Tulsa Sound founder and piano man Leon Russell, a true musician's musician, celebrated his 70th birthday with little pomp and a whole lot of fans Saturday night at the Brady Theater.
The threat of severe weather didn't scare anyone away from the party.
Russell welcomed fans warmly, adding "A lot of my music education came from this very building," he said of the historic venue. He rolled off a list of influences that he'd seen here: Bo Diddley, Chuck Berry, Jerry Lee Lewis and more. All were represented in style, spirit and song on Saturday.
Decked out in white cowboy hat, Hawaiian print shirt and tan leather jacket, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame member performed a roster of rollicking, blues-infused hits, including "Delta Lady," "Rollin' in My Sweet Baby's Arms," "Tightrope," "Stranger in a Strange Land," "Sweet Little Angel," "Lady Blue," "Dixie Lullaby," "Back to the Island," "Wild Horses," "I've Just Seen a Face" "Georgia on My Mind," "A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall," "Out in the Woods," "Kind-Hearted Woman Blues," "Walking Blues," "A Song for You," "Jumpin' Jack Flash," "Papa Was a Rolling Stone" "Kansas City" and more.
Dressed in black, Beau Charron (lap steel, mandolin, keyboards), Brandon Holder (drums), Jackie Wessel (bass) and Chris Simmons (guitar) rounded out the Leon Russell Band.
"I first moved out to Los Angeles to get into the advertising business, but I ended up playing on people's records instead. It's a lot easier on me," he joked as the audience cheered.
The chatty songwriter shared personal stories about his earliest days here, back when Tulsa County was dry and he was playing piano in a church.
The night took on the spirit of a revival as people clapped and cheered and held their hands to the sky when Russell sang.
His trademark, gravelly voice heralded fans young and old into his intimate world for one night, a true celebration with the Master of Space and Time.
Before the show there were cheers of "Leeeeon!" as fans mugged together for snapshots. Men copped the top-hat look of Russell's earlier days and wore fan club shirts with LEONLIFER printed across the back. Bright bouquets of balloons boasted "Happy Birthday!" in the historical venue's lobby as women clutched rolled souvenir posters and bouquets of colorful concert tees.
The set started with a documentary video that put longtime Tulsa personalities Jim Millaway (aka Sherman Oaks) and Gailard Sartain (aka Mazeppa) together for the first time since the mid-1980s. Bernie Taupin, Fred Armisten, Willie Nelson, Elton John, Donald Trump and others all sent wishes, too.
Said Trump, "We have so much in common. ... We may be the only two people in Earth who both love Gary Busey."
Teddy Jack Eddy, aka Tulsa native Gary Busey, added, "Seventy years ago, you were born. ... You have given me so much mentorship, friendship. ... We will see each other again. Happy birthday, Leon, I love you with all that I am."
Tulsa Mayor Dewey Bartlett said "on behalf of our city and our state, from all of us ... Thank you and happy birthday."
Alabama-born country music singer-songwriter Glen Templeton opened the night. Every inch of Templeton hollers a strong future in the country music business. His uber-friendly "y'alls," his near-bartitone twang and backing band's energetic harmonies reeled in the audience and held it rapt for 60 minutes.
He performed a Russell tune, "Fixer Upper," that even the most die-hard fans hadn't heard before Saturday. "Leon wrote this one for my album," Templeton said before launching into the honky tonk shaker.
"What people told me is true," Templeton said to a standing ovation. "People said y'all knew how to party and, man, were they right!"