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Oklahoma Historical Society, Banjo Museum plan special ‘Roots Music’ event

Photo courtesy of American Banjo Museum
Grammy Award winning singer-songwriter Dom Flemons will be part of a panel discussion during the "Back to Our Roots: An Exploration of Roots Music" event.
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OKLAHOMA CITY- The Oklahoma History Center and the American Banjo Museum will join together to present “Back to Our Roots: An Exploration of Roots Music” on Wednesday, Nov. 1, at the Oklahoma History Center, 800 Nazih Zuhdi Drive, featuring a panel discussion about the role of jazz, blues and roots music on American and Oklahoma history.

Featuring American Banjo Museum Executive Director Johnny Baier, Grammy Award-winning artist Dom Flemons and retired Northeastern State University Professor Dr. Harold Aldridge, the event will explore how blues, roots music and jazz intersected and how race, emancipation and desegregation affected the evolution of music in the country.

Baier, who will moderate the panel discussion, as well as Flemons and Aldridge will also weave musical examples of the music they are speaking on during the discussions.

“Aldridge will give the Oklahoma perspective while Flemons will talk about the national perspective,” said Larry O’Dell, director of special projects at the Oklahoma Historical Society. “The American Banjo Museum wanted to bring in Flemons, who is a Grammy-award winning artist. Dr. Aldridge is a historian on the blues and roots music and what he learned from blues Holler.”

Aldridge was raised in the all-black town of Taft and learned the traditional blues from the older residents in the town. He regularly performs and presents programs about the history of the blues from the time of field hollers to the technological age.

“Roots music and the American blues comes from the float traditions of the 19th and 20th century,” said O’Dell. “Before technology, there was the regional music that was taught and passed down from one generation to the other. With the onset of radio, the local and regional sounds were taken and broadcast to a wider audience.”

Flemons is a musician known for mixing traditional music forms with a contemporary approach to create new sounds that will appeal to wider audiences. Flemons performed at Carnegie Hall for a tribute to LeadBelly and at the 2016 opening ceremonies for the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C.

Since he began his career in 1971, Baier has developed a reputation as one of the world’s most ardent performers on, and promoters of, America’s only native musical instrument—the banjo. In 1983 he won the North American Banjo Championship. He recently released a new CD titled “Pick Yourself Up.”

“In this event, people will see how Oklahoma is different from the rest of the nation,” O’Dell said. “The Native Americans brought black slaves with them during the relocation to Oklahoma, so that history blends the blues into a cool style of music that is unique to our state.”

Doors open at 6:30 p.m. 

The event is free and open to the public, but reservations are required by visiting or by calling 405-604-2793. This event has been made possible through a generous grant from Oklahoma Humanities.

For more information on upcoming events, or to become a member of the American Banjo Museum, visit or call 405-604-2793.

The Oklahoma History Center is a division of the Oklahoma Historical Society and is an affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution, National Archives and is an accredited member of the American Association of Museums. The mission of the Oklahoma Historical Society is to collect, preserve and share the history and culture of the state of Oklahoma.

For more information about the OHS, please visit

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Heide Brandes

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