Ask Don and Steve White to recall the first show they ever did
together, and they'll take you back to the early '80s and beyond,
into a world studded with legendary Tulsa Sound practitioners like
J.J. Cale, Jimmy Karstein, Larry Bell -- and White pere, of course.
``Since Steve was growing up around me and Cale and all those
guys, he got into it quite young,'' says Don White, turning to his
son. ``Didn't we do our first duo thing 10 or 11 years ago, when
Larry Bell sat in, and Jimmy Karstein came in and set up his drums?''
``No,'' replies Steve, laughing. ``We did a talent show first.''
``Oh, yeah -- that's right,'' says Don. ``Our first gig was at
``I remember that Jim Inhofe was there, too,'' Steve continues.
``He played banjo and his kids sang. I think they did a Sonny &
Cher thing. One of the kids had a wig, anyway.'' He laughs again.
``So our first gig together, we split the bill with Jim Inhofe.''
The Inhofes traded show business for other careers, but Don and
Steve have persevered. These days, they're not only playing their
own gigs -- Don as a solo, Steve with Gus Hardin -- but they appear
as a duo at Checker's Pub and Grill every Thursday, beginning at 8:30 p.m.
``We've got a real wide variety of influences,'' says Steve,
``and our different musical backgrounds really makes for a rich
stew. What we do is really groove-oriented, really rhythm-oriented.
``Of course,'' he adds, nodding toward his father, ``having one
of the originators of the Tulsa Sound with you doesn't hurt.''
``Steve's more hard blues, straight blues,'' says Don. ``I'm
actually a country singer and a blues guitar player. Delbert
(McClinton) used to say, `I'm the blues guy with the country feel,
and you're the country guy with the blues feel.'''
Go out to Checkers on a Thursday, and you'll see Don and Steve
taking turns on both lead vocals and lead guitars, and running
through a lineup of songs that include originals (Don, of course,
has had songs recorded by a number of national acts, including
Rosanne Cash and the Oak Ridge Boys) as well as tunes from ``Seger
and Clapton and Bonnie Raitt, and from people who are friends of
ours, like Don Nix and Gary Nicholson,'' says Don. ``I'll sing a
song, he'll sing a song, we'll do a little front-porch blues, a
little electric blues. It's a good show.''
``They say,'' adds Steve, ``that it's the best-kept secret in town.''
Steve can also be heard backing his pop on ``Bits and Pieces,''
Don's current disc. It's available at Starship Records & Tapes,
Media Play, and Sound Warehouse.
``I'm getting ready to write some new stuff, and we want to go
into the studio again,'' says Don. ``We figure we can do three
albums -- one with the two of us, one with him and one with me.''
With February being Black History Month, it seems appropriate to
quote one of Tulsa's most famous musical figures, Clarence Love,
who called in to comment on our recent column concerning jazz in Tulsa.
A Muskogee native, Love went on to lead his own top-name
orchestras in Kansas City in the 1930s and '40s. Returning to
Oklahoma in 1946, he settled in Tulsa. A couple years later, he
opened Love's Lounge at 604 E. Archer St., the first so-called
``black and tan'' music club -- that is, a club catering to both a
black and white clientele -- in town.
``Of course, this was Oklahoma and Oklahoma was cowboy, you
know,'' recalls Mr. Love. ``And when I came to town, they didn't
have any place with live jazz music. What they called a nightclub
would be a house, and there'd be a vendor in it and they'd serve
food, but they had no entertainment. That's why I started Love's Lounge.''
From '48 through '53, Love's Lounge attracted a clientele that
was both black and white, who'd come in not only to hear the
scheduled entertainment, but also to catch the famous musicians and
show-business personalities who might show up.
``Joe E. Lewis came in, Rochester (Eddie Anderson, famed as Jack
Benny's sidekick), Rock Hudson,'' Mr. Love remembers. ``Woody
Herman wouldn't even come to town to play unless he could come to
Love's Lounge afterwards. He and his band came in one time and had
a jam session that didn't break up until 11 the next day.''
Although he had the perspicacity to hire both a black bouncer and
a white bouncer, Mr. Love treated his customers of all races
equally. Looking back on his historic venue more than 40 years
after its demise, he says, ``I never was prejudiced. I just opened
the club. I just opened it for people.''