(Click photo for larger view – Photo by the Cherokee Strip Regional Heritage Center)
ENID, OK — In a recent conversation with Michael’s brother, Brendan Hedges, we were informed that this exhibit was coming to Enid and the Hedges family was more than happy that Michael was being celebrated. The Hedges kids grew up in Enid, living in one of the most well known homes in town. The McCristy/Knox Mansion, as it is known by many, is located on west Broadway and was by any standard a true mansion. You wouldn’t have known it by running around with the Hedges kids though, all of us just thought of it as a big house to hang out in.
With large white columns in the front and three full stories, not including the basement, the home was always filled with kids running in and out. Michael spent his time playing and tinkering with guitars, while younger brother Craig liked to draw and usually had a sketch of a cartoon character sitting on his drawing table. Carol, the only daughter, was heavy into sports and was usually off to some practice or game.
Brendan, the youngest of the Hedges clan, was a friend of mine that loved film making and the world of Star Trek. We were always invited over to play or hold a Star Trek meeting. The third floor even had a large round wall that we covered with signatures and drawings dating back decades. Each new owner of the home has been gracious enough to leave the wall as a monument marking an era frozen in time. Brendan continues to pursue a career in film from behind the camera and still finds his way back to Enid from time to time.
The Hedges family eventually left Enid after many, many years and moved to a place they had fallen in love with, California. They had once taken a year off of work, pulled the kids out of school and traveled California before returning to Enid to complete their education. It was in California that Michael began to make an impression with his music. His career began to take off and he became very well known on the concert circuit playing his New Age and folk style music. If you never saw Michael play the guitar you really missed out on something. When watching him live you would swear that there had to be at least three or four band members on stage with him. Yet, most of the time it was only Michael.
Rolling around on his big exercise ball, Michael would play sometimes two lead parts and melody at the same time, all the while thumping the guitar in place of having a drummer or bongo player. Every one of Michael’s shows was an experience. He took the time to talk to the audience and relate stories of why he wrote the songs that he did.
I personally attended Michael’s show in Enid a few years before his death and can honestly say he put on a great performance. I will post a few videos from the concert in Enid at the end of this article. His last show in Enid was a fundraiser at Convention Hall.
Michael Hedges Harp-Guitar and Grammy on Exhibit
at Cherokee Strip Regional Heritage Center
The Cherokee Strip Regional Heritage Center in Enid, Oklahoma, is featuring an exhibit on acclaimed acoustic guitarist, composer, and Enid native, Michael Hedges. On exhibit is one of Hedges’ famous harp-guitars used in his performances and his 1997 Best New Age Album Grammy Award. He received this award posthumously for his 1996 album “Oracle.”
Hedges attended Phillips University in Enid to study classical guitar under the tutelage of his compositional mentor, E. J. Ulrich. Michael then went on to earn a degree in composition from the Peabody Conservatory in Baltimore while concurrently nurturing an interest in electronic music. He also studied electronic music at Stanford University where he met Will Ackerman, guitarist and co-founder of Windham Hill records.
In the early 1980s, Hedges helped establish the Windham Hill label. During this time, he collaborated with such musicians as bassist Michael Manring, guitarist Dweezil Zappa, and Crosby, Stills and Nash. He began earning recognition in the mid-1980s for groundbreaking acoustic guitar work, in which he strummed, picked and beat his instrument, creating rich textures that made it sound like many instruments at once.
In December of 1997, Hedges was killed in an automobile accident in northern California. He was 43. Hedges recorded seven albums with “Oracle,” his last album released in 1996. He was working on a new album tentatively called “Torched” at the time of his death.
Hedges appeared on the cover of every major guitar magazine, winning Guitar Player’s readers’ poll award for “best acoustic guitarist” five years running and was subsequently named by the magazine as one of the “25 Guitarists Who Shook the World.”
The Michael Hedges exhibit will be on display through December 2012 as part of the Cherokee Strip Regional Heritage Center’s changing exhibits music theme.
The Cherokee Strip Regional Heritage Center is located at 507 S. 4th Street in Enid, Oklahoma. For additional information on this or other CSRHC events, visit the website at www.csrhc.org.