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Earl Scruggs

Rockers, punks and cowboys find a rowdy haven at Cain's in Tulsa, Okla.

Rockers, punks and cowboys find a rowdy haven at Cain's in Tulsa, Okla.

In the middle of a show at Cain’s Ballroom — when the maple floorboards are trembling, the neon star in the ceiling is gleaming and a high guitar note is bending toward bliss — you might suspect that the room was never intended for this.

You’d be right.

In 1924, before Bob Wills played his first dance at Cain’s, before Sid Vicious punched a hole in the wall, before artsy millennials started haunting the neighborhood, this broad brick building was supposed to be a garage or car dealership, owned by W. Tate Brady, a Tulsa founding father.

But Brady died. A dance instructor took...

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