Oklahoma City was once a vibrant center for jazz. Its Deep Deuce neighborhood was home to Charlie Christian and Jimmy Rushing, however little remains of that important heritage but a few markers in the sidewalk. The heart of the city’s live music scene today is the Bricktown Arts and Entertainment district. In the late 19th century, Bricktown was home to the freight operations of four railroad companies, then largely abandoned after the Great Depression. In the 1990s, OKC Mayor Ron Norick came up with a plan to bring the arts back to Oklahoma City by revamping that area.
One Bricktown must-see for music lovers is the American Banjo Museum, which tells the story of the history of the banjo in the US. Its collection of more than 300 banjos is the largest on public display in the world. There are live performances most Saturdays by occasional special guests and banjo virtuoso Johnny Baier, who also happens to be the museum’s executive director.
The neighborhood is home to a wide array of bars and clubs that feature diverse genres of live music. JJ’s Alley, run by attorney/musician Jeff Rodgers, who is a strong supporter of local musicians, features singer-songwriters seven days a week on two separate stages. The Wormy Dog Saloon has live music three or four nights a week, often playing a homegrown genre called red dirt. For country music, Toby Keith’s I Love This Bar & Grill hosts concerts every Friday and Saturday. The Biting Sow features live blues every night of the week starting at 9 p.m., while Mickey Mantle’s Steakhouse and Jazmo’z Bourbon Street Café have live blues and jazz on the weekends. At Michael Murphy’s Dueling Pianos, piano favorites can be heard from blocks away.
Promoting the next generation of Oklahoma City musicians, Bricktown is also home to the Academy of Contemporary Music, which offers music degrees and master classes that are open to the public. Its Performance Lab, also in Bricktown, hosts free shows and an annual ACM Rocks Bricktown mini-festival.
Outside of Bricktown, OKC live music venues include The Blue Door, a favorite with touring singer songwriters, from new artists to well-known names like Ramblin’ Jack Elliott and Tom Rush. The city’s longest running blues club, The Blues Saloon, features live blues Friday through Sunday, and a weekly blues jam on Sunday evening. Oklahoma City Limits features live music Thursday through Saturday. Located in the OKC suburb of Norman, The Deli is a university-area classic with live music seven days a week.
Finally, visiting guitarists won’t want to miss Oklahoma Vintage Guitar (www.oklahomavintageguitar.com), located just outside OKC in El Reno. This family-owned shop has a large selection of guitars, banjos, and mandolins, from vintage instruments to new models, plus handmade guitar straps.