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Tulsa string band to provide Center of the Universe Detour music

By Dante Schmitz

Last year we introduced a fun experience for marathoners called the Center of the Universe Detour. The detour offered runners a unique opportunity to run an extra 0.3 miles to visit Tulsa’s historic Center of the Universe. The distinctive quality of the landmark is an eerie echo that is heard by someone standing in the center of the brick circle. Participants who stand at the center of the brick circle and talk will hear an echo, but others outside the circle cannot hear the echo.

If you decide to visit the Center of the Universe this year, and you start to feel like maybe you’ve stepped back in time, don’t worry, you haven’t time traveled and you’re not hallucinating, although you probably are dehydrated. You are simply hearing the old timey sounds of one of Tulsa’s unique musical treasures, Klondike5.

Klondike5 is guaranteed to bring out your inner hillbilly when they play their foot-stompin’, yee-hawin’, old timey music. They are a Tulsa-based string band that seems to have been born several decades too late. They consist of Mathew Skelton on guitar and his wife Carmen on fiddle, Victor Wandres on upright bass, Eric Fransen on banjo and Ted Ward on the washboard. I recently had a conversation with Mr. Skelton and this is what he had to say.

DS: First things first. What’s in a name? Do you guys have an endorsement deal with a candy bar or something?

K5: Ha ha! No, originally the name came from a fictional telephone exchange on old TV shows.  These days on TV programs they’ll give like a 555 number to call, but back in the day when they used operators, you would pick up the phone and say, “Klondike 5” and then the extension you wanted. But I first heard about it from an episode of the Simpsons. On the episode, Homer’s character had a Klondike 5 number and we thought that was funny. But it really was an actual telephone exchange, when there were operators.

DS: Very cool. So what are the origins of the band? I noticed that your wife plays fiddle for you guys. Did you guys meet in the band? Or did the band develop after?

K5: No, we were already married. Originally, neither of us played our respective instruments, and we were hanging out with some of the blue grass community in Tulsa. I began playing the guitar and she started playing fiddle about the same time. And then my brother started playing the upright bass, so the original line up was Carmen, my brother Jake and myself. We would have a weekly jam at a park here in Tulsa and that’s where we met our banjo player Eric Fransen. After we had been jamming for a while, we picked up a few gigs and asked Eric to sit in with us on banjo. He fit so well that we decided to keep him on.

DS: Where else do you guys play around Tulsa? Do you have any favorite venues?

K5: We like to play at a small bar in Midtown called the Colony, and also at a place downtown called the Sound Pony. And actually right before the marathon, on November 17, we’ll be playing at Cain’s Ballroom for the annual Tulsey Awards. It’s a local awards show, kind of like the Emmys except it’s for local entrepreneurs. We were nominated for the entertainment category and we’re also the entertainment for the event.

DS: So this is your fourth year to play at the marathon. In those four years, have you collected any memorable stories you’d like to share with the runners?

K5: Well I do have one, and I’m not sure if it’ll be appropriate to share in your article, but it is funny. Last year, we were playing at Woodward Park and we decided to set up some tallboys on a cooler in front of where we were playing, for the runners. As they would run by, some of them would be running in place and they would look at the beers and then look at us and eventually ask, “Are those for us?” and I’d say, “you betcha they are!” and I’d get up and open it for them. And I watched, amazed, as they would just chug the whole tallboy and put the can down and then keep going!

DS: That’s hilarious! Thanks so much for your time and for coming out and performing for the runners again this year.

For more information about music and upcoming shows, please visit Klondike5 at You can also find them on Facebook.