Tulsa TV Memories      

Tulsa Coffee Houses of the Past

The Dust Bowl coffee house
by Joel Burkhart, with many reader sidebars

Dust Bowl menu......courtesy of Carl Gregory
Teem was Pepsi's answer to 7Up. Chip-Os were formed potato chips, like Pringle's. Courtesy of Carl Gregory.

          Pepsi's Teem Lea's Pizzeria        

Mike Flynn article, courtesy of Joel Burkhart Located at 220 E. 15th in the group of buildings that used to house Wolferman’s Foods, and is now demolished. It was started by Mike Flynn (former KOTV anchorman and host/creator of syndicated radio show The Folk Sampler) and Bob Anderson in about 1967 and featured a lot of traveling acts as well as a good percentage of local talent. It survived for about three years, I think.

(from Guestbook 121) Jeff Barkley said:

I left Tulsa in the late 70's. At that time, my favorite hang-outs were Cardo's, Boston Ave. Market, the Nine of Cups and, of course, Arnie's. I heard that Arnie's was forced out of its old location. Are the other places still around? Anybody remember anything about a folk music club called The Dust Bowl?

(from Guestbook 121) Larry L. Kraus said:

The Dust Bowl was a folkie place on 15th Street, just west of Peoria. It was open in the 1964-1967 time frame, although those dates are approximations. The house group was called the Folkmen and consisted of Robert Anderson (5-string banjo), Moby Anderson (bass) and Pat Grahm (guitar).

Notables who appeared over the years were Mike Murphey (later known as Michael Martin Murphey, of "Wildfire" fame), and B.W. Stevenson (of "My Maria" fame). Also appearing frequently were Dan Crarey (who still headlines music festivals, and is/was a fine flat-pick guitar player), and Hermes Nye, a lawyer/singer from Dallas, and the Roving Singers (Tommy Harris and Jim Smith). Yours truly also appeared on occasion, but never as a headliner.

The Dust Bowl was part of an informal circuit of folk clubs that included the Sword and the Stone in OKC, the Rubaiyat in Dallas, and the 11th Door in Austin. Most of the people who played at one of those played at the rest.

I ran into Michael Martin Murphey about three years ago and he still remembered the Dust Bowl with fondness. B.W. Stevenson, of course, died about 10 years ago. (I am still alive, barely.)

I can still remember the night that the Folkmen returned from a tour shortly after Dylan released "Highway 61 Revisited." Everyone was aghast that they were playing electrical instruments. Unfortunately, they were using the electrical instruments on their standard repertoire and it just didn't work as well.

Shortly after that (I'm guessing maybe 1967), the Dust Bowl closed.

As I might have mentioned previously, the only person I can remember being thrown off the stage at the Dust Bowl for singing "inappropriate material" was Richard Roberts (in Guestbook 114, Larry recalled it being tagged as "too gross.") All of us pushed the boundaries a bit, but Richard apparently went way over. Of course, he was younger then.

(from Guestbook 121) Carl Gregory said:

The Dust Bowl was a great place, had many memories and good times there. Here is a piece (the menu at top) from the Dust Bowl that used to be on the tables.

(from GroupBlog 257) Pat Downes said:

My parents were regular patrons of the coffee house as well as charter members of Tulsa's Folk Artists Association, which was a loosely bound group of performers and patrons of the art form. In addition to featuring regional (later headliner) performers the likes of Mike Murphy, Mike Brewer and Dan Crary, the Dust Bowl drew from a very solid lineup of local artists including, from my fuzzy memory and in no particular order: Dudley Murphy, Pat Blythe (occasionally with girlfriend Arlea Stokes), Bob Anderson, John Chick (Mr. Zing), V.A. McNabb, and dozens more whose names escape me at the moment.

The Dust Bowl is the source of some truly wonderful childhood memories for me.

(from GroupBlog 257) Mike Flynn said:

Bob Anderson and I started the coffee house when we wanted someplace to sing each week. There were a lot more people involved, like Bob's wife Kay, Moby Anderson (who was not Bob's brother, by the way), and Sandy Wark...whose mother loaned us $300 to get started.

Bob, Moby and Sandy had a trio--The Lowland Three. Some of the better known artists who were there included Michael Martin Murphy and Jack Elliot. I sold my half of The Dust Bowl to Pat Blythe a couple of years later. It was a great place...

The Dust Bowl, courtesy of Joel Burkhart
Courtesy of Joel Burkhart

(from Guestbook 121) Jon Cummins said:

I remember going to the Dust Bowl and seeing Bob Anderson play his ODE banjo when I was about 12. Dad was with me, and that may have been my first taste of "folk" music and pizza.

I was first at the Dust Bowl on 15th St in late 1966. I believe that it had been operational for at least a year before that.

I spent the summer of '67, my senior year, doing the floors every week. I was paid enough to rent a bucket and mop, buy the Spic & Span, and have a few bucks left over.

I also got in free while I was doing the floor. I spent every Friday and Saturday night there. When I left for college I gave up the job (don't remember to whom), but it was still going at that time, about August of 1967.

The performers were mostly from a different planet and I have few memories of them. The exceptions would be the house band, and Dudley Murphy. Even after hearing their sets so many times, they were always entertaining to me.

There was a regular group in the audience, while I was going, which included Joe Allen, Joe Colpitts, Mike Rawlins, David Heckle, a blond girl from Brookside named Kristy, a girl with long brown hair named Shelly, Sandy Courter, Carl and Larry Gregory and some others I remember even less well than these. Most of us were underage, which I believe is why Bob never pursued a liquor license.

For me, the Dust Bowl was a unique experience and made a lasting impression on me and my life.

(from Guestbook 130) David Bagsby said:

There used to be a coffee-house type place somewhere along 15th between Utica & Peoria called The Open Door. Then of course there was the coffee house in the Sears complex at 21st & Yale.

Featuring Sears' in-house group, The Craftsmen, performing their smash hit "If I Had A Hammer" (rimshot).

(6/25/2008): The Open Door Coffee House by Rickey Ray

Visit the TTM Coffeehouse at Amazon

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