Leon Russell’s Church Studio in Tulsa will reopen late this year

The Church Studio in Tulsa, once owned by late Oklahoma music legend Leon Russell, will reopen in late 2020 as a studio and museum, according to recent article in the Tulsa World.

Teresa Knox, the owner of the facility, has been collecting Russell memorabilia and renovating the former church for months.

The newspaper reported:

Russell-related items make up 90% of the Church Studio Archive, according to Knox. The collection also includes items with a connection to other Shelter artists and the building’s original history as a neighborhood church. […]
The items range from musical instruments (including a guitar from 1971’s Concert for Bangladesh organized by George Harrison) and music handwritten by Russell to 7-11 Slurpee Cups featuring illustrations of Russell. Slurpee once paid tribute to legendary rockers with a series of plastic commemorative cups. Russell was among the honored.
There are promotional items, concert tickets and apparel, plus several of Russell’s hats and canes. His image was carved into one of the canes. […]
Knox said the archive includes “massive” collections related to the Concert for Bangladesh and “Mad Dogs & Englishmen.” Hey, is that Joe Cocker in a photograph? And there’s a container reserved specifically for Bob Dylan items.

Built in 1915 as Grace Methodist Episcopal Church, Russell converted the structure at 304 S. Trenton Ave. to a recording studio in 1972. It also became a home for Shelter Records, which he started with Denny Cordell. The site is one block south of Second Street (aka Route 66) east of downtown.

Those who have recorded at Church Studio include Willie Nelson, Tom Petty, Eric Clapton, Bonnie Raitt, Dwight Twilley, Dr. John, JJ Cale, The GAP Band, Michael Bolton, Kansas, Freddie King, Phoebe Snow, Wolfman Jack and Peter Tosh.

Church Studio was designated to the National Register of Historic Places in 2017. The street near the building was renamed Leon Russell Road several years ago.

Russell wasn’t born in Tulsa, but he grew up there and developed his chops in its clubs before heading to Los Angeles to become an in-demand studio musician. He played on thousands of records, including those for Phil Spector’s Wall of Sound.

He became an esteemed songwriter, with “Superstar” by The Carpenters, “This Masquerade” by George Benson, “Delta Lady” by Joe Cocker and Rita Coolidge and dozens of versions of “A Song for You,” which gave him the title of “Master of Space and Time.” Russell’s version of “Tight Rope” nearly became a Top 10 hit.

Russell was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2011. He died at age 74 in 2016.

(Image of Church Studio in Tulsa in 2016 by teresaknox via Wikimedia Commons)

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