Bob Childers

Last updated
Bob Childers
Bob Childers on stage with the Red Dirt Rangers (John Cooper, Brad Piccolo, Ben Han)
at the Woody Guthrie Folk Festival
July 11, 2007
Background information
Born(1946-11-20)November 20, 1946
West Union, West Virginia
Origin Ponca City, Oklahoma, U.S.
Died(2008-04-22)April 22, 2008 (aged 61)
Stillwater, Oklahoma
Genres Red Dirt, Country, Folk, Bluegrass
Occupation(s) Singer-songwriter, Guitarist
Instruments Vocals, Guitar
Years active1978–2008
LabelsBinky Records, Smith Music
Associated acts Woody Guthrie, Jason Boland, Cross Canadian Ragweed, Randy Crouch, The Red Dirt Rangers, No Justice
Website Binky Records

Robert Wayne Childers (20 November 1946 – 22 April 2008) was an American country-folk musician and singer-songwriter from the state of Oklahoma. [1] Both before and after his death, he achieved widespread critical acclaim having been compared to songwriters such as Bob Dylan and Woody Guthrie. Childers is often labeled the "father", "grandfather", or "godfather" of the regional Oklahoman music scene known as Red Dirt music. [2]

United States federal republic in North America

The United States of America (USA), commonly known as the United States or America, is a country composed of 50 states, a federal district, five major self-governing territories, and various possessions. At 3.8 million square miles, the United States is the world's third or fourth largest country by total area and is slightly smaller than the entire continent of Europe's 3.9 million square miles. With a population of over 327 million people, the U.S. is the third most populous country. The capital is Washington, D.C., and the largest city by population is New York City. Forty-eight states and the capital's federal district are contiguous in North America between Canada and Mexico. The State of Alaska is in the northwest corner of North America, bordered by Canada to the east and across the Bering Strait from Russia to the west. The State of Hawaii is an archipelago in the mid-Pacific Ocean. The U.S. territories are scattered about the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea, stretching across nine official time zones. The extremely diverse geography, climate, and wildlife of the United States make it one of the world's 17 megadiverse countries.

Country music, also known as country and western, and hillbilly music, is a genre of popular music that originated in the southern United States in the early 1920s. It takes its roots from genres such as folk music and blues.

Folk music musical and poetic creativity of the people

Folk music includes traditional folk music and the genre that evolved from it during the 20th-century folk revival. Some types of folk music may be called world music. Traditional folk music has been defined in several ways: as music transmitted orally, music with unknown composers, or music performed by custom over a long period of time. It has been contrasted with commercial and classical styles. The term originated in the 19th century, but folk music extends beyond that.


Biography and works

Childers was born on November 20, 1946, in West Union, West Virginia, to parents Howard and Rhea (Gaskins) Childers. At the age of seven, he and his family moved to Ponca City, Oklahoma. [3] He developed an interest in music and started playing guitar at age 16. After graduating from Ponca City High School, he moved even further west to study music in Berkeley, California. [4] After a stint in California, Childers returned to Oklahoma, this time to Stillwater, where he found "people interested in the natural and supernatural aspects of life and love, and folks not afraid to sing about it." [3]

West Union, West Virginia Town in West Virginia, United States

West Union, incorporated July 20, 1881, is a town in Doddridge County, West Virginia, United States. The population was 825 at the 2010 census. It is the county seat of Doddridge County. The mayor is Joseph Thorpe as of 2013. The town is located along Middle Island Creek at the junction of U.S. Route 50 and West Virginia Route 18; the North Bend Rail Trail also passes through the town.

Ponca City, Oklahoma City in Oklahoma, United States

Ponca City is a city in Kay County and in Osage County in the U.S. state of Oklahoma, which was named after the Ponca Tribe. Ponca City had a population of 25,387 at the time of the 2010 census.

