Tulsa, Oklahoma has a very rich history. From being the oil capital of the world to having one of the largest collection of Art Deco artwork in the United States, Tulsa has always had her foot in the mainstream culture. Alongside the blossoming decorative period in the 1930s, Tulsa has had a strong impact on musical culture.
Swing, Jazz and Big Band were the prominent musical genres of the 1930s. Specifically in Tulsa, this style of music was a very important fixture in society. Two of the biggest musicians of this time in Tulsa were Ernie Fields and his son, Ernie Fields, Jr.
Fields was a session musician who happened to conduct the first black band to play at Tulsa’s Cain’s Ballroom. Today, Fields’ legacy lives on through his son.
Ernie Fields, Jr. played started his career by playing saxophone in his father’s band. Fields Jr., is a household name in Tulsa. He has worked with numerous musicians such as Marvin Gaye and Stevie Wonder, and on occasion, does music contracting for television shows like American Idol.
Presently, Fields Jr. resides in Los Angeles, California although this does not prevent him from visiting his hometown. In October, Tulsa Community College’s Signature Symphony hosted an event to honor the Golden Age of Greenwood. This showcase included music from the 1930s through the 1960s. From swing to jazz to blues, TCC took audience members on a historic musical journey. A huge part of this concert was Ernie Fields, Jr.
While Fields, Jr. returned to Tulsa to perform some of his father’s music, he had another reason for coming home. OKPOP, Oklahoma’s brand new museum of pop culture is currently being built. The museum will feature exhibits based on musicians and talent from Oklahoma, including Ernie Fields. Fields, Jr. and his sister, journalist Carmen Fields, kindly donated a collection of their family’s archives to the OKPOP museum.
When meeting Fields, Jr., he explained that there was not any inspiration behind his and Carmen Fields’ donation. He joked that his deciding factor was based more on cleaning out his garage rather than looking for specific items to turn over. Fields, Jr. took a moment to reflect on his time performing for his father. He explained the cultural differences between Tulsa and the Greenwood area during his career to now.
Overall, Fields Jr. was excited to be able to share the music he and his father performed for a new audience. He hopes people will enjoy the artifacts he and his sister donated. Although times have changed, the music of Ernie Fields, Jr. and his father still lives on.