News Column

The Swon Brothers receive Oklahoma Music Hall of Fame Rising Star Award

June 7, 2013


June 07--By early afternoon, a line had formed in front of the Muskogee Civic Center.

During the early evening hours, however, the homecoming welcome for "The Voice" contestants Zach and Colton Swon had quietly moved a few blocks west to the Oklahoma Music Hall of Fame & Museum. The brothers had business there before the big concert at the civic center.

Both members of the Muskogee-raised music duo the Swon Brothers have worked at the Oklahoma Music Hall of Fame & Museum.

They said on Monday's episode of "The Voice" that they dreamed about their photos on the wall some day, hanging next to other Rising Star Award recipients such as Carrie Underwood, Kings of Leon, The All-American Rejects and Blake Shelton -- who's been coaching the duo for the past several weeks on the NBC talent show.

Dreams come true. On Thursday, Zach, 28, and Colton, 24, joined an elite group in an honor bestowed to few Oklahomans. About 100 people gathered at the Hall of Fame for the Swon Brothers' surprise.

Rising stars

"Ten years ago," Oklahoma Music Hall of Fame Vice President Jim Blair said, "I handed one of these to Blake Shelton."

A box opened. It was a mounted, crystal Rising Star Award. Zach's and Colton's mouths fell wide, and the brothers were speechless.

"Wow," they said in unison, stunned. "Now I'm going to have to get a mantel," Zach joked. "I need someplace to put this thing."

Both promised they wouldn't cry, but both had tears in their eyes.

"This feels like a prank," Colton said in disbelief. "This isn't anything special we're doing -- it's y'all. ... I just feel super blessed, and all the glory goes to God."

The young men were congratulated by video by legendary music peers Vince Gill and Roy Clark after the Swon Brothers accepted their Rising Star Award.

"There are a lot of great duos in country music," Gill said. "Congratulations on being one of them."

Added Clark: "Congratulations to the Swon Brothers for making Oklahoma proud. You are very deserving of this award."

Okies from Muskogee

The Hall of Fame has been home to watch-parties throughout this third season of "The Voice," as they also were during Carrie Underwood's winning run through season five of "American Idol," her hometown of Checotah just a few miles away from the Muskogee institution.

So much talent has come from such humble soil.

Driving into the small town of Muskogee from the east, visitors are greeted with an Amish country store, a cemetery, a "Sooner" motel that's faded-to-mauve and abundant semi tractor-trailer traffic. Red-headed boys on bicycles trundle through the local Sonic parking lot.

Black block letters on a portable marquee in the local grill's gravel parking lot proclaim: "How about them Swon Bros!"

The last census put its population at just more than 39,000. It's also the home to the Oklahoma Music Hall of Fame & Museum, housed in a repurposed train depot in the heart of town, which holds the histories of some of America's biggest music stars.

The Swons have long been more than a duo. Local bandmate James Redden, 21, waited in the Hall of Fame while video-chatting with a friend and fan in Mexico before the award presentation.

"Wait, they're getting an award?" he asked, eyes wide. He said he got to the Hall of Fame early for a close gathering with friends and family. He was as shocked as the Swons themselves at the surprise honor.

Redden has played with the Swons for two years, and he's roommates with Zach in Muskogee. He met the brothers at the Downtown Country music series in Tahlequah. "That's the same place Carrie Underwood played, and I think that's where Zach and Colton met Carrie. They're friends, too."

Small world.

Months ago, it was Redden who persuaded the brothers to try out for the show.

"I asked them to try out with me," he said, then laughed. "Only they got the call-back and I didn't. ... Now look at 'em."

Redden is originally from Picher, "which doesn't exist anymore, so I tell people I'm from Miami, Okla." Picher is also home to Rascal Flatts star Joe Don Rooney. Miami is home to the male half of Thompson Square.

Small world, indeed.

'We knew this would happen with these boys'

Redden later joined the Swon Brothers on stage Thursday night for the concert, swelling out the two-piece that most of the nation is familiar with into a seven-piece, complete with guest saxophone and banjo performers.

At the venue, some 4,000 fans pressed as close as possible to a narrow red carpet, signs held high, screaming. Abby McCarthy, 17, held a sign that read "Will U Marry Me Colton?"

"I've known the Swon Brothers for nine years," she said. A graphic designer, she came Thursday with dozens of glitter-emblazoned signs.

"They're my boys!" she said excitedly, adding that she's watched them perform at church "every Wednesday and every Friday" for years. "I'm happy to see all these people who can now see how good these guys really are, inside and out."

Near her is Danny Green, a sound man for the local "Branson-style" J.R. Sellers & The Rubber Band Singers country, gospel and comedy group. He's watched his band perform with the Swon Brothers for five years, he said.

"Oh yeah, we knew this would happen with these boys," Green said of their new-found fame. "A year ago we were playing gigs with 35 to 50 people in the audience. Now look at this," he said, a broad grin shaded under his straw cowboy hat. "I knew they'd get big. They can do or play anything."

Then the music was finally ready to begin -- an hour behind schedule due, in part, to the huge rush of fans outside the venue and efforts at crowd control.

'The greatest talent in America'

But wait: another surprise. Muskogee Mayor Bob Coburn walked out to greet the Swon Brothers and proclaimed them "Certified Okies from Muskogee," as he handed them a key to the city. He called it a "master key" and reminded them that it granted them access to the Oklahoma Music Hall of Fame. And, as if that wasn't enough, it was also declared Swon Brothers Week.

Again, they stood speechless, blind-sided by yet another honor. A proclamation from the governor of Oklahoma came next, calling them "the greatest talent in America."

What next, music? No.

A video message from Blake Shelton, another congratulations, saying he hopes for "the ultimate prize," that they -- and him -- will soon be formally inducted into the Oklahoma Music Hall of Fame.

When they finally got to play music, the Swon Brothers' set included "Fishin' in the Dark" by the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, the Bon Jovi and Jennifer Nettles duet "Who Says You Can't Go Home," an eclectic mashup of "Devil Went Down to Georgia" mixed with "Rock and Roll All Nite," a medley of Alabama's "Mountain Music" and "I'm in a Hurry" (with some Journey splashed in), the George Jones hit "Who's Gonna Fill Their Shoes," all in the duo's distinctive, swing-Americana country style.

They even tossed in a Katy Perry cover: "Teenage Dream." No song or genre was off-bounds.

"You guys have blown our minds," Colton said. "You've already taken us to No. 4 on the country charts."

The pair also played some originals, including a pop-country, down-tempo piece, "Oklahoma Lovin'," as Colton noted he knew nearly everybody in the crowd.

The venue exploded as the Swon Brothers broke into Merle Haggard's "Okie From Muskogee." Zach left the stage and recruited two kids from the audience to sing along. Cousins Miranda and Dillon Robinson, 12 and 16, led the full house in song as they shared the mics with the brothers.

The brothers left the concert with little fanfare, headed for a flight back to Los Angeles and another trip into the recording studio to record next week's tunes for "The Voice" and iTunes release.


When: 7-9 p.m. Mondays, 7-8 p.m. Tuesdays (live results)

Where: NBC, channel 2, cable 9

Monday's top five performers are: Team Blake (Shelton) leads going into next week with the Swon Brothers and Danielle Bradbery on his side. Michelle Chamuel moved up for Team Usher, Sasha Allen for Team Shakira and Amber Carrington for Team Adam (Levine).

Jennifer Chancellor 918-581-8346


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