Thirty years ago, give or take a few months, a new double-record album appeared on the shelves of Oklahoma music stores. Featuring a trippy line-drawing cover by lsalsa-based, pop-rock hero Dwight Twilley – who by then had scored internationally with the hit songs “I’m on Fire” and “Girls” – the package featured tracks by rock, pop, blues and reggae acts, most of them known to Tulsa-area music fans of the time. It was the first LP release from Tulsa’s Explosive Records, which had previously put out some 45s by the Bridge Climbers, a group whose members included a couple of Explosive’s principals, Pride Hutchison and Dale Lawton.
About a decade later, when vinyl albums had given way to compact discs, Sand Springs-based singer-songwriter Brandon Jenkins saw the release of his first record, a contemporary country effort called Tough Times Don’t Last.
Unlike the tough times of the title, Jenkins has lasted. Working out of Austin for the past several years, he has been one of the primary Oklahoma artists on what has been called – illustrating the Texas penchant for absorbing music from our state into their own – “Texas country.” Here, we’d call it Red Dirt music, an Oklahoma-based genre combining the visceral escapist joy of Bob Wills’ western swing with the social consciousness of Woody Guthrie’s trailblazing compositions.
Explosive Records has lasted, too, having been based primarily in southern California for the past several years, where Hutchison and Lawton found work as musicians, engineers and producers, and another Explosive founder, Pride’s brother Scott Hutchison, became a prolific songwriter, working with the likes of Warner Bros., Polygram and BMG. In the early part of this decade, Pride became a partner in Radio Recorders, the legendary L.A. studio where the likes of Elvis Presley, the Beach Boys, Nat “King” Cole and Bing Crosby recorded a ton of classic tunes.
Scott and I were having coffee in Tulsa, and he said, ‘Man, we really should do something with that Radio Recorders record.’ I hadn’t actually heard everything that Pride had done to it. So I sat down with it and thought, ‘Wow. This really needs to come out. It’s just too good.”
“I was down doing my Texas-country thing, in between records, and Scott had been telling me forever about his brother’s studio, and all the great people who had recorded in that room,” recalls Jenkins. “It was amazing, all the different stuff, from ‘White Christmas’ to songs for the Elvis movies. He said, ‘There’s so much vibe in this room. I’d love to get you to come out here and do some songs, just you and your guitar.’ I said, ‘Well, that’d be awesome.’ So I went out there and spent a few days cutting songs, running through all this historic equipment. And then it just kind of progressed.”
“Brandon was thinking, ‘Well, I want to do an acoustic record,’” adds Pride. “So we brought him out, and he cut that record at Radio, the magic place that it is, and we thought, ‘You know, it’s cool with just you playing the guitar, but let’s get a vibe on it.’”
So Pride, a drummer, brought in Teddy Jack Bridges to play electric guitar, bass and organ, and the two of them ended up helping create a Brandon Jenkins disc like no other before or since, which helps explain why the new album, Brandon Jenkins @ Radio Recorders, has just been released by Explosive.
“In 2006, I was really getting into that whole Texas-country thing down here in Austin,” Jenkins explains. “The vanguard of that scene was all the Okie guys, like Cross Canadian Ragweed, Great Divide, Jason Boland, Stoney [LaRue] and myself, and it was hard to think about what to do with a record that was so different. I mean, Pride had come in and played all these different African drums, and we had Teddy Jack, and it was like, ‘Well, I don’t know if we could put this out to radio. I don’t know if they’d play it.’ So one thing led to another, and it just got put on the back burner.”
“Nine or 10 years later, Scott and I were having coffee in Tulsa, and he said, ‘Man, we really should do something with that Radio Recorders record.’ I hadn’t actually heard everything that Pride had done to it. So I sat down with it and thought, ‘Wow. This really needs to come out. It’s just too good.’ In 2006, it had been such a departure that it was strange to me.”