Originally a church, this 1915 building was bought and converted into a recording studio in 1972 by Leon Russell, a musician and hit songwriter. Russell wasn’t the only one to grace the studio with his musical gifts. It became a hotspot for “Tulsa Sound” musicians, those who crooned tunes that were a mix of blues, country, and rock ’n’ roll.
Iconic singers and songwriters from other genres popped in, too. The likes of Willie Nelson, Bonnie Raitt, Kansas, and Eric Clapton all recorded within the converted church. This musically hallowed ground was even the spot where Tom Petty signed his first record deal with Shelter Records, the label that Russell co-founded.
Now, decades after Russell transformed the space into a studio, the Church Studio is transforming once again. Its new owners are currently renovating the building and plan to turn it into a museum and community space as well as still functioning as a recording studio. The goal is to introduce new generations of visitors to “Tulsa Sound,” and help preserve Russell’s legacy.
The studio already stands as a memorial to the musician. After he died in 2016, fans covered the steps with flowers and cards, turning it into an impromptu shrine.