KEEPING IT LIVE ON THE STRIP music happy hour bar
1946 - 2008
With his weathered, rootsy songcraft, Bob Childers is considered the godfather of Red Dirt Music. Childers was born in West Virginia, but relocated to Oklahoma at an early age. As a young man, he roamed the States, briefly living in places such as California before returning to settle in Stillwater, OK.
In the late '70s, he became friends with singer/songwriter Jimmy LaFave, who helped Childers record his debut LP. Several albums later, Hat Trick came out in 1999 and featured a co-write with Garth Brooks. In 2000, Childers released La Vita e Bella, a collection of outtakes and demos from the '80s.
Artist Mike McClure remembered how he became acquainted with The Farm. McClure had become a member of The Great Divide when he moved to Stillwater. One day, he came home to discover Childers on his front porch. The two struck up a conversation and Childers invited him to The Farm. One of McClure's memories of the historic site was arriving on the property after seeing smoke. He saw Childers going through what was left of his belongings. The trailer he lived in had caught fire, destroying everything. McClure asked him what had happened. "And he said, 'Oh, God said it's time to move,'" McClure recalled. "Just his attitude about life was really cool for a younger person."
1955 - 2017
Jimmy LaFave was a pioneer of the influential red dirt music scene who came of age in Stillwater and went on to become an Austin, Texas, music icon. Born in Wills Point, Texas, about 30 miles east of Dallas, the future roots music champion had a rhythm going behind a Sears & Roebuck drum kit by the time he was in junior high. When LaFave was a teenager, his family moved north of the Red River to Stillwater, where he finished high school and began to dig even deeper musical roots.
His mother traded a drawer full of green stamps for his first guitar, and LaFave found inspiration from J.J. Cale, Chet Baker and especially Woody Guthrie. He was ahead of his time when it came to working to preserve Guthrie's legacy, championing the folk legend's work for decades.
“I just kind of relate to Okies. There's a different spirit to Oklahomans than there is even to people from Texas,” he told The Oklahoman in a 2015 interview. “And the music from that state from Woody Guthrie on has always just been incredible. You know, Jimmy Webb, JJ Cale, there's just something so special about Oklahoma music."
“He's really crucial to red dirt music. He was the first guy to go to Austin and really plant the flag for Okies down there and for red dirt music,” said John Cooper, a member of the Red Dirt Rangers. “Everybody that followed really owes it to Jimmy. He was the first guy in the pool.”
1954 - 2015
Along with Jimmy LaFave and the late Bob Childers, Tom Skinnner was one of the founding fathers of the music nicknamed for the clay-laced earth deposited throughout the region that gives the Red River dividing Texas and Oklahoma a burnt red hue. More of an attitude than a sound, the term “Red Dirt” encompasses the rock music of Cody Canada and the hard country of Jason Boland all the same. The only constant is they all got their start in Stillwater, Oklahoma, under the tutelage of Tom Skinner and others.
During the early and mid-1980s Tom played throughout Oklahoma. He made a name for himself as a solo performer and as the leader of a hot country band, the Skinner Brothers Band (a group that included Tom’s younger brothers Mike and Craig). His instrumental abilities on both guitar and bass led to a stint in Sante Fe, a band that featured a then unknown Garth Brooks. Their talents took them to Nashville and propelled Brooks to phenomenal success. Tom was less than thrilled with the 1980s Nashville scene and returned to Stillwater to head up a band called The Twanglers.
In 1998, Skinner hit the studio with nothing more than a guitar and an incredible batch of songs. The result, Acoustic Skinner, showcased Tom’s voice in a totally unplugged environment. Skinner followed the release by hitting the road with his band Farmboy (later re-titled the Dusty Children). The band recorded a live album, which, though never released, spawned a killer version of “Skyline Radio”.
Tom Skinner continues to be a force in the Oklahoma Red Dirt scene. He and Eric Hansen eventually started playing in the Mike McClure Band. It has often been said that Tom Skinner is the greatest songwriter you have never heard of. Time will surely change this!
“I know Tom Skinner well enough to say that making a record of his original recordings was not something he was easily talked into doing and hats off to McClure for getting it done,” Garth Brooks said at the time. “Tom is very private with his music because the stuff that he writes is extremely personal. This is a very, VERY special gift from Tom to all of his fans”, of which I am one.”
Saving Country Music
1969 - 2018
Affectionately known as the “Red Dirt Legend,” Jenkins is a popular fixture in red dirt music. His Oklahoma music roots actually are planted deep in the Tulsa Sound era: His uncle was Gordon Shryock, a bassist and sound engineer who worked with JJ Cale and Leon Russell and migrated with them to California, where he won three Grammys working as an engineer and producer for a wide range of artists, from Andrae Crouch and Elvis Presley to Natalie Cole and Dwight Yoakam.
“The red dirt sound, I kind of got more in that scene when I went to college (at Oklahoma State University), but just because of my family, I was fully immersed in the Tulsa Sound,” Jenkins told me in a 2015 interview. “I've traveled all over the world, and people know about Oklahoma music. It's well-respected everywhere you go — even in Texas.”
Along with Cody Canada, Jason Boland, Mike McClure and Stoney LaRue, Jenkins followed in the footsteps of red dirt pioneers like Bob Childers, Tom Skinner and the Red Dirt Rangers when he got to OSU and help popularize the musical mix of country, folk and rock in Stillwater and beyond.
1950 – 2019
The first usage of Red Dirt was by Ripley’s band Moses when the group chose the label name Red Dirt Records for their 1972 self-published live album. Ripley was inducted into the Oklahoma Music Awards Red Dirt Hall of Fame along with Bob Childers and Tom Skinner at the ceremony for the First Annual Red Dirt Music Awards held on Sunday, November 9, 2003 at Cain's Ballroom in Tulsa.
As a producer, recording engineer, and studio musician, he has worked with Bob Dylan, playing guitar (on Shot of Love) and on the "Shot of Love" tour, with J. J. Cale (on Shades, 8 and Roll On), and he produced Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown and Roy Clark (on Makin' Music) and Johnnie Lee Wills (on Reunion). Bob Dylan listed Ripley as one of his favorite guitarists.
Ripley started Ripley Guitars in 1982 in Burbank, California. He created guitars for Steve Lukather, J. J. Cale, John Hiatt, Ry Cooder, Jimmy Buffett and Eddie Van Halen, before moving to Tulsa in 1987 to buy Leon Russell's former recording studio called The Church Studio. In 1994 he formed the country band, The Tractors. He is the co-writer of the country hit "Baby Likes to Rock It". In 2002, he created his own record label (Boy Rocking Records) to produce artists including The Tractors, Leon Russell and The Red Dirt Rangers. In 2009, he produced and hosted a 20 part radio series on the history of Oklahoma rock and roll that aired on Oklahoma public radio stations. It was entitled "Oklahoma Rock and Roll with Steve Ripley." In 2013 Ripley produced the album Lone Chimney by the Red Dirt Rangers. In 2016 Ripley produced and curated a concert at Cain’s Ballroom to celebrate the music and legacy of Bob Dylan.