Berkeley, California City in California, United States

Berkeley is a city on the east shore of San Francisco Bay in northern Alameda County, California. It is named after the 18th-century Irish bishop and philosopher George Berkeley. It borders the cities of Oakland and Emeryville to the south and the city of Albany and the unincorporated community of Kensington to the north. Its eastern border with Contra Costa County generally follows the ridge of the Berkeley Hills. The 2010 census recorded a population of 112,580.

Childers emerged in 1979 with his debut album titled I Ain't No Jukebox which he recorded with help from friend Jimmy LaFave. The album received many positive reviews and led Childers to begin touring nationwide. In March 1979, the Three Mile Island nuclear reactor disaster took place. Protestors of Three Mile Island, having heard Childers' song "Sunshine, Wind and Water," invited him to perform at a no-nukes rally in Washington, DC. Childers performed before Arlo Guthrie and Pete Seeger in front of a crowd estimated to be 65,000 to 100,000 persons. [5]

Jimmy LaFave American musician

Jimmy LaFave was an American singer-songwriter and folk musician. After moving to Stillwater, Oklahoma, LaFave became a supporter of Woody Guthrie. He later became an Advisory Board member and regular performer at the annual Woody Guthrie Folk Festival.

Three Mile Island accident nuclear accident

The Three Mile Island accident was the partial meltdown of reactor number 2 of Three Mile Island Nuclear Generating Station (TMI-2) in Dauphin County, Pennsylvania, near Harrisburg and subsequent radiation leak that occurred on March 28, 1979. It was the most significant accident in U.S. commercial nuclear power plant history. The incident was rated a five on the seven-point International Nuclear Event Scale: Accident with wider consequences.

Arlo Guthrie American folk singer

Arlo Davy Guthrie is an American folk singer-songwriter. Like his father, Woody Guthrie, he is known for singing songs of protest against social injustice, and storytelling while performing songs. Guthrie's best-known work is his debut piece, "Alice's Restaurant Massacree", a satirical talking blues song about 18 minutes in length that has since become a Thanksgiving anthem. His only top-40 hit was a cover of Steve Goodman's "City of New Orleans". His song "Massachusetts" was named the official folk song of the state in which he has lived most of his adult life. Guthrie has also made several acting appearances. He is the father of four children, who have also had careers as musicians.

His second album, Singing Trees, Dancing Waters, was recorded in 1982 and released on March 30, 1983. Afterwards, he relocated to Nashville, Tennessee. [4]

Nashville, Tennessee State capital and consolidated city-county in Tennessee, United States

Nashville is the capital and most populous city of the U.S. state of Tennessee. The city is the county seat of Davidson County and is located on the Cumberland River. The city's population ranks 24th in the U.S. According to 2017 estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau, the total consolidated city-county population stood at 691,243. The "balance" population, which excludes semi-independent municipalities within Davidson County, was 667,560 in 2017.

In 1986, Childers released two albums: Four Horsemen and a collection of instrumental works entitled King David's Lament. While many of his peers had success in Nashville, Childers chose to relocate to Austin, Texas. He then released Circles Toward the Sun (1990). By 1991 Childers had relocated again, back to Oklahoma where he released Nothin' More Natural (1996), Hat Trick (1999) [6] and a fan club collection of rarities La vita è bella - Outtakes, Demos and Jams 1980 - 1988 (2000.) His return to Oklahoma facilitated collaboration with other Red Dirt music artists including Dirt & Spirit with The Great Divide (1999), Two Buffalos Walking - Live At The Blue Door with Terry "Buffalo" Ware (2003), Kindred Spirits with Randy Crouch (2004) and Ride for the Cimarron with Jason Boland and the Stragglers (2006.) [7]

Austin, Texas Capital of Texas

Austin is the capital of the U.S. state of Texas and the seat of Travis County, with portions extending into Hays and Williamson counties. It is the 11th-most populous city in the United States and the 4th-most populous city in Texas. It is also the fastest growing large city in the United States, the second most populous state capital after Phoenix, Arizona, and the southernmost state capital in the contiguous United States. As of the U.S. Census Bureau's July 1, 2017 estimate, Austin had a population of 950,715 up from 790,491 at the 2010 census. The city is the cultural and economic center of the Austin–Round Rock metropolitan statistical area, which had an estimated population of 2,115,827 as of July 1, 2017. Located in Central Texas within the greater Texas Hill Country, it is home to numerous lakes, rivers, and waterways, including Lady Bird Lake and Lake Travis on the Colorado River, Barton Springs, McKinney Falls, and Lake Walter E. Long.

