News from Voices of Oklahoma…

Tommy Allsup

It was 1947 and Tommy Allsup was a sophomore in high school when he organized a Western-style band called the Oklahoma Swing Billies. Following graduation, he became a member of Johnnie Lee Wills & All the Boys. They performed in many venues including Cain’s Ballroom in Tulsa. Allsup met Buddy Holly in 1958 which led to the famous coin flip for a seat on an airplane in the winter of 1959—also known as “the day the music died.”

Voices of Oklahoma recorded Tommy’s oral history September 8, 2011. The recording was made at the home of music historian, Guy Logsdon, who also participated in the interview. Tommy knew how to tell a story and he was at his best for this recording. 

He was 85 when he died January 11, 2017. Chapters 8 and 9 feature the coin flip story.

Share with Tommy’s fans and keep listening to Oklahoma’s oral history website.

Seventy-five Years Ago Today

It was seventy-five years ago, December 7, 1941, when Petty Officer Robert (Bob) Norman was sitting on his bunk aboard the battleship USS Nevada as the Japanese launched their sneak attack on Pearl Harbor. The time was 7:55 that Sunday morning when his ship was torpedoed and hit with ten bombs. With bullets and bombs flying all around him, Bob Norman made a heroic rescue of a stranded ensign. Bob Norman tells the story of the day before and the day of the attack: Listen to chapters three and four for the day before and the day of the attack. Chapter five features the heroic rescue. Voices of Oklahoma salutes Captain Norman and all those who experienced the attack on Pearl Harbor seventy-five years ago!


Veterans Day-Voices of Oklahoma

We honor and thank our brave men and women who have served our country, protecting our freedom including the right to vote.  Voices of Oklahoma offers these veteran voices from Oklahoma as they describe their days on the battle field.

Shawnee Stewart: Chapters 7,8,9
Rex Calvert   Chapters 6,7,8

Paul Andert  Chapters 8,9

Catharine Kingsley  Chapters 9,10,11



John Brooks Walton

John Brooks Walton’s career as an architect, artist, and author gave him a unique view of Tulsa’s residential history. John was eighty-seven when he died last Saturday October 22, 2016. In his life interview he talks about restoring many properties including the Skelly mansion (a home he also lived in), the Mayo mansion, Southern Hills Country Club, and more than one haunted house. Listen to John’s interview here:

Bobby Vee

Bobby Vee was seventy-three when he died Monday, October 24, 2016, but he was only fifteen years old when he took the stage in Moorhead, Minnesota, following the tragic death of Buddy Holly in a plane crash. Since that day, Bobby’s career produced thirty-eight top 100 hits from 1959 to 1970. In Chapter 9 of his Voices of Oklahoma interview, Tommy Allsup tells the coin flip story which kept him alive on that fateful day February 3, 1959.  Bob Dylan played for a brief time in Bobby Vee’s band, The Shadows. Thanks to our friend Larry Gauper of Fargo, North Dakota, you can hear Bobby Vee talk about the “day the music died.”  Listen to Chapter 9 here:

Nobel Prize Winner-Bob Dylan

The most famous drop-out at the University of Minnesota, Bob Dylan, was awarded the 2016 Nobel Peace Prize in literature this week. Although Dylan is primarily a musician, much of his song writing reads like poetry with a focus on story-telling and anti-war themes. Dylan gives credit to his high school English teach in Hibbing, Minnesota “for helping to spark his creative pursuits,” but he was also inspired by other artists, including Woody Guthrie. Woody’s daughter, Nora, talks about that special bond in Chapter 17 of her Voices of Oklahoma interview. Listen here to learn more about the relationship between these two legendary folk musicians.

Arnold Palmer

Famed golfer Arnold Palmer, who passed away on September 25, 2016, was well known on the world’s best courses. As golf shop manager at Tulsa Southern Hills Country Club, George Matson got to know Arnie and remembers him as a very friendly gentleman. Listen to chapter 8 of George’s interview for his personal recollections. 

Click to listen to George’s recollection of Arnold.

Contributing to OK State Education

Voices of Oklahoma is proud to announce we are officially a part of the Oklahoma State Department of Education’s website. You’ll find us listed as a resource in the Social Studies section under Oklahoma History/Culture ( In addition to the resource listing, we have also been added to the Oklahoma Council for Social Studies Facebook page and been cited in several newsletters. 

VOk founder, John Erling, has been asked to make a presentation to the Oklahoma Council for the Social Studies Conference in October (

Special thanks to Brenda Chapman, director of Social Studies Education, for making this learning tool accessible to educators across the state. 

Olympian Bart Conner

As we enjoy the Summer  Olympics in Rio, we are reminded of our nation’s most accomplished male gymnast, the only American to win gold at every level of competition. Bart Conner talks about the moment he knew he wanted to be a gymnast and about his wife Nadia Comaneci.

Listen to Bart’s story here.

This oral history should be shared with every young athlete you know.  Bart is a great example of hard work, leading to a high level of success.


Vice President–Voices of Oklahoma

Since it is presidential convention time again, Voices of Oklahoma looks back to the 1968 Democratic convention when twice elected to the U.S. Senate from Oklahoma, Fred Harris was considered to be the vice-presidential running mate with candidate for president Hubert Humphrey.

Listen to the drama of that selection here in Chapter 20.

The entire oral history of Fred Harris is fascinating listening as he talks about his time in Washington D.C..

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