Sunny Leigh explores the history of Cain’s Ballroom


Cain’s Ballroom in downtown Tulsa has had its fair share of memorable performances over the year.

For 95 years, the neon glow from its sign has drawn in crowds. The concert hall is a beacon for everyone, from newbies to legends.

Sunny Leigh says she’s heard from many artists that Cain’s is in their top three of places they have to play during their careers.

The ballroom is known as the “Carnegie Hall of western swing.”

The history of Cain’s Ballroom is written on the walls, doors, banister, lamp shade, everywhere, but how much do you really know about the Tulsa landmark?

One idea floating around is that it’s haunted by a woman in a red dress who is asking for help.

Co-owner and General Manager Chad Rodgers has heard it all, from the paranormal to the abnormal.

He said one artist requested an escort for massages and such, another asked for M&Ms with everything but the red ones removed and one even asked for a certain kind and amount of marijuana.

Rodgers wouldn’t identify anyone, but says they didn’t get the musicians any of those things.

He was able to set the record straight on one thing.

“We found that the floor wasn’t officially spring-loaded, which was the rumor for 90 years,” he said.

The old wooden floor may not have been spring-loaded, but the new one certainly was built for bounce.

“It’s almost similar to a basketball court, so you get enough people jumping up and down, moving on it, you feel it,” Rodgers said.

However, he didn’t let the original floor go to waste – it’s been transformed into keepsakes, from picture frames, ink pens and key chains to something that really echos the Tulsa sound.

There are actually three guitars made from the old wood floor. Two are at Cain’s and musician Jack White has the third. Rodgers says White played it at ONEOK Field’s first concert back in the fall.

“I look on the big screen and I can see the Cain’s leather strap,” Rodgers said. “It hit our hearts, it was really cool.”

While White’s gesture hit their hearts, Rodgers says the Sex Pistols’ Sid Vicious hit their wall and Cain’s decided to frame the hole that was left as a memento.

There’s something about Cain’s you just can’t put into words. Maybe that’s part of the magic that makes it a must-play for so many musicians.

Rodgers says he still has some of the original floor left, but isn’t sure what he’s going to do with it. He says he hopes to turn it into something cool down the road.