May 01, 2013 - Ron Radford Master of Flamenco Guitar Plays Jazz Hall

Ron Radford Master of Flamenco Guitar Plays Jazz Hall

Tulsa Native to Be Featured May 10



Like many of his musical contemporaries at Will Rogers High School in the late ‘50s and early ‘60s, Ron Radford jumped eagerly into the relatively new music known as rock ‘n’ roll, learning to play the electric guitar and hanging out at jam sessions with the likes of Rogers students David Gates and Leon Russell (then known by his given name of Russell Bridges).

            But at 17, normally a perfect age to be a rock ‘n’ roller, Radford came upon a different musical path, one that has since taken him to stages all across the United States, including the Kennedy Center and the Carnegie Recital Hall, as well as throughout the world. In the decades following his switch from rock ‘n’ roll to Flamenco music, he’s done so well and achieved so much in the genre that he’s now widely known as the American Master of Flamenco Guitar.

            Radford, now based in St. Louis, comes to the Jazz Depot Friday, May 10th for a concert sponsored by The Arts Foundation, in collaboration with the Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame and presented with financial assistance by the Oklahoma Arts Council.

            As part of his Tulsa visit, and under the same auspices, Radford also plans to perform on Monday for two area schools, Mayo Elementary and Disney Elementary. Chances are good he’ll tell the students there about the epiphany that occurred when he discovered Flamenco music, describing to them the power and joy of, as he puts it, “connecting with what you love and with what you’re really good at.”

            “I first heard Flamenco on a summer vacation when my mom brought a record home from a grocery store in the Chippewa Indian town of Cass Lake, Minnesota,” he recalls. “It was sort of the end of my rock ‘n’ roll era. I was experimenting with the Chet Atkins finger-style guitar, looking for what was the next step for me. I’d always had a feeling that I needed to keep exploring different styles of music until I discovered what really lit up my soul and spoke to my spirit.”

            As things turned out, he found what he was looking for in that disc.

            “When I heard this recording, an old, old recording of [flamenco guitarist] Carlos Montoya, it just blew me away,” he says. “I tell the kids in the school programs it was a ‘wow moment’ in my life, when I was awakened to something I didn’t know was possible.

            “I never played any serious rock ‘n’ roll after that,” he adds. “I spent all summer trying to figure it [Montoya’s music] out by listening to the recording.”

            Selling his Beatles-model Gretsch Duo-Jet guitar and Ampeg amp, young Radford headed to Rose’s Pawn Shop in downtown Tulsa, and bought, for $15, the only nylon-string guitar he could find in town.  Soon, he was playing “what little Flamenco I was learning” for patrons at Tulsa’s La Fiesta restaurant.

            Then, Carlos Montoya himself came through Tulsa on a world tour, and the folks running the Carson Attractions ticket office arranged a meeting between the Flamenco master and the up-and-coming teenage guitarist.

            “I took my little fifteen-dollar pawnshop guitar backstage and had enough nerve to play for him,” remembers Radford. “He grabbed up his guitar and started playing along. I was doing one of those complex Flamenco rhythms – I somehow had a feel for it – and he was just amazed. He immediately invited me to come to New York City after I finished high school.”

            In New York, Radford plunged into “the Flamenco culture of the many Spaniards who had migrated to New York,” he says, spending hundreds of hours working in coffeehouses, playing with Flamenco dancers, and absorbing style and technique from such Flamenco-guitar masters as Sabicas, Mario Escudero, and Paco de Lucia.

            That was a half-century ago. Now, Radford is hailed around the world as a master himself, bringing Flamenco guitar to concert stages and classrooms worldwide.

            His Jazz Depot appearance is actually an encore to a show he organized in February, which featured solo guitarists Tommy Crook, Mark Bruner, and Randy Wimer with Radford in a well-received event dubbed the Guitar Summit.

            “I loved doing that,” he says, “and I liked the intimacy of the hall. It’s more of a continental-seating kind of venue, wider rather than deeper, so the people feel closer to you. The acoustics are great, too. It’s what Tulsa has needed for a long time. I’m delighted that it’s as successful as it is, and I’m delighted to help.”               
            The Ron Radford concert is set to begin at 7:30 p.m. Friday, May 10, at the Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame, located in downtown Tulsa’s Jazz Depot, 111 E. First St.  Tickets can be purchased at the depot, from, or by calling Bettie Downing at 918-281-1008. General admission is $15, reserved table seating $20. Seniors and Jazz Hall members are admitted for $10, and high school and junior high students for $5.  Refreshments will be available for purchase.

            The Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame is a 501(c)(3) non-profit cultural and educational organization, with a mission to inspire creativity and improve the quality of life for all Oklahomans through preservation, education, and performance of jazz, our uniquely American art form. The Arts Foundation of Tulsa is delighted to support this mission by sponsoring Ron Radford’s performance of Flamenco – which some call the Gypsy Jazz of Spain!