WILL ROGERS 1959S
"Ride on, ye Ropers!"
Leon Russell Concert in Muskogee, Oct. 12, 2006>
Here are a few photos of the Muskogee outing to see classmate Leon Russell in concert on
the night he was inducted into the Oklahoma Music Hall of Fame.
The lighting conditions for the group photo were less than desirable, outside in the dark.
Missing from the group shot were Gil Scott, Myrna Gilmore and Roger Westfall, who did
attend. (Roger especially wanted to meet Leon because they were good friends in high school.
Gil and Myrna also lived in his neighborhood, Pine and Harvard.) When I am next able to
update the website, I will include these photos and more. We had a great time that evening,
and Leon was very congenial. Observers commented that he really must have liked this group
because he spent more time with us than he usually spends with anyone.
Of particular note was his re-acquaintance with P.J., who said she sat behind Leon in about
three classes every year from junior high through high school, when the seating was
alphabetical (Bridges, Brown). When he walked over and was introduced to her, he stopped,
took her hand and said, “Patricia Brown . . . of course I remember . . . Patricia Brown.”
While he was bantering with our group, I had a chance to tell Leon that I had been speaking
to his manager, Roy Wunsch, and would also be contacting his booking agent to explore the
possibility of having him perform at our 50th anniversary reunion in 2009. I asked him if he
would be willing to play for our class reunion, and he responded “sure.” Of course, there will
be many details to be worked out before that happens. I had cleared in advance with P.J my
contacting Leon’s manager for that purpose. Roy had told me that the best opportunity
would be to schedule the reunion around his annual “Birthday Bash” in Tulsa, which is
usually the weekend closest to April 2. (He really was born in 1942, probably making him
the youngest in the class. I had thought that my December 21, 1941, birthday gave me that
distinction. Leon confirmed that he had just turned 17 before graduating from Will Rogers.)
He often does private gigs on dates surrounding larger venue public ones. We’ll keep you
posted if that develops.
Thanks to Flo Sharp DeBartolo for having the banner made.
A “Leon Lifer” accidentally strolled into one of the group photos taken in Muskogee in front
of Leon’s bus. I saw him the next evening in Tulsa, and he apologized. The Lifers usually
gather around his bus after shows, and he said he had wandered over to hear what Leon was
saying to us, not realizing that we were posing for a photo. Another Leon Lifer, Kurtis
Schmidt, actually got the best group shot that included all of us. I attended the free concert in
Tulsa at Riverwalk Crossing the following evening, and ran into classmates Johnny Williams
(whose Starlighters band Leon played with in high school, at Griff’s Supper Club) and Bill
Brown. Kurtis (a brewer for Budweiser in St. Louis) joined us for a group shot. We didn’t get
to visit with Leon in Tulsa, but it was a great concert.
- Dick Risk