Former agent/manager extraordinaire to country music’s biggest stars, Jim Halsey says he’s really not a collector of things.
“I don’t collect. It’s just that I don’t throw anything away,” Halsey said from his Tulsa office/museum recently.
Halsey, 88, spent 60 years in the entertainment business as the representative to some of the biggest country music stars around. He’s now educating people who want to follow their dreams of being in the business with an innovative curriculum.
His success with the Oak Ridge Boys, Roy Clark, Hank Thompson, Wanda Jackson, the Judds and many others has made him a legend. He is more than a manager, but a friend to all he represented and some he didn’t have under contract.
Photos of the greats in the business dwarf his office. Walls are lined with gold and platinum records, signed contracts and Grammy awards. There are also signed guitars and other priceless memorabilia.
Every photo and every piece in his
collection has a story behind it. Halsey recalls the history of every item like it was yesterday.
Halsey, who is related to famous World War II Navy Admiral “Bull” Halsey, opened his horde of music history for five representatives from Wagoner on Friday, June 21.
It was a rare behind-the-scenes glimpse into a successful world of helping individuals and groups shine bright on the music stage.
That might be the end of the story. Halsey opens his collection to a few Wagoner visitors, but that would not be the whole story.
The Wagoner Public Works Authority recently approved a motion by a 7-1 vote to enter into a lease with Halsey and his wife, Minisa, to lease a portion of the “Jim Halsey’s Legends of Country Music” collection.
The agreement would send 200 of Halsey’s items to the Wagoner Historical Museum to be displayed in the near future. The agreement’s fee was not announced during the meeting.
“Hopefully, it’s inspirational for young people,” Halsey said of the sharing the collection.
The bottom line is everyone connected with this project wants Wagoner to be a ‘Go To’ destination’ and not a ‘Go Through,’ as Halsey assistant Mark Furnas coined. The Halsey collection might help in that endeavor.
The big picture is to make Wagoner a stopping point for tourists to see this one-of-a-kind history of country music. Halsey and the Wagoner delegation talked about teaming with travel companies and tours to make it a selling point to stop here.
The bottom line is if tour buses stopped here, they might also find time for lunch and help generate sales tax income.
And, why not use Halsey’s collection to bring people here that normally would not?
Remember those gold and platinum albums on Halsey’s walls? The ones on display represent sales of over 250 million records by Halsey artists.
In 1990, Halsey sold his agency and founded the Jim Halsey Music Business Institute. The institute helps others pursue their dreams of being successful in the music industry.
Dreams are a big deal to Halsey and always have been.
“Follow your dreams. That’s my motto,” Halsey said. “I had an old Indian medicine man tell me one time, ‘You stop following your dreams and you’ll stop having them.’”
When filmmaker Ken Burns debuts his latest documentary about country music in September, viewers will see Halsey featured in it.
Burns’ collaborator, Dayton Duncan, came to Tulsa and spent time with Halsey.
“It will put a brand new face on country music,” Halsey said of the venture.
Wagoner officials hope the same is true when Halsey’s collection lands in the Wagoner City Historical Museum.
One of the Wagoner visitors summed up the tour of Halsey’s collection this way.
“I had the opportunity to meet a walking history book today (in) Dr. Jim Halsey,” said Kristen Mallett, executive director of the Wagoner Area Chamber of Commerce. “He is a music legend! He is behind so much music history. It’s insane!
“So many roads lead back to this incredible human being. What a treat it was to meet him and visit his office today.”
Hopefully, that kind of enthusiasm will generate visitors to the local community for a similar music experience.