Tulsa musicians unite for Feathers benefit Sunday at Curly's


Leo Feathers is best known for his work with Leon Russell.

MICHAEL WYKE / Tulsa World

It's an all-star lineup of musicians -- some of whom haven't been heard from in a good long time -- scheduled to play at Curly's@the East End this Sunday. And they're gathered together to honor and aid another all-star and one of their own, Tulsa guitarist Leo Feathers, who is gravely ill.

"We're just trying to help make things comfortable for him, to help with his care," says vocalist- harmonica player Jimmy Markham, the event's organizer. "I'm calling it a tribute benefit, and the tribute part has to do with the fact that he's one of the icons of Tulsa music, a great electric and acoustic guitar player, a Nashville studio player, a man who's play with major acts from Leon Russell to Jerry Lee Lewis, and a recipient of the Cherokee Medal of Honor."

Feathers and Markham have been playing as a duo Sundays at Pickle's Pub. But that's only the latest in a long line of collaborations for the two that stretches back to the early days of rock 'n' roll.

"We go back to 1958 and a band called the Starlighters," Markham noted. "It was Leo and me, Leon Russell, Chuck Blackwell, Johnny Williams and Jack Dunham. We played the rock 'n' roll and R&B of the day, and we played all around Tulsa. Later on, when I was in Nashville and Leo was in Nashville, we played some together down there; then he left and moved back home to Mounds. When I moved back here in April, we started playing once again as a duo. He told me he's going to play as long as he can."

A look at the roster of performers will tell you that Leo Feathers has made a lot of friends in the Tulsa musical community over the years. And some of those friendships also involve stars like former Tulsan Ronnie Dunn of the hugely successful country act Brooks & Dunn. He and others have donated items for an auction, to be held during the event.

"We'll have both a live and a silent auction, with merchandise from Brooks & Dunn, Reba, Dwight Yoakam and Waylon -- and there's more coming in every day," said Markham. "Garth Hudson and Levon Helm (of the Band) have just donated a signed guitar."

Even longtime fans of Tulsa music may be surprised at some of the acts scheduled to appear. Mickey Crocker, for instance, was a Tulsa music heavyweight back in the '70s, but hasn't played much around here in years.

"That's because he's been living up in Kansas," said Markham. "But he's come down and sat in with Leo and me a couple of Sunday nights."

Then there are guys like piano player Eddie Spraker and vocalist Bobby Taylor, players in the early '60s Tulsa music scene who haven't been on stage for a long time.

"Bobby goes 'way back to that David Gates era; he had his own vocal thing going then," Markham explained. "Eddie goes back to those early days with us, too. He was the piano player in the first band I had, the Swinging Shadows, in 1957. He got out of music and into banking." Markham laughed. "He was one of the smart ones."

A Leo Feathers Benefit Fund has been established at the Tulsa Teachers' Credit Union, P.O. Box 4999, 3720 E. 31st St., Tulsa, Okla. 74159-0999. Account number for contributions is 107464. More information can be found on the website www.tulsamusic.com

Event: Leo Feathers Tribute Benefit, featuring Brad Absher, Larry Bell, Chuck Blackwell, Debbie Campbell, Earl Cate, Tommy Crook, Gene Crose, Bill Davis, Jack Dunham, Scott Ellison, Rocky Frisco, Jim Karstein, Jimmy Markham, Mezclave (Tul- Salsa), Don Price, Steve Pryor, Bill Raffensperger, The Red Dirt Rangers, Walt Richmond, John Rigney, Leon Rollerson, Bill Snow, Eddie Spraker, Jim Sweney, Tiffany Tanner, Bobby Taylor, David Teegarden, Flash Terry, Roger Tillison, Tom Tripplehorn, Jim Turley, Don White, Steve White, Larry York, The Zigs and more.

When: 4 p.m.-midnight Sunday

Where: Curly's@The East End, 216 N. Elgin Ave.

Tickets: $10 donation at the door