Vol. 3, Issue #17 Sept. 12th - Sept. 26th, 2008

Tiger Bear From Hell at NONzine.com

By: Wilhelm Murg

Vote for the Woman! Vote Wanda!

With all the talk about how Hillary should have been nominated as the Democratic vice-presidential candidate, and Sarah Palin being named the Republican vice-presidential candidate (I would never vote for her, but I wouldn’t mind seeing Cindy McCain spank her,) we have another election going on for the Official Oklahoma Rock Song, and there‘s a woman running in that race also. This search for an Official State Rock Song came down by decree of the 2nd Session of the 51st Oklahoma State Legislature.

The list has been narrowed down to ten songs: The All-American Reject’s “Move Along,” The Call’s “Oklahoma,” The Flaming Lips’ “Do You Realize?” J.J. Cale’s “After Midnight,” John Moreland & The Black Gold Band’s “Endless Oklahoma Sky,” “Leon Russell’s “Home Sweet Oklahoma,” Elvis Presley’s “Heartbreak Hotel,” Three Dog Night’s “Never Been to Spain,” The Ventures’ “Walk Don’t Run,” and Wanda Jackson’s “Let’s Have a Party.”

I’ve notice in the press this year that no one has to even try to be impartial when talking about the presidential candidates, so let’s breakdown the musical candidates, with my own special spin on the event.

First of all, no offence to The Rejects, The Call, or the Lips (though I thought “Do You Realize?” was an MTV promotion song for about a year before someone pointed out that it was commercial record) but their songs are just too new for such a lofty position. If we MUST have a state song, let’s have one that we know has legs. If this competition were held in 1984 I’m sure Oklahoman and “Star Search” winner Sam Harris’ “Sugar Don’t Bite” would have been nominated, just because it was popular - and I dare you to find ten people who can hum the chorus today.

J.J. Cale’s “After Midnight,” is a fine song, but it’s just a little scary that his best known song is “Cocaine.” I’m not sure was want a state song that conjures up images of dead junkies from Larry Clark’s classic photography essay “Tulsa.”

Elvis’ “Heartbreak Hotel” and The Ventures’ “Walk Don’t Run” are both a little abstract for the category.
“Heartbreak Hotel” was co-written by the legendary Mae Boren Axton, but other than that there’s no other connection to Oklahoma. “Walk Don’t Run,” which is a personal favorite of mine, is even more abstract, especially as it is an instrumental, which makes it hard to sing. Oklahoman Bob Bogle recommended that the band cover the song, the band included Oklahoman Nokie Edwards, and promoted Oklahoma guitar-maker Semie Mosely’s Mosrite guitars. Personally, I didn’t know any of that information until last week when I was looking at the site. Like I said, it’s a little abstract.

John Moreland and the Black Gold Band’s “Endless Oklahoma Sky.” Am I the only person scratching their head over this one? Who? I think they fall in the “too soon” category with The Call, The Lips, and The Rejects.

Now we’re down to the three serious contenders.

Leon Russell’s “Home Sweet Oklahoma” probably should have has some kind of official status already. It’s beautifully rendered song that came out at his peak of popularity about 37 years ago, and it’s an open love song to Oklahoma and Tulsa, his base of operations. Very few performers have been as associated with Oklahoma as Leon, and he did everything he could to populate rock music with Oklahoma musicians by bringing in such luminaries as George Harrison, Eric Clapton, Bob Dylan, and Tom Petty to record in his Church Studio and to get them hip to the Tulsa Sound (the best description I ever heard of it “loosey-goosey.”)

The late, great Hoyt Axton, Mae Boren’s little boy, should also get some serious consideration. He was one of the finest songwriters to come out of the state, and his own recordings were as warm as a big ol’ friendly honey bear singing funny songs with you around a camp fire. Axton’s songs fell in a unique category; they were as bemused as they were optimistic. “Never Been To Spain” is something of an unofficial state song already, as cheers go up at Karaoke contests around the state whenever someone sings it. It’s hard not to back it, but I have to go with the true classic: Wanda Jackson: “Let’s Have a Party.”

I should admit that I have been a member of the Wanda camp up to my neck. I have the great privilege of counting her and her husband/manager Wendell Goodman as my friends, but no matter how comfortable she makes me feel, there’s always a moment when I’m around her where, inside, I scream to myself “THAT’S WANDA JACKSON!”

Wanda Jackson isn’t just a great singer, she was one of the original masters at the dawn of rock who promoted the music to the masses, touring with Elvis Presley (who she also dated,) Johnny Cash, Buddy Holly, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Carl Perkins. Though she is best known for her country music, worldwide, she is the queen of rockabilly, and the first female voice in rock’n’roll. “Let’s Have a Party” was her first rock hit and it has become an anthem. Even if I had never met her, I would still be promoting “Let’s Have a Party” simply because it is the true classic that has been around for nearly fifty years, and it constantly brings in new fans. Wanda has always kept Oklahoma City as her home base. Out of all of these songs, “Let’s Have a Party” is an example of Oklahoma’s true legacy in the very formation of rock’n’roll.

But once again, I might have a harder time endorsing it if The Collins Kids’ “Whistle Bait,” one of the most intense rockabilly songs ever recorded, had been nominated.

For details on the election and to cast your vote for your favorite song, visit:
May the best song win!

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