By: Kathy Smith | Category: Special Interest | Issue: July 2022
The historic Church Studio in central Tulsa.
We can go on for hours and hours about why Tulsa, Oklahoma is a mecca for music. We can talk about homegrown music legends and world-renown rock & roll residents. We can brag about our extraordinary music museums and landmarks, amazing live music scene, and superstars from all walks of life and genres. As for what one place is known to be the most alluring: The Church Studio - a tribute to the legacy of Leon Russell, the Tulsa Sound, and active recording studio.
Originally built in 1915 as the Grace M.E. Church, this impressive stone structure located at 304 South Trenton Avenue was purchased by the legendary Oklahoma musician in 1972 and was transformed into a world-class recording studio for his label Shelter Records. For the next 5 years while Russell owned the building, phenomenal music history was made. After Russell sold the building, it passed through several different owners until 2016, when it was purchased by local businesswoman Teresa Knox and her husband Ivan Acosta. They renovated the studio using the church’s original wood, had it named on the National Register of Historic Places in 2017, and reopened the space in early 2022 as a fully functioning analog and digital recording studio, Leon Russell archive and art gallery devoted to “support the understanding, appreciation and advancement of music.”
The Church Studio and Russell’s Shelter Records recorded and produced some of the most influential acts and music of all time. Through the Church doors walked Willie Nelson, Eric Clapton, Stevie Wonder, Bob Dylan, Bob Seger, Jimmy Buffet, Bob Marley, George Harrison, Kansas, Phoebe Snow, JJ Cale, The GAP Band, Freddie King, Peter Tosh, Dwight Tilley, Ringo Starr and many others. Memorabilia of their presence are displayed.
Informative guided tours offer a glimpse into both the past and the present of the Church Studio. You will be fascinated with the Leon artifacts, various music memorabilia, and the only known self-portrait. Fine art paintings by Zox and PS Gordon grace the walls along with many other distinctive art pieces, legendary instruments, and sculpture. Every room gives you that 70’s rock & roll vibe – in the furniture and décor, exhibits and collections.
Upstairs you’ll see the recording studio, control room, green room, and equipment spaces are filled with all the right professional gear any producer or musician would want. You might even get to take a peek at an actual recording session.
The audio recording control room at The Church Studio.
General Admission tickets can be purchased online at TheChurchStudio.com. Admission for Church Studio members is free + 1; Adults $12.00; $10.00 for Seniors 65 +, Veterans and Students; Private Tours are $25.00. Walk-ins are welcome or reserve. Docent led tours are available by emailing eat0@eau0eav0eaw0.
Glass chandelier art at the studio.
The Church Studio's remodeled green room.