[OK] Jan 2012 - Vol 9, No 1
PHOTO: Bryan Huling (left) with Little Joe McLerran and his dad Robbie Mack in front of the building.
TULSA, Okla. - Northeast of 71st & Garnett is a haven for songwriters. With the seemingly endless traffic that is E. 71st, you might wonder how that area could be a haven for anything but headaches. However, turn north on S. 115th E. Ave, and you’ll feel like you’ve gone down the rabbit hole. Strip malls quickly vanish, replaced by trees and a glimpse of what this part of town looked like years ago when it was still farm country. Keep driving and you’ll spot a mock up of an 1880s frontier style village. Go ahead, turn in. You’ve reached Persimmon Hollow and Troubadour’s Emporium.
“For years now, I’ve been fantasizing about having a songwriter’s listening room,” says Troubadour’s owner, Bryan Huling. “Greg Johnson has done such a fantastic job there in Oklahoma City with the Blue Door, and there just hasn’t been anything like that in this part of the state, and there’s so many, so many terrific writers around here...I’ve always wanted to do this, and I figure now is the time.”
Huling, himself a musician, imagined a place where songwriters could perform their work in a supportive environment. “It’s a listening room. It’s not a bar or anything like that,” he commented. “I’m just really trying to give a place for people to showcase their music and people to listen...Our mission is to support and celebrate the songwriters in our region. There’s so many people that write such great songs that really have touched me in so many ways musically.”
Troubadour’s was one of the first enterprises to make Persimmon Hollow its home. The Westworld like property (minus the scary Yul Brynner robot-run-amok) had been empty for years. Troubadour’s was up and running last April, but not without some effort on Huling’s part. “I moved in and started shoveling raccoon poop, literally. Nobody had been in here for like 20 years. It was crazy. Now there’s 20 to 22 people out here. The fellow that bought the place, Bill Darnell, he’s slowly but surely getting the place fixed up and getting the facilities up to snuff.” Huling credits his friends for helping him achieve his dream. “This place would have been shut down months ago without all the help from friends and family. It’s a real community endeavor...We’re all so excited about the quality of the shows that go on and the potential for the future here.”
“I really want a place where I can have some out of town folks but the main focus is regional singer songwriters...from Tulsa and Oklahoma, Western Arkansas, Southern Missouri,” Huling explained. Since opening, Troubadour’s stage has hosted a variety of musicians. “Don Conoscenti has been here, Little Joe McLerran and Vicki Price, Chuck Allen Floyd Rebecca Loebe and Tje Austin,” Huling began listing. Huling continues to be impressed with the local talent, “people like Ray Rogers, Gene Williams, Diana and DJ Burrup, Scott Aycock... Jeff Graham.”
Like many people, Huling thinks there is something special about the local music scene. “When I was in Nashville, it was cutthroat. Nobody wants you to succeed because that means they’re not succeeding. That’s a generalization because I know there are nice, friendly people there. But as a culture, it’s cutthroat. But out here, man, people are supporting each other, sharing gigs, helping out in tough times. There’s a real community among the musicians and songwriters and everybody’s encouraging each other. Like when Jeff Graham plays out here, the place is full of other songwriters and musicians.”
Huling wants to keep promoting that. “Something cool that I just started this last Saturday...was I had a young performers open mic...I wanted an atmosphere where young folks could come in here and play and not feel intimidated and fell really supported; make it a good experience for them so they’d keep going.” Huling was encouraged by the talent he saw. “They were all awesome. I mean I couldn’t get over how good these kids were, and a couple of them were just like ‘knock-your-socks-of-wow’. These kids could be doing this for a living if they want in the future.”
Although realizing his dream has not always been easy, Huling is enjoying it. “It has been just a huge blessing. It has been just so fun out here. Occasionally I want to pull what little hair I have left out, when there’s rain coming in the ceiling or equipment problems at the very last minute or trying to make it on a shoestring, but at the same time, it has been an absolute blast. Every time there’s a show here, I always look someone in the eye and say, ‘man, this is why I did this’. It is so good! So good!” For more information, see www.troubadorsemporium.com.