Issue 256 — The Paregien Journal — April 18, 2012
Our Trip to Miami . . . , Oklahoma, That Is
by Stan Paregien Sr.
We left OKC about 8:00 am, with our ultimate destination being the annual meeting of the Oklahoma Historical Society, being held this year at the Coleman Theater in Miami, Oklahoma. Of course, we don’t pronounce the town name the same way that little village in Florida is pronounced. Oklahoma’s Miami is a name taken from the Miami Indian tribe here and is pronounced “my-am-muh”.
We arrived in Miami, Oklahoma about 12:30 pm. Miami is the hometown of such folks as Steve Owens (star full-back at the University of Oklahoma, Heisman Trophy winner, and player for the Detroit Lions), Charles Banks Wilson (painter), and Carol Littleton (Hollywood film editor and Emmy award-winner).
We stopped and had lunch at the famous Route 66 hamburger joint, “The Ku-Ku,” which features a giant ku-ku bird on the top of the building. The food was okay, but didn’t live up to the hype we had been given.
About 1:30 pm we went to the Coleman Theater at 103 N. Main Street and registered for the Oklahoma History Society meeting which starts at 7:30 pm this evening.
Then we went to a couple of antique stores and drove just a few miles north to Commerce, Oklahoma—where there were no signs to direct us to the location of the hometown hero, Mickey Mantle, the all-star player for the New York Yankees several decades ago. We stopped two different people for directions, with one saying he had no idea where it was and the other giving us directions and adding that infamous postscript, “You can’t miss it.” But we did.
Anyway, we did stop and take photos out on the highway of a very nice statue of Mickey Mantle.
We hit a few more antique and thrift stores, then went to the Holiday Inn Express and checked in. We had a big lunch, so we settled for granola bars for supper.
We drove back to the Coleman Theater for the 7:30 pm program. Wow, the inside of the Coleman—built in 1929 and in the 1950s declining to a state of disrepair—was beautifully restored as a community effort in 2004. It is impressive.
The program this evening was moderated by Roger Harris, an old friend of ours who for many years was the director of the oral history department of the Oklahoma Historical Society in Oklahoma City. He is back with the OHS, though in a different capacity, and is the current president of the Oklahoma Folklife Society.
The program was called, “Okie Folkie Coffeehouse Concert.” It featured a bunch of entertainers who got their start performing at coffeehouses in Oklahoma City and Tulsa during the 1950s and 1960s. Those performers included Mason Williams (Grammy for his song, “Classical Gas”; Emmy for writing comedy for the Smothers Brothers TV show; founding member of the Oklahoma-based “Wayfarers Trio” with Baxter Taylor and Billy Cheatwood), Baxter Taylor (founding member of the Oklahoma-based “Wayfarers Trio”; wrote with Shel Silverstein “Marie Laveau,” a smash hit for Bobby Bare), Billy Cheatwood (founding member of the Oklahoma-based “Wayfarers Trio”; banjo and guitar; former constable of Jemez Springs, NM, where he still lives), and Steve Brainard (banjo).
Also, Mike Settle (Born March 20, 1941 in Tulsa, OK; a Creek Indian whose grandfather, Pleasant Porter, was a chief of the tribe; member of the “Kenny Rogers & the First Edition” band; member of the New Christy Minstrel Singers; wrote “But You Know I Love You,” a cross-over hit for Dolly Parton in 1969; currently a journalist and music critic living in Brentwood, Tenn.).
Also, Mike Flynn, Ed (singer & guitarist) & Karen (singer) Petitt, Art Eskridge (blues singer, guitarist), plus additional instrumentalists Richard Sharp (bass), Amber Vallee (concertino), Shanda McDonald (fiddle), and Dr. Kahty Dagg, M.D. (mandolin).
I was able to get nice video clips of Mason Williams playing “Classical Gas,” of Baxter Taylor singing “Marie Laveau,” and one of Art Eskridge singing and playing a blues number. I have posted them on my YouTube page, where my ID is “CowboyStan”.
On Thursday morning, April 19th, we ate a continental breakfast at the Holiday Inn. Then we boarded a bus to take us back to the Coleman Theater. On the bus we met and visited with Brigadier General Revere A. Young (retired) and his wife Mary. They live near Lake Hefner in Oklahoma City. The last few years of his career he was commander of the Oklahoma Air National Guard.
I attended the 8:30 am session in Room A of the Ballroom. The moderator was Dr. Deena K. Fisher, a history professor in Woodward and a member of the executive committee of the OHS. The first speaker was Dr. Michael Hightower on “Bad PR: Oklahoma and the Media, 1889-1923.” He is a consultant on the OHS’s project on a history of banking in Oklahoma. The second speaker was John Wooley, former entertainment editor for the Tulsa World newspaper, and the author of 22 books. His topic was, “Early Cinema in Oklahoma.”
