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Oklahoma Octaves

Many of the world’s most famous musicians and songwriters got their start in Oklahoma, so the state’s amazing music experiences shouldn’t come as a surprise. Group travelers can experience the early days of Oklahoma’s Red Dirt music scene, learn more about musical legends Woody Guthrie and Bob Dylan, and explore the origins of one of country music’s most famous instruments, the banjo.


Red Dirt Music


Red Dirt is a genre of country music that gets its name from the color of the soil found in Oklahoma. It usually includes a guitar, fiddle, steel guitar, Dobro, harmonica, bass guitar, drums, mandolin and banjo. The music got its start outside Stillwater in 1979 at a two-story farmhouse known as The Farm, which launched the careers of storied musicians such as Bob Childers (known as the Father of Red Dirt music), Tom Skinner, Jason Boland and Stoney LaRue.

Group travelers who want to hear Red Dirt music and learn more about its roots can visit during Bob Childers’ Gypsy Café, Oklahoma’s largest homegrown songwriters festival. The 2023 event in May had five stages with acoustic sets from 70 Oklahoma songwriters. Live music venues, like Tumbleweed Dancehall and Concert Arena, Willie’s Saloon and The Salty Bronc Saloon, are also a big part of Stillwater’s Red Dirt music scene.

Tumbleweed Dancehall opened in 1980 and is known for hosting legendary and up-and-coming Red Dirt and country music performers. It has the largest wooden dance floor in the state.

Group visitors can tour the venues or meet local musicians, such as Monica Taylor, a well-known musician and storyteller. Stillwater is also home to two other large Red Dirt music festivals, Calf Fry and Outside City Limits.

Oklahoma Music Hall of Fame and Museum


The Oklahoma Music Hall of Fame and Museum pays tribute to many of the big-name artists who got their start in the state, including Woody Guthrie, Vince Gill, Carrie Underwood, Kristin Chenoweth, Merle Haggard and Neil Schon from Journey. Since 1997, the hall of fame has inducted more than 100 of the world’s most famous musicians, artists and songwriters with ties to the state. Its goal is to educate the public about these home-grown artists and promote their musical legacy.

The building the museum is housed in was originally a train station, so there are train tracks on both sides of the building and a caboose connected to it.

The museum is hidden in a corner of Muskogee, across from Depot Green, a downtown park where festivals and events are held. Local radio station Okie Country 101.7 recently relocated to the hall of fame, bringing in fans for a visit. Visitors can watch the DJs in action from behind the glass.

The museum is relatively small and takes about an hour to tour. The rest of the museum is dedicated to live events and shows. Groups that want to time their visit with a specific show can visit the hall of fame’s social media pages for a schedule of events.

Bob Dylan Center


The Bob Dylan Center opened to the public in May 2022, steps away from the Woody Guthrie Center in the Tulsa Arts District. Visitors to the museum can see more than 100,000 artifacts from the Bob Dylan Archive, including hand-written lyrics to some of Dylan’s most famous songs, previously unreleased recordings, never-before-seen film performances and plenty of photographs and visual art spanning his seven-decade career.

The archive features notebooks and correspondence, recording session reports, contracts and sheet music. Along with artifacts and stories from Dylan’s life, the museum has an immersive experience that merges archival music and film, as well as a re-creation of an authentic recording studio where visitors can experience what it was like to be present for one of the artist’s recording sessions. The Columbia Records Gallery provides an in-depth look at the creation, performance and production timeline of Dylan songs, such as “Like a Rolling Stone,” “Tangled Up in Blue,” and “Chimes of Freedom.”

A screening room showcases films, documentaries and concert performances by or about Dylan. The newest exhibit, Becoming Bob Dylan: Photographs by Ted Russell 1961-1964, opened April 26, and will run through October 15, 2023. It features rare images of Dylan from his early years in New York City. Many fans wondered why the Minnesotan’s archives ended up in Tulsa. The answer? He liked the “casual hum of the heartland.”

Woody Guthrie Center


The Woody Guthrie Center, in the Tulsa Arts District, is easily identifiable. A giant mural of the singer, holding his famous guitar and honoring his most famous song “This Land is Your Land,” is painted on the museum’s side. The mural is one of the most photographed sites in Oklahoma and Tulsa. The center is in the city’s historic downtown, home to museums, art galleries, parks and other attractions.

The museum is “really dedicated to spreading the message of diversity, equity and justice,” said Cady Shaw, director of the Woody Guthrie Center. “In today’s world, with intolerance and violence on the rise, it is a message of positivity to all generations. He spoke for people who didn’t have a platform to speak for themselves. He would write about it, sing about it and draw pictures about it.”

The museum features exhibits highlighting the life and legacy of Guthrie. There is an exhibit about the Dust Bowl and Black Sunday, the worst storm in U.S. history, and its impact on Guthrie, who lived through it.

Interactive exhibits bring his history to life, and artifacts from his storied career are showcased throughout, including some of his musical instruments and hand-written lyrics for “This Land is Your Land.” Groups can take a guided tour through the museum’s exhibits with time to roam afterward.

American Banjo Museum

Oklahoma City

In Oklahoma City, the 21,000-square-foot American Banjo Museum’s mission is to preserve and promote the banjo as a musical instrument while expanding appreciation for its history and music. About 400 instruments are on display, as well as recordings, films and videos.

One of the museum’s founders, Jack Canine, played banjo and collected gorgeous instruments from the 1920s and 1930s, which were decorated with mother-of-pearl inlays and bedazzled with jewels. At one time, he considered leaving his collection to the Smithsonian, but he wanted them to stay together, preserved so people could see them, not collecting dust on a shelf or in a damp garage where they could be warped and damaged.

In 1998, he and Midwest City attorney Brady Hunt founded the National Four-String Banjo Hall of Fame Museum to honor the four-stringed instrument associated with the jazz of the 1920s and early 1930s. The museum has since expanded to tell nearly 400 years of the instrument’s history and its many forms and styles, including its origins among enslaved Africans.

The museum houses many banjos played by famous people, including a custom banjo that was gifted to Steve Martin in 2005 as part of the Mark Twain Prize. Groups can take self-guided tours or sign up for a guided tour of the museum that includes lunch and a four-string ragtime jazz show performed by museum executive director Johnny Baier.