RSU Prof’s Book Celebrates Oklahoma Music

Trying to find any connection between Oklahoma and the California surf music of the ‘60s might be far-fetched for most people.

But as Rogers State University assistant professor Dr. Hugh Foley was co-authoring a book on famous and influential musicians from Oklahoma, he discovered that two members of the Ventures – one of the era’s most popular surf music bands who popularized the theme song to “Hawaii Five-O” – hailed from the Sooner state.

“That was really a big surprise to me when I learned that Bob Bogle and Nokie Edwards from the Ventures, one of the Pacific Northwest’s most influential surf music groups, were both born in Oklahoma,” Foley said. “Oklahoma has a rich musical diversity, and the influence of Oklahoma musicians has often been overlooked.”

Foley and Dr. George Carney, Regents professor of geography at Oklahoma State University, have authored “Oklahoma Music Guide: Biographies, Big Hits and Annual Events.” The 688-page volume meticulously showcases the history of Oklahoma music and musicians. The book is the first comprehensive guide on the subject, and details the history, personalities, groups and songs that have made Oklahoma productive in every area of American music.

The state’s musical tradition extends well beyond Garth Brooks, Reba McEntire or other country music artists, said Foley, who teaches in RSU’s Department of Communications and Fine Arts.

The book’s centerpiece is a list of 200 biographical essays on significant musicians, groups, tribes, and musical movements including Gene Autry, Garth Brooks, the Cherokee tribe, Charlie Christian, the Flaming Lips, Woody Guthrie, Toby Keith, the Kiowa tribe, Reba McEntire, the Red Dirt Music scene, Leon Russell, Blake Shelton, the Tulsa Sound and the Bob Wills legacy.

The book also features an in-depth essay detailing the origins, highlights, and contemporary stars of music from the state. The book includes many related lists including 350 No. 1 hits performed or written by musicians with Oklahoma ties; more than 500 place-based songs that mention Oklahoma and its cities in the titles or lyrics; more than 100 annual musical events in Oklahoma including festivals, community events, and powwows; and a master list of more than 2,000 additional Oklahoma musicians, groups, tribes and music industry people being considered for a future edition to coincide with Oklahoma’s centennial celebration in 2007.

Foley received a doctoral degree in English from Oklahoma State University, and master’s and bachelor’s degrees in English from New York University. His primary area of scholarship is American studies with an emphasis on Oklahoma music and culture, Native American studies and cinema.