Path Home Shows 2017 Show Archive June 2017 Show 1726 Cain’s Dog Tired Guitar

Cain’s Dog Tired Guitar

Local craftsman Roger Cowan makes guitars out of old dance floor boards from the Cain’s Ballroom in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
Cain’s Dog Tired Guitar

Cain’s Dog Tired Guitar

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Cain’s Ballroom-Tulsa

Dog Tired Guitars

Show Details

Show 1726: Cain’s Dog Tired Guitar
Air Date: June 25, 2017



Rob McClendon: Hello, everyone. Thanks for joining us here on “Horizon.” I’m Rob McClendon. So where has all the time gone? Today marks our 650th and final episode of “Oklahoma Horizon” – our swan song. Now, a little later we will take a look back through all the years we’ve shared, but first, what would a swan song be without some music? Our Austin Moore takes us to an iconic musical venue in Tulsa to show us how one Oklahoman is honoring the generations that have scooted across the Cain’s Ballroom dance floor.

Austin Moore: For those searching for the best in music, Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys offered some sound advice back in 1941.

[Music: Take me back to Tulsa, I’m too young to marry. Take me back to Tulsa, I’m too young to marry, aha].

Austin: The most iconic of Oklahoma’s live music venues, Cain’s Dance Academy, was then known as the home of Bob Wills, as during the Great Depression radio station KVOO broadcast Wills’ music daily spreading its hopeful tone to reaches as far-flung as California and even Hawaii.

Austin: Rebranded Cain’s Ballroom in 1977, the ownership at that time began booking nationally touring bands from popular genres. So when you look at the walls in the office today, you are bound to be surprised a time or two.


Austin: Though it was a 1978 concert by British punk rock band, The Sex Pistols, that redefined Cain’s and opened a new chapter in its story.


Austin: This was No. 6 of seven shows played by the controversial band in the United States. After the show, Sid Vicious is said to have put his fist through the wall. This wall. One more piece of history maintained and honored by the Rodgers family, who purchased this registered landmark in late 2002.

Chad Rodgers: We knew at that time we were going to need to put a lot of money into the place. It needed it. So we shut down in May of 2003 and renovated it all summer. And reopened on Oct. 1 with Dwight Yoakam, a sold-out show.

Austin: Chad Rodgers and his brother Hunter serve as general managers at Cain’s.

Rodgers: People were very concerned, I remember, during the renovations. Because, you know, just bringing it up to code was in itself a huge task. I mean, all new plumbing, all new electrical, fire suppression system, just things that the building had never had. It never had central heat and air.

Austin: But the real controversy came a few years later when the Rodgers finally had to make the decision to replace the aging dance floor.

Rodgers: People didn’t realize that underneath here it was just basically a pit and dirt down there, underneath. So it dropped down about a foot and a half and it was all just like – dirt [laughs].

Austin: The 80-year-old floor was lauded for its springiness, but revered for the thousands of first dances, first kisses, first moments that had happened here.

Rodgers: Yeah, the old owner of Cain’s, I remember when we bought Cain’s, he said to us, he said, “Man, there are going to be people who tell you they, that there were marriages and divorces made on that floor,” you know, like, [laughs] and probably plenty of other things. But it has been a couple of years ago, but we had a couple stopped in. They were traveling across the U.S. and they were in their late 80s. And they stopped in and they said, “We met here,” you know, “60-some years ago.” And they were like out here walking around and so all the sudden I turned on the star, up here and the mirror ball. And I look out here later and they were underneath here kind of dancing and kissing. And it was like, man, my heart just melted. I mean, it’s just really cool.

Austin: So how do you honor a bit of 80-year-old tongue-and-groove flooring that has laid witness not only to musical greats, but to the cherished memories of a community as well?

Roger Cowan: You figure there is 80 years of just wax and gunk that was down in the crevasses of this flooring. So to get a good strong glue joint I’ve got to get all of that cleaned out.

Austin: Roger Cowan has always been a maker.

Cowan: When I decide I want to do something, I’m, I am typically not terribly fearful about what if I mess up because my philosophy is, if somebody else does this, then I can too. If a person makes it, well, I’m a person. I should be able to do it as well.

Austin: That can-do attitude led to Roger building his first guitar from scrap wood from the site of a historic church and upcycled military surplus items. From there, he formed a company called Dog Tired Guitars and has gone on to make incredible instruments including this one, for brothers Bo and Bear Rinehart of Needtobreathe.

[NATS — music — I friggin love it. It’s awesome. Crush it].

Cowan: For me, the whole point behind Dog Tired is to tell stories.

Austin: Which is the motivation for Roger’s Heritage Series of guitars.

Cowan: What I am doing is I am finding one structure in each county in Oklahoma. I’m going to build one guitar out of that structure. And it is going to come with sort of a full history and a certificate of authenticity and all kinds of cool stuff. I didn’t have the intention to just seek out historical buildings to build from. My original idea was to just find random old structures and build out of that so that I could tell a story that has not really been told before, for me to do some research and find out, you know, the family that owned that place and their stories. That is what I want to do is to just add color to sort of what is already known about the state history. Yeah; yeah. Of course, I wasn’t going to turn down wood from Cain’s though [laughs].

Austin: The idea to build from this wood came from a friend with an eye on the value of music education.

Cowan: So he had an idea of maybe building a guitar to auction off or raffle off for Tulsa Public Schools’ music education. So I’m building two guitars for Cain’s. One for the Tulsa charity. And then one will be my Tulsa County heritage series guitar.

Rodgers: In the past we did some picture frames with the old wood floor. But now having actually music instruments that someone is going to be playing, that, 80-something years of people walking on this thing and now you are playing it is really cool. Yeah, it’s really cool, we are excited.

Austin: Which is exactly the inspiration Roger Cowan is looking for.

Cowan: This stuff is just so, [laughs] so much character. You can see 80 years of dents and dings and refinishes, and so, you know, each one of those little scraps gets more and more wax added in, so it gets darker than the rest of it. And it’s just, it’s not that I don’t like perfection. But I have a much bigger appreciation, I think, for the imperfections.

Austin: And that is the story of Cain’s. The perfect notes, blended with the sour. The laughter mixing with the tears. The classic – the modern – the uniquely Oklahoman – all coming together as one. Soon to be enshrined in these guitars.

Rob: Now, if you would like to follow Roger’s progress on the Cain’s guitars, look for a link to his website under this story on Well, as we mark our final show here on “Oklahoma Horizon,” one of the things we have always been proud of is helping students gain the experience to get that first professional job. It’s long been a passion of mine, and nowhere is that more evident than with our very own Austin Moore. Austin was a freshman in college when we first began working together – oh, so many years ago – and through the decades, he’s become one of my favorite storytellers with all the technical skills to back it up. As we go to break, a few more blasts from the past.

Andy Barth: Fifty years ago, nearly 80 percent of all jobs required only a high school diploma. Hey, Rob, I want to congratulate you and everyone at “Oklahoma Horizon” on an amazing run. I was really honored to be part of the team for a while, and whether I was noodling for catfish or searching for ghosts, I truly loved telling those amazing stories of the Sooner State. I will forever be grateful for the friendships I made and the experiences I had. Congratulations.

Courtney Maye: Thank you, “Oklahoma Horizon” for giving me my start in the broadcasting industry and fulfilling a dream I’ve had since I was 3 years old. The impact and influence that you’ve had in my life will be something that I will carry with me forever.