How exactly does a rock band from Central Oregon end up headlining a benefit concert in honor of Leon Russell in Tulsa, Okla.? This puzzle involves a lesser-known rock band from the 1980s, a chance meeting in New Orleans, a memorial for a legendary rock musician, and a historic concert hall that features a spring-loaded dance floor.
The band is Bend's Alarm 58. None of its members have ever been to Tulsa. The aforementioned '80s band is The Call, formed in Santa Cruz, Calif., in 1980. Two of The Call's original members, including the late Michael Been (vocalist and guitarist) and drummer Scott Musick, were from Oklahoma. The band fostered a small but loyal following and played with some heavy hitters, including Peter Gabriel and Simple Minds' Jim Kerr, and two members of The Band, Robbie Robertson and Garth Hudson. Fans of The Call consistently comment about how underrated the band was.
The benefit show, scheduled for April 20, is a fundraiser for the Leon Russell Monument Fund, which has a goal of raising $42,000 to pay for a permanent monument to honor Russell in the historic Memorial Park Cemetery in Tulsa. Best known for a stellar solo career of songwriting and tickling the keyboards, Russell was also a member of The Wrecking Crew, the group of top Los Angeles studio musicians that played behind dozens of famous artists. Russell, who was from Tulsa, died on Nov. 13, 2016, at 74.
Last year, Alarm 58 guitarist Mikel Lomsky met Russell family friend, Knoel Honn, in New Orleans. Alarm 58 was opening a show for The Call, whose drummer, Musick, is also a friend of Honn's. Alarm 58's Lomsky and Russell's friend Honn hit it off. "We started talking about the possibility of The Call and Alarm 58 doing a show in Tulsa," Honn wrote in an email. "The more Lomsky and I talked, we wanted to do a free show and get behind a worthy cause."
During a recent interview in the band's garage studio in Bend, Lomsky said he asked Honn, "What kind of nonprofits do you have there?" Alarm 58 bassist Jon Fahr chimed in, "We don't have to make a bunch of money. We just want to break even and play. Why don't we help some charity?" The Leon Russell benefit will indeed be a free show, with donations and $100 VIP tickets available.
On April 13, Lomsky and Fahr will leave Bend to drive the band's equipment to Tulsa, where they'll be joined later by singer Michael Divita and drummer Caleb Trowbridge. The show is being held at the famous Cain's Ballroom. Its stage has been graced by the likes of Bob Wills, Hank Williams and the Sex Pistols. Also on the bill will be members of The Call.
Honn wrote from Tulsa, "I can't say enough nice things about Mikel Lomsky and Alarm 58, their willingness and eagerness to come all the way to Tulsa and show such support for such a music icon as Leon Russell. I know Tulsa and Leon's family will take notice and appreciate the effort and support."
Lomsky adds, "It's a huge opportunity for our little band from Bend." He says he's especially happy that the show is expected to help the fund surpass its fundraising goal.
And one other musician who considered Leon Russell a hero and inspiration has jumped on this bandwagon. Elton John recently donated $5,000 to the fund, according to an article in the Tulsa World.