In the early 1960s three Central High School guys are standing near the coat racks at the Muskogee Country Club, tuning up their guitars, getting ready to entertain the ladies golf tournament at luncheon in another room.
The three will be paid $10 each. This paying gig is the first ever for this threesome – Mike Settle, Bill Settle and Claude William, who call themselves the Goliard’s Folk Music Trio. Someone said the Settles' mom, Portia, hired the performers, one of whom later becomes a famous musician.
Although not much is known about the path Claude William took in life, one thing is sure: The story about the Settle men and their love of music does not end here.
Fast forward to the 1990s. Bill Settle is now an attorney and a Muskogee State Representative. He became interested in one issue moving through the Legislature and threw his support behind it. He probably never realized how the measure eventually would impact his family.
His work, along with several other Muskogee lawmakers, created the Oklahoma Music Hall of Fame (OMHF). The Legislature went one step further and designated Muskogee as the home for the facility. Its mission? To honor and pay tribute to the hundreds of musicians, composers and artists who call Oklahoma home.
Today, OMHF is housed in the old Frisco Freight Depot, which is well situated near Muskogee’s new Depot District and the Depot Green. The celebration of music, along with art projects, games and family fun are regularly scheduled on the green as part of Muskogee’s Localmotion events.
Brother Mike Settle left Muskogee long before OMHF was established, as he followed his dream of making it as a songwriter and performer. He traveled to New York, performing in coffee clubs, and happened to be in the right place at the right time to meet up with other performers already making it to the charts. Over time, he ended up with the Kingston Trio, then The First Edition and, later, with Kenny Rogers and the First Edition.
While Mike was writing songs, traveling, performing and expanding his career, he probably never forgot that Country Club gig.
Recently, Mike Settle was inducted into the OMHF, joining two fellow high school classmates inducted years before. They are internationally acclaimed mezzo soprano opera performer Barbara McAllister, who now lives in Muskogee and was inducted in 2013, and performer Chick Rains, who was inducted in 2008.
Settle took the stage after the induction ceremony and talked about what an honor it was to finally join his two Muskogee music buddies.
He showed the audience his Martin D-19 guitar with its distinctive mahogany finish. Those who know guitars say the Martin has been a standard for country, bluegrass and folk musicians since it emerged in the 20th Century.
Settle shared that this induction was the first time in a long time he’d actually performed before an audience.
It’s never too late to improve your work until you’ve got it right, he said. If you write one wrong word in the lyrics, Settle said, people will lose interest. One story revealed that he came up with his best line ever one day, but it was at the end of the piece. So, he switched gears and moved that line to start the song.
Settle stopped at one point during the performance and called a young woman from the audience to the stage. Guitarist and songwriter Ahna Jennings recently won the 2021 Jimmy LaFave songwriting contest sponsored by the Red Dirt Relief Fund. She volunteers at the OMHF, but this day Settle wanted to do for her what so many had done for him — help someone fulfill a passion.
Later, Settle performed what is perhaps his biggest hit: "But You Know I Love You." If encouraged, it’s almost certain that practically everyone in the audience could have sung along.
Big brother, Bill Settle, sat in the audience, watching intently. When asked what he thought about Mike’s success, Bill Settle said he sure was proud of him.
This big brother more than two decades earlier was successful with a music project of his own, working with the Legislature to establish Muskogee as a place to pay tribute to Oklahoma singers, songwriters and performers.
Of course, our community is proud, as well, of the Settle men’s legacy — their contribution to music history and Muskogee.
Andrea Chancellor has more than 20 years in newspaper and magazine journalism, and 20 years in corporate public relations. She serves on the Board of the Oklahoma Music Hall of Fame.