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The Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture


Founded in 1967 in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and comprised of multi-instrumentalist brothers Ronnie, Charlie, and Robert Wilson, the Gap Band surfaced as one of the most popular funk/rhythm-and-blues (R&B) groups of the 1980s. The brothers grew up performing in their father's Pentecostal church in Tulsa. There their mother was the church's pianist, and the boys sang every Sunday before their father's sermon. Ronnie, the oldest, started a group when he was fourteen and eventually recruited his younger brothers to play in the band, which they named after streets in the heart of Tulsa's historic African American business district, Greenwood, Archer, and Pine.

The Gap Band recorded their first album, Magician's Holiday (1974), for Shelter Records, owned fellow by Tulsan Leon Russell. Their success really took flight in 1979 after they moved to Los Angeles. The group scored a Top Five R&B hit with "Shake" (1979), followed by other 1980 R&B Top Ten hits "Steppin' Out" and "I Don't Believe You Want to Get Up and Dance (Oops, Up Side Your Head)." The 1982 pop hit "You Dropped a Bomb On Me" exhibits their trademark, bass-heavy style and the silky, smooth vocals of Charlie Wilson. The band continued recording into the twenty-first century.

Hugh W. Foley, Jr.


Gary Graff, Josh Freedom du Lac, and Jim McFarlin, Music Hound R&B Guide: The Essential Album Guide (Detroit, Mich.: Visible Ink Press, 1998).

Colin Larkin, ed., The Guinness Encyclopedia of Popular Music, Vol. 2 (New York: Stockton Press, 1995).

Patricia Romanowski and Holly George-Warren, eds., The New Rolling Stone Encyclopedia of Rock and Roll (New York: Fireside Press, 1995).


The following (as per The Chicago Manual of Style, 17th edition) is the preferred citation for articles:
Hugh W. Foley, Jr., “Gap Band,” The Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture, https://www.okhistory.org/publications/enc/entry?entry=GA009.

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