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In Oklahoma Breakdown, a DFW Filmmaker Shines a Light on an Underground Music Legend

Christopher Fitzpatrick’s documentary, making its Texas debut at the Lone Star Film Festival, puts the limelight on Oklahoman musician/comedian Mike Hosty.
By Austin Zook |
Mike Hosty
Oklahoma Breakdown

In 2016, Christopher Fitzpatrick was finally ready to embark on a long-term documentary project, and he already knew the perfect subject. 

Fitzpatrick had been following musician Mike Hosty’s career since the mid-’90s, when he and his friends would attend Mike Hosty Trio concerts near the University of Oklahoma. He kept going to the shows after graduating. Fitzpatrick was there as the Trio became the Hosty Duo, and he was there when Hosty finally transformed into what Fitzpatrick viewed as a unique act in contemporary entertainment: Mike Hosty, one-man band.

As Hosty’s band shrank, his experimentation with style and form blossomed. His shows have become a mix of music and comedy, an experience that’s as much a late night talk show as a concert. “He’s the most unique thing there is,” says Fitzpatrick, reflecting on Hosty’s performances, in which the musician sings, plays the drums and guitar, and performs improv comedy—often all at once.

Hosty has been a staple of the Oklahoma music scene for decades, but he has maintained a relatively low profile outside of the state. While he does perform in Arkansas, Texas, Kansas, and Colorado on occasion, Oklahoma Breakdown and Fitzpatrick make it clear that Hosty’s idea of success doesn’t mean being a household name. “He really is the opposite of what most people in America view as success,” says Fitzpatrick. “He values being happy. Being happy for him is being able to do what he loves for a living. He does not care about fame.”

This ambivalence toward traditional stardom does not come at the expense of talent. Oklahoma Breakdown features a litany of people in the music industry singing Hosty’s praises. Cody Canada (Cross Canadian Ragweed, The Departed), Jason Boland (Jason Boland & The Stragglers), and others speak to Hosty’s skill as a musician and performer.

Joining them is Stoney LaRue, whose 2007 performance of Hosty’s “Oklahoma Breakdown” became a sensation, reaching No. 1 on the Texas Music Chart. The song has continued to have mass appeal—Toby Keith released a cover in 2021— and stands as a testament to Hosty’s songwriting capabilities. If he only wanted to, everyone seems to agree, he could be a superstar.

While Hosty himself seems content with his established touring routine, Fitzpatrick says he hopes Oklahoma Breakdown will introduce listeners from different geographies to Hosty’s singular talent. The documentary already led to Hosty’s first show on the East Coast, where he played the opening night of the New Haven Documentary Film Festival. When asked if Hosty has expressed interest in continuing to play shows in new locales, Fitzpatrick says, “I think it’s something he’s intrigued by. He just wants to be treated as a working musician.”

As a local, Fitzpatrick is thrilled to have his documentary’s Texas premiere as part of the Lone Star Film Festival. Beyond the opportunity to show it to friends and family in the area, he says that having the premiere in Fort Worth is a surreal act of symmetry – Stoney LaRue’s cover of “Oklahoma Breakdown” was originally recorded at Billy Bob’s, down the street from the Isis Theater, where the documentary will be playing this week.

“LaRue played that song at Billy Bob’s and 15 years later you can go down the street and see a movie about the guy that actually wrote the song,” says Fitzpatrick.

While there is no distribution deal in place for Oklahoma Breakdown, Fitzpatrick plans to find a home for it after its festival run. He hopes to bring it to Dallas soon after it screens in Fort Worth. The documentary’s roots in the local community run deep, considering the entire post-production team is from DFW. That includes composer John Hunter, animators Austin Guttery and Joey Curry, and sound mixer Scotty Richardson.

As Oklahoma Breakdown makes its way across the country, Mike Hosty continues to play shows several nights a week—primarily at venues across Oklahoma. Every Sunday night he can be found at The Deli in Norman, where he has had a standing residence since 1998. Fitzpatrick says that Hosty’s reaction to the film has been positive; after seeing it for the first time, Hosty told Fitzpatrick it was “the nicest thing anyone had ever done for him.”

Oklahoma Breakdown will screen at Downtown Cowtown at the Isis on Friday, November 11 at 12:45 p.m. as part of the Lone Star Film Festival. Tickets are on sale now.

Author

Austin Zook

Austin Zook

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