- ABOUT US
Performers from all corners of the music world come from around the country to play at the Blue Door in Oklahoma City, because here, it’s all about the music.
By RYAN LaCROIX
Published May/June 2012
In the early 1970s, Hollis native Darrell Royal, then the head football coach at the University of Texas, began hosting “pickin’ parties.” These concerts, featuring performers like Willie Nelson, Kris Kristofferson, and Rita Coolidge, were not raucous nights out. They were more like listening engagements, and the venue had a red light to let audience members know when they were making too much noise.
While no red lights exist at the Blue Door in Oklahoma City, owner Greg Johnson expects his audiences to show the same respect for the musicians on his stage.
“It’s just for the music alone, not to come out and party,” Johnson says. “You can still come here and drink and have fun, but you have to be pretty respectful about it.”
An Oklahoma City native, Johnson moved to Austin in 1982, immersing himself in the local culture and organizing several Woody Guthrie tribute shows. When he returned to Oklahoma City a decade later, he booked Austin musician Michael Fracasso to play a show at a building then known as Hotel Bohemia and owned by a friend.
Johnson later bought the building, which he named the Blue Door, and made it a home for folk, country, rock, and blues. Lucinda Williams, Shelby Lynne, and Ellis Paul all have performed here, and Oklahoma natives Jimmy Webb, Kevin Welch, and Ray Wylie Hubbard regularly make appearances.
“Having places like the Blue Door is really valuable,” says Welch. “If Greg had only been in it to make money, this place would have closed down within two years.”
The 110-seat venue operates on ticket sales and donations. Patrons are allowed to bring in their own beer and wine. The lack of alcohol sales allows for a singular emphasis on what’s happening on the stage.
“It’s not about beer sales or food; it’s about the music,” says Oklahoma City singer-songwriter K.C. Clifford. “There is no other driving force than listening to great songwriters.”
The Blue Door became a nonprofit in 2006, allowing fans to make tax-deductible contributions. One donor gave a large sum that funded improvements to the building. But Johnson told the architects not to straighten the leaning walls, as he believes the lack of ninety-degree angles is key to the room’s excellent acoustics.
The venue’s sound quality is one of many reasons Clifford keeps coming back. She will release her fifth album, The Tag Hollow Sessions, at the Blue Door on May 18 and 19.
“There’s a special kind of magic here,” she says. “It’s my favorite place to play.”
That magic, powered by artistic and financial supporters and Johnson’s stubborn hard work, has made the Blue Door one of the state’s most revered musical destinations.
Get There: The Blue Door is located at 2805 North McKinley Avenue in Oklahoma City. (405) 524-0738 or bluedoorokc.com.