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Oklahoma Museum of Popular Culture to Display Collection of Items Featuring Legendary Musician Leon Russell

Grammy Award-winning Oklahoma rock music legend Leon Russell made an appearance in Tulsa, Okla. on Tuesday to help announce that a collection of items featuring him and his work has been acquired by the Oklahoma Historical Society (OHS) for display at the future Oklahoma Museum of Popular Culture (OKPOP).

The collection contains more than 4,500 items related to Russell's historic musical career, many of which have never been released to the public. They include photos, audio recordings, video, record albums, CDs, concert tickets, shirts, posters, magazines, books, articles and more.

During the announcement, Russell reminisced about his early years in Oklahoma.

"When I was a youngster, I saw Jascha Heifetz at the Municipal Theater in Tulsa, now known as 'the ol' lady on Brady,'" Russell said. "I also saw different inspiring shows like Clyde McPhatter, Lloyd Price, Chuck Berry, Ruth Brown and Jerry Lee Lewis. It was my pleasure to go on the road with Jerry Lee a couple of years later.

"When I first went to California at the age of 17, there was no home cooking like fried catfish or iced tea to be found anywhere in the state. In later years, Mayor Dewey Bartlett was a partner in the company that designed and built a home and recording studio at my Grand Lake estate.

"And now the good people of Oklahoma want to build a magnificent museum to honor me and others like me. God is good, amen and amen."

OHS was joined for the announcement Tuesday by fellow OKPOP Museum advocates Tulsa Mayor Dewey Bartlett; Senate President Pro Tem Brian Bingman; Senate Minority Leader Sean Burrage, D-Claremore; Tulsa Councilman Blake Ewing; representatives from George Kaiser Family Foundation, the Tulsa Regional Chamber and the Brady District Association and other supporters.

"It is such an honor for the Oklahoma Historical Society to be able to add this collection to the list of impressive examples of Oklahoma's musical and cultural talent that will be on display in the OKPOP Museum," said Dr. Bob Blackburn, executive director of OHS. "It is an even greater honor to have Leon with us here to celebrate this occasion. We are truly grateful for his support."

The OKPOP Museum will be a 75,000-square-foot, four-story building dedicated to the creative spirit of Oklahoma's people and their influence on popular culture around the world. The theme of the museum will be "Crossroads of Creativity" in the fields of music, film, television, theatre, pop art, comic books, literature or humor.

"The Oklahoma Historical Society has 32 museums and historic sites in Oklahoma, but none of the museums and sites are in Tulsa," Bartlett said. "The OKPOP Museum is the perfect project for the city of Tulsa and the state of Oklahoma, and we need both private and public partners to work together to make this museum a reality."

In order for the museum to become a reality, the Oklahoma Legislature must approve a $42.5 million bond issue. It will be located in the Brady Arts District of Tulsa. Bank of Oklahoma has offered to donate a 90,000-square-foot block of land, contingent on the authorization of the bond issue and the construction of an adjoining parking garage by OHS. George Kaiser Family Foundation has committed a $1 million challenge grant to raise funds for the museum.

Born in Lawton, Okla., Russell began his musical career in Tulsa before moving to Los Angeles, Calif. He has worked in a variety of musical genres as a songwriter, collaborator, performing and recording artist. He has performed and collaborated with other notable artists throughout his career, including George Harrison, Ray Charles, Willie Nelson, Frank Sinatra, Bob Dylan and The Rolling Stones. His song, "This Masquerade," won a Grammy for Record of the Year in 1976, and he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2011.

With approval of the bond issue, the OKPOP Museum could open as early as 2017.

SOURCE George Kaiser Family Foundation

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