By: Macy Goodnight | Category: Recreation/Leisure | Issue: December 2020
Wagoner Mayor, AJ Jones, is the authority on the city’s history, and was the catalyst that brought The Legends of Country Music to the History Center.
The origins of the city of Wagoner are unique and progressive, with an early history that includes the first free public schools in Indian Territory, before statehood, and the home of the first female doctor in Indian Territory. Built on a railroad switch that carried passengers from coast to coast, the town was a travel stop that provided lodging and entertainment, and also a shipping hub that benefitted from an exceptional wealth of natural resources. The city’s founders were brilliant minds with a forward-thinking mindset that welcomed diversity, making for a rich history with an extraordinary story.
Today, visitors can discover this vibrant past and learn more about its innovative founders by exploring Wagoner: The Early Days in the Wagoner History Center. Guests will also be amazed to find a new, mind-blowing music memorabilia collection in The Legends of Country Music exhibit. This massive collection is unlike any other, anywhere. The museum is located at 122 S. Main, in the historic downtown district.
Mayor, AJ Jones, is passionate about his city and is a walking history book. His enthusiasm is infectious and has been integral in the progression of the History Center. When he discovered that world-famous music promoter, Jim Halsey, was seeking to find a home for his massive collection of music memorabilia, he got to work. “I saw the article in September 2017, that he was looking, and it took a while for me to get in touch with him,” he said. Together with city officials, they were able to bring the collection to Wagoner. The collection opened for exhibit in February. “We finally got it open, and it’s marvelous. We couldn’t have done it without all of the volunteers who contributed too many hours to count.”
Jim Halsey is a legend in the music business, as a talent agent who represented such names as Reba McEntire, Tammy Wynette, Merle Haggard, Clint Black, Roy Clark, The Oakridge Boys, and many more. Some of the items in the collection that visitors can view include Gold Records, an authentic Grammy Award, signed guitars, and much more. “Where else in Oklahoma can you go to see an actual Grammy?” asked AJ. “This is the largest collection of Country Music Memorabilia this side of the Mississippi.” The museum is partnered with the Oklahoma Historical Society, which is a Smithsonian Institute. Music lovers will be thrilled to see guitars signed by such legends as Led Zeppelin, Jimmy Buffett, ACDC, and Aerosmith. Guests can read the short narratives that tell Halsey’s story from the beginning, details of his work with an impressive list of iconic performers, as well as clothing and instruments from the artists themselves. The entire collection tells the story of “The Starmaker.” Plans for display rotation will keep the exhibit fresh and exciting for future visits.
Signed guitars and other memorabilia from Oklahoma’s own, Roy Clark, can be found, in addition to many other iconic performers’ items.
In Wagoner: The Early Days, visitors can explore the collection of a founding families descendent, Shirle Lamb Williams. It is an insightful view into the lives of the original residents of the city, as well as the people who lived in Indian Territory before statehood.
During December, Wagoner will host a Christmas light extravaganza throughout the city, with other festive activities to enjoy. Visit the Wagoner History Center during the day, and stay for spectacular light displays after dark. The History Center’s winter hours are Thursday-Saturday 10 am to 5 pm, and Sunday noon to 5 pm. Visit wagonerok.org for after hours happenings. For more information, find them on Facebook @cityofwagoner or call (918) 485-2554.
A world-class museum houses an incredible collection of memorabilia from the career of music promoter Jim Halsey.
The Wagoner History Center is located in the historic downtown district and offers two exciting exhibits to discover.
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