In high school in Tulsa in the late 60’s, football was king. Players at my school, Edison, were the coolest. Or it seemed that way to a 15-year-old boy. One classmate, Mike Fanning, played for Notre Dame and then went in the first round of the NFL draft to the L.A. Rams. But…
Musicians were on the rise. They were still on the outside, kind of nerdy, but in the time of rock ‘n’ rock’s adolescence, in which the Beatles, the Stones and the Who ruled the radio airwaves I listened to (KAKC), high school musicians were their own caliber of cool.
And when David Chatenever introduced a sitar, a la George Harrison, into the Screaming Eagles, Edison’s stage band, music became the coolest thing ever.
I didn’t play football; I played baseball. I played music, but it was the lamest instrument ever — the clarinet. I would wander into the music store at Southland shopping center and look at the guitars hanging on the wall, fantacizing which I’d buy. Of course, I was 15. I didn’t have the money for one of those monsters. (They cost more than Bruce Springsteen’s $18 “junkie” model from Western Auto.)
This all came back when I read that Jamie Oldaker died last week. He was a drummer, an A-list drummer who played with Clapton, Frampton, Russell and Seger. He was also in my class at Edison. We knew each other, but only in a passing, nod-in-the-hall kind of way. He was cool, but not in the football player swaggering way. He was cool because he had that cool vibe.
This is how cool: “Rowan said Oldaker talked about how, during teen years, he and other young musicians would play local gigs then head to north Tulsa to listen to (and play with) blues and jazz performers late into the night. Rowan said Oldaker picked up on the groove in Black clubs and was made to feel at home.
“Oldaker received this advice when sharing late-night barbecue with a performer at one of those clubs: ‘Son, you got to ease off on the potato salad and bear down on the meat!'” (From a wonderful appreciation in the Tulsa World.)
This is how cool, from Eric Clapton: “he is as solid as rock and I could listen to him talk all night long, many times I have, his knowledge is a wink and a sparkle in his eye, which says everything…
“I listen to ‘Slowhand’ now and then to try and remember what it is I’m supposed to be doing. and I end up listening to Jamie and saying to my wife “did you hear that ?”
“What more can I say…”
That time at Edison was pretty special for developing and nurturing musicians. Maybe it began in the early 1960’s with the Tulsa Sound. Maybe it was nurtured, at least at Edison, by the band director, Ashley Alexander. I mean, Leon Russell had a studio there for god’s sake.
I don’t know, but Dwight Twilley had a single that peaked at 16 on the Billboard charts. He was a year ahead of me in school, and I actually remember him as the artist who drew the cover of the Edison High School student directory. (It was in the Peter Max style.)
And there are others in my class: Tuck Andress, now playing jazz with Tuck & Patti. Scott Musick who played with The Call and later, with Kris Kristofferson. And I’m likely leaving several out because, it’s been 50 years.
But you know the thing about being cool in high school? I remember all of these guys; I couldn’t tell you anything about any of the football players other than Mike Fanning.