and Leon McAuliffe in Tulsa.
Tim Spencer of the Sons of the Pioneers, raised in Picher, Oklahoma.
Geoff Tate Lead singer of the band Queensryche; when Geoff was growing up, he spent summers in Oklahoma at his father's home near Lawton.
Ryan Tedder, of OneRepublic, born and raised in Tulsa and attended Oral Roberts University.
Hank Thompson, broadcast the Hank Thompson Show from WKY in Oklahoma City. In 1973 Thompson opened the Hank Thompson School of Country Music, at what is now Rogers State University in Claremore, Oklahoma.
Wayman Tisdale, raised in Tulsa. Known as a professional basketball player, Tisdale was also a noted musician.
Watermelon Slim (Bill Homans), based in Stillwater, Oklahoma; graduate of Oklahoma State University
Bob Wills, King of Western Swing, based in Tulsa. He and his Texas Playboys broadcast their show on KVOO radio 1934-1958.

Musicians and composers native to Oklahoma

AM, Tulsa, Oklahoma
Keith Anderson, Miami, Oklahoma
Hoyt Axton, Duncan, Oklahoma
Chet Baker, Yale, Oklahoma
Louis W. Ballard (1931–2007), composer from Quapaw, Oklahoma
Byron Berline, raised in Northern Oklahoma, now in Guthrie, Oklahoma
Johnny Bond, Enville, Oklahoma
Charlie Wilson Tulsa, Oklahoma
Garth Brooks, Yukon, Oklahoma
Anita Bryant, Barnsdall, Oklahoma
J. J. Cale, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
Richard (Moon) Calhoun, Tulsa, Oklahoma
Henson Cargill, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
Kellie Coffey, Moore, Oklahoma
Spade Cooley, Grand, Oklahoma
Samantha Crain, Shawnee, Oklahoma
Edgar Cruz, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
Karen Dalton, Enid, Oklahoma
Jesse Ed Davis, Norman, Oklahoma
Joe Diffie, Velma, Oklahoma
Katrina Elam, Bray, Oklahoma
Ty England, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
Ernie Fields, Tulsa, Oklahoma
Lowell Fulson, Tulsa, Oklahoma
David Gates of Bread, Tulsa, Oklahoma
Vince Gill, Norman, Oklahoma
Jack Guthrie, Olive, Oklahoma
Woody Guthrie, Okemah, Oklahoma
Roy Harris, Chandler, Oklahoma
Richard Hart, Elk City, Oklahoma
Wade Hayes, Bethel Acres, Oklahoma
Lee Hazlewood, Mannford, Oklahoma
Wanda Jackson, Maud, Oklahoma
Norma Jean (Beasler), Wellston, Oklahoma
Toby Keith, Moore, Oklahoma
Amy Kuney, Tulsa, Oklahoma
Litefoot (b. 1969), rapper from Tulsa, Oklahoma
Reba McEntire, McAlester, Oklahoma
Barry McGuire, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
Jay McShann, Muskogee, Oklahoma
Gary P. Nunn, Okmulgee, Oklahoma
Patti Page, Claremore, Oklahoma
Zenobia Powell Perry, Boley, Oklahoma
Carl Radle, Tulsa, Oklahoma
Sam Rivers, El Reno, Oklahoma
Jimmy Rushing, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
Leon Russell, Lawton, Oklahoma
Scott Russell, Tulsa, Oklahoma
Eldon Shamblin, Clinton, Oklahoma
Blake Shelton, Ada, Oklahoma
James Talley, Tulsa, Oklahoma
B. J. Thomas, Hugo, Oklahoma
Pinky Tomlin, Durant, Oklahoma
Dwight Twilley, Tulsa, Oklahoma
Jared Tyler, Tulsa, Oklahoma
Carrie Underwood, Checotah, Oklahoma
Jimmy Webb, Elk City, Oklahoma
Bryan White, Lawton, Oklahoma
Sheb Wooley, Erick, Oklahoma

Notable Oklahoma bands

Admiral Twin, Tulsa, Oklahoma
The All American Rejects, Stillwater, Oklahoma
Aqueduct, Tulsa, Oklahoma
The Byron Berline Band, Guthrie, Oklahoma
Caroline's Spine, Tulsa, Oklahoma
Chainsaw Kittens, Norman, Oklahoma
Color Me Badd, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
Colourmusic, Stillwater, Oklahoma
Cozad Singers, Anadarko, Oklahoma
Cross Canadian Ragweed, Stillwater, Oklahoma
Ester Drang, Broken Arrow, Oklahoma
Evangelicals, Norman, Oklahoma
The Flaming Lips, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
Hanson, Tulsa, Oklahoma
Hinder, Norman, Oklahoma
Gap Band, Tulsa, Oklahoma
Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey, Tulsa, Oklahoma
Kings Of Leon, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
Midwest Kings, Tulsa, Oklahoma
The Nixons, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
Other Lives, Stillwater, Oklahoma
Pillar, Tulsa, Oklahoma
Taddy Porter, Stillwater, Oklahoma
Safetysuit, Tulsa, Oklahoma
Shiny Toy Guns, Shawnee, Oklahoma
Starlight Mints, Norman, Oklahoma
Swon Brothers, Muskogee, Oklahoma, 2013 contestants on NBC's "The Voice"
Turnpike Troubadours, Norman, Oklahoma
Umbrellas, Norman, Oklahoma
Color Me Badd had 2 #1 Billboard Hot 100 hits, like "All 4 Love" in 1991. Hanson (band) had a #1 Hot 100 hit with "MMMBop" in 1997.
Carrie Underwood had a #1 Hot 100 hit with "Inside Your Heaven" in 2005.