- left Jason Boland and his band The Stragglers released Hard Times Are Relative in 2018. | Photo Cameron L. Gott / providedcenter Mike McClure plans to release a solo album in March. | Photo Chrislyn Lawrence / providedright Cody Canada and his band The Departed released 3 in 2018. | Photo 36D Management / provided
The Yellow House Revisited
8 p.m. Dec. 13
425 NW 23rd St.
If, as the Oklahoma Tourism & Recreation Department’s Travel Promotion Division tells us, famous Stillwater musicians’ hangout The Farm is “the undisputed birthplace of Red Dirt music,” in the 1980s and early ’90s, The Yellow House is where the next generation of influential singer-songwriters gestated.
“After awhile, the guy that ran The Farm left and moved off and it kind of got dilapidated and eventually bulldozed,” said Mike McClure of the influential house party/jam session that seemingly lasted from 1979 until just before The Farm burned down in 2003. “All the musicians needed another spot, and it winded up being The Yellow House.”
Stragglers frontman Jason Boland, who rented The Yellow House on University Circle near the Oklahoma State University (OSU) campus, described what having a place like The Farm, where musicians of all experience levels often swapped songs around a campfire, meant to him as an aspiring songwriter in the ’90s in a Little OkieLand article from 2017.
“It’s hard to really step back and think about the pre-internet world again where you had to search out music that wasn’t fed to you through the radio,” Boland said. “You sit down and listen to one time around the circle of pickers, and you realize you need to go work on your songs. You’re a kid and your writing about kid stuff and then you hear these from a deeper place and better crafted and it gets to your turn and you think, ‘OK, I got one that I’m not completely embarrassed about,’ and that’s inspiration when you are challenged that way.”
Boland and McClure (former frontman for The Great Divide) will join fellow Stillwater alum Cody Canada (former frontman for Cross Canadian Ragweed) — onstage to swap songs and stories at The Yellow House Revisited 8 p.m. Dec. 13 at Tower Theatre, 425 NW 23rd St.
us to get back together again and
rehash some of those years."
—Mike McClure tweet this
Outside these “fairly sporadic” shows, McClure said he can’t remember the last time he actually revisited The Yellow House.
“I haven’t gone back in a hundred years,” McClure said. “It was more Jason and Cody’s hangout. They both lived there. At the time when that place started to be the place to go, The Great Divide had a record deal and I started traveling. I was gone quite a bit, but when I’d come back to town, I’d go by there and see those guys.”
But Canada, who told Little OkieLand about moving into the basement of The Yellow House after pulling out nine dirty mattresses and burning them in the backyard, recalled returning to his former home with his wife Shannon.
“We went to the bar, got pretty drunk, so we were fearless,” Canada said in a 2009 interview with Oklahoma State University student publication The O’Colly, “and we just walked in the door at The Yellow House.”
McClure said playing onstage with Canada and Boland allows him to return to The Yellow House in a more figurative way.
“The idea of the shows is just a way for us to get back together again and rehash some of those years because those are very formative years for all of us,” McClure said. “That’s just a place where we all cut our teeth songwriting and playing for people. … It’s a nice snapshot in time. It’s one of those things that can’t really be recreated, when everybody came together, in a sense. … Playing these shows and going back over the old songs and talking about stories from that time period, that’s about as close as we can get to going back.”
Though McClure, who now runs Boohatch Studio & Farm in Ada, has produced music by Boland and Canada, The Yellow House Revisited concerts are typically their main reason for getting together.
“Outside of these shows, everybody’s so busy with their own getting around and playing shows,” McClure said. “Jason travels all over. So does Cody. And then I do as well. I do more work out of a studio at my house, but it really is the only time I see them, so it’s pretty special in that way, and we get a chance to hang out in a place where we’re comfortable. We’re all comfortable on the stage, especially together.”
They don’t rehearse for these concerts, McClure said, laughing when he added “and it’ll show.”
“If it looks effortless, it’s ’cause we’re putting no effort into it,” McClure said, laughing again. “But back in the day when we all started playing together, it was improv. That’s where we all learned to play lead, really. I’d have my acoustic, and then Cody would sit in with me, and when it came time for a solo, if I’m doing a song he takes solo and I played the rhythm chords. It’s the same way when we play together now. We just kind of look at the other one and intuitively know who’s about to do what, but that was there in the beginning. It wasn’t a matter of playing over and over. That was part of, I felt, the magic of that Stillwater era. Everybody was different. Jason was more of a honky-tonk type thing, and Great Divide was kind of in the middle of country and rock, and Ragweed is a little more on the rock end, but we were all coming from a relatively same place.”
McClure, who plans to release a new album in March, hopes to recreate some of that atmosphere of camaraderie at Boohatch.
“My girlfriend Chrislyn [Lawrence] and I, we do songwriter workshops out of there,” McClure said. “Five to six people will come in, and we just spend the weekend going over the songwriting craft and talking about it and playing songs and sitting down and breaking off and writing in groups and writing one-on-one. And a lot of that, for me, stems from my time at The Farm. It was more of an open community as far as sharing information and just, like, minds being around like minds. It’s conducive to creativity.”
In retrospect, McClure said, he realizes how special those days really were.
“There was always, in the past, reaching for something we were already in the middle of,” McClure said. “Instead of enjoying it more, it was always trying to reach to that next rung, which if we’d have been paying attention, we’d have realized we were already in it a lot earlier than we thought we were.”
Tickets are $30-$40. Call 405-708-6937 or visit towertheatreokc.com.