Discover Muskogee, OK's Music Scene
From rhythm and blues and bluegrass to symphony and jazz, Muskogee’s vibrant music scene is as distinctive as the Merle Haggard classic Okie From Muskogee and as colorful as the 8-foot-tall fiberglass guitars painted by local artists and displayed around town.
“I guess it’s in the water. There are all kinds of music going on in Muskogee all the time, and that’s everything literally from the churches to the nightclubs. There’s always a place to play,” says Max Boydstun, who approaches his presidency of the Oklahoma Music Hall of Fame in Muskogee as a labor of love. “I’ve been a banker forever, but music’s my passion,” he says. “I started playing music in this town when I was 14 years, and I’m 59 now. I don’t play professionally anymore, but there are still some young guys out there doing the same thing I was back in the ’60s.”
And they’re doing it in venues such as Max’s Garage and Johnny V’s Loft, both on North Main Street, and Jasper’s Saddle Club on Military Boulevard. Describing itself as an “Automotive Honky Tonk,” Max’s Garage was launched in an old Goodyear Tire store and today is a restaurant and music complex with four stages and room to dance.
Harley Hamm Jr. has certainly done his share of performing at Max’s. A singer and lead guitar and bass player, Hamm is associated with six bands in the area, including the R&B group Full Flava Kings and The Funky Mothers.
“There’s a lot of really great talent out of Muskogee, and the older talent really sticks together,” Hamm says.
A self-taught guitarist, Hamm also teaches guitar at Square Deal Music. Budding musicians in search of instruction make their way as well to John Michael’s Music & Sound, where about 150 students take weekly classes in guitar, bass, drum, piano and voice. John Michael Medeiros and his wife, Jan, founded the music store in 1981 after moving to Muskogee to be near her family. The store specializes in guitars, guitar amps and drums, and Medeiros handles design and installation of commercial sound and video systems. Thus, he’s turned over the events and promotions side of the business to his daughter, Raegan Medeiros, the spark plug behind Rock Camp.
Launched in 2008, Rock Camp is a five-day summer event for fledgling rock stars ages 10-17. For $150, 12 students per week receive music instruction, attend classes on song writing, stage presence, poster design and working together as a band. Divided into two groups, the bands perform a Friday finale concert. “I think it’s probably one of the coolest things we’ve ever done as a promotion,” Raegan says.
It looks like Muskogee agrees. The popular camp had a waiting list in 2009, and 2010 promises to be a huge hit. “Every year gets bigger,” Raegan says.
Who knows? Some Rock Camp graduates may someday be inducted into the Oklahoma Music Hall of Fame. That wouldn’t surprise Boydstun. “The Oklahoma Music Hall of Fame is really to honor the past, present and future artists and musicians who relate to Oklahoma music. It covers all genres of music,” he explains. “We’re very blessed in this state to have fertile ground for people in the arts and especially in music.”
Singin’ in the Fame
Some of the diverse musicians inducted into the Oklahoma Music Hall of Fame and Museum include:
Cherokee National Youth Choir
Read more on the music scene in Muskogee.