Stan Paregien Sr. with John Wooley
At 10:15 am I attended a session moderated by Roger Harris and titled, “The Coffeehouse Era in Oklahoma”. Musicians who participated included “The Wayfarer Trio” members Mason Williams and Baxter Taylor and Billy Cheatwood, plus Mike Settle, Art Eskridge, Mike Flynn, Carol Saunders Young, and Steve Brainard.
Meanwhile, Peggy attended a 10:15 session featuring Dr. Guy Logsdon (folklorist and subject of my latest e-book on Amazon.com) as the moderator. The first speaker was Bobby Weaver, retired archivist from the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum, speaking on: “Who Are Those Oilfield Hands and Why Do They Act Like That?” The second speaker Joe Specht of the Grady McWhiney Research Foundation in Abilene, Texas, on the topic of “Boomers and Boomtowns: Oil Patch Songs from Oklahoma.”
Then we were bused from the Coleman Theater to the Student Union banquet hall on the campus of North Eastern Oklahoma University. Mason Williams was the speaker for the luncheon.
After the luncheon, Peggy and I rode the bus over to The Gordon House and toured it. Then the bus took us to the Dobson House & Museum, where we also had refreshments. And then we returned to the motel. We again had granola bars for supper.
We drove to the Coleman Theater for the 7:30 pm. It was a video detailing the restoration of the Coleman Theater. Then we were treated to a tour backstage.
Peggy & Stan Paregien Sr inside the Coleman Theater
Friday, April 20
A thunderstorm rolled in during the night and left at least a half-inch of rain. The temperature dropped significantly and the wind came up to about 30 mph. So it was pretty chilly all day.
We drove to the Coleman Theater for the 8:30 am session. I picked up a Miami newspaper and, lo and behold, there was an article about the OHS meeting . . . and they quoted me on page 3, as well as General Revere Young.
The moderator of the session was Emmy Scott Stidham of Checotah, current president of the OHS. George Nigh, former two-time Governor of Oklahoma, gave an entertaining speech on “Oklahomans Who Have Impacted the Popular Culture.”
Stan Paregien Sr. (right) with former two-term Oklahoma Governor George Nigh
The second speaker was Miami-native Carol Littleton, Emmy-award winning Hollywood film editor. She spoke on, “From Miami to Hollywood.”
At 10:14 am Peggy and I attended a session moderated by Marty Pennington of Ada, a member of the board of directors of the OHS. The first speakers—Cindy Wallis, Gwen Walker and Traci Walker—presented and narrated a slide show of “48 Hours at Atoka,” dealing with the huge (35,000 to 50,000 attendees) country music show in a pasture near Atoka, Oklahoma. It was Oklahoma’s equivalent of “Woodstock,” with similar craziness.
The second speaker in that session was Jana Jae of Grove, billed as “The First Lady of Country Fiddle”. She spoke on “Roots Music in Green Country: The Grand Lake Festivals.” She brought alone her regular fiddle, plus the miniature fiddle she used as a child (made in about 1780) and the signature blue-colored fiddle she used on the Hee Haw TV show.
Jana Jae and Stan Paregien Sr
Jana Jae was born August 30, 1942. She started playing when she was two and a half years old. Both of her parents were violin students at the Juilliard School in New York, and her maternal grandfather was a country fiddler. In her youth, Jae won scholarships to Interlochen and the International String Congress. She graduated Magna Cum Laude with a degree in music and studied abroad at the Vienna Academy of Music.
Jana Jae won the Ladies’ Division National Fiddling Championship. However, she earned a living by teaching some 200 violin students per week. She began to feel as though she might “burn out” doing that, so she inquired around about her chances of playing in a bluegrass or a country band. She interviewed with Buck Owens and was hired to be part of his band, “The Buckeroos”.
Jana Jae gained national fame by appearing on the nationally broadcast “Hee Haw” television show as part of Buck Owens’s band in the 1970s. She married her employer, Buck Owens, in 1977, becoming his fourth wife. In just a few days she had her fill of Mr. Owens and filed for a divorce.
Since the late 70’s, Jae has continued performing internationally, both as the leader of her own band, and with orchestra. Additionally, she has appeared with such country music artists as Chet Atkins, Roy Clark, Ray Stevens, The Oakridge Boys, Mel Tillis, Ricky Skaggs and the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band.
Today she organizes an annual fiddle camp and fiddle festival in Grove, Oklahoma, where she has lived for several years.
I got a couple of nice video clips of Jana Jae talking and playing her fiddle, and I have posted them on my YouTube page under my ID of “CowboyStan”.
At noon we left the OHS meeting. We ate a block or so away at a Mexican food restaurant. Then we drove back to Edmond, arriving home about 5 pm. It had been a fun-filled, informative three days and one of the best conferences we have attended in years. Dr. Paul Lambert of OHS was the primary organizer of the event, and he just did a bang-up job. And those local folks up in Miami, Oklahoma really made us feel welcomed.