Randy Crouch American musician

Randy Crouch is an Oklahoma-based multi-instrumentalist. In eastern Oklahoma, Crouch is best known as a fiddle player. Although he has been referred to as "the world's best rock fiddler," Crouch also plays guitar and pedal steel among other instruments.

In 2003, Jimmy LaFave produced a Woody Guthrie tribute show called Ribbon of Highway, Endless Skyway. The ensemble show toured around the country and included a rotating cast of singer-songwriters individually performing Guthrie's songs. Interspersed between songs were Guthrie's philosophical writings read by Childers, sometimes called the "Dylan of the dust", [8] who served as the show's narrator. [9]

Later years and death

By 2004, Childers' health was in decline. A long-time smoker, Childers suffered from numerous lung-related ailments including pneumonia and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (often referred to as "lung disease"). To help Childers with his medical bills, Chris Maxwell of Binky Records spearheaded an effort to raise funds. The result was the 2004 triple-CD compilation album entitled Restless Spirits: A Tribute to the Songs of Bob Childers. The collection features tracks from over fifty performers who donated versions of Childers' songs recorded at their own expense. [10] Childers succumbed to his illnesses on April 22, 2008, in Stillwater, Oklahoma.

Tributes and legacy

Five years prior to his death, Childers was inducted into the Oklahoma Music Awards Red Dirt Hall of Fame along with Steve Ripley and Tom Skinner. [11] In an interview with The Current in 2007, Childers said of his songwriting, "I just keep it honest and keep it simple. There really is no secret to writing a song." [3] Even before the release of the tribute box-set Restless Spirits, Childers influence on other songwriters was pervasive. The Tulsa World reported that Bob Childers songs have been recorded by more than 200 artists. [12] Many musicians have stated that Childers served as a mentor. Bassist-guitarist Bob Wiles said of Childers, "He was the first older, respected musician to take us seriously, probably when we didn't deserve it. And he encouraged us to take ourselves seriously. He's done that with a lot of bands. Bob is that common thread through us all." [13] When asked what it was like to be a mentor to so many aspiring singer-songwriters, Childers said, "I don’t know if that’s a good thing or not. It makes me try a little harder, knowing that people are being influenced. It makes me try to do right a little bit more." [14]

Childers was a regular at the Woody Guthrie Folk Festival held every July in Guthrie's hometown of Okemah, Oklahoma. At the 10th annual festival in July 2007, seven "10-year artists" - artists who had participated every year since the festival's inception - performed at a benefit show titled "In the Spirit of Woody Guthrie". Artists included Jimmy LaFave, Don Conoscenti, Ellis Paul, Joel Rafael, Terry "Buffalo" Ware, the Red Dirt Rangers, and Childers. [15]

On July 8, 2008, a special pre-festival Childers tribute show was held at Cain's Ballroom in Tulsa on the evening before the official start of the festival. Performers included Jimmy LaFave, The Burns Sisters, the Red Dirt Rangers, Mike McClure, Joel Rafael, Stoney LaRue and Tom Skinner. [16] In addition, the festival program booklet included a special Bob Childers Memorial Page, and quotes made by his songwriting friends were interspersed as tributes throughout. [17] The Tulsa World announced that Childers would be inducted into the Oklahoma Music Hall of Fame in October 2008 at a gala to be held in Muskogee, Oklahoma. [18] The induction ceremony, held at the Muskogee Civic Center, took place on October 8, 2008. The Red Dirt Rangers and Tom Skinner accepted the award on behalf of Childers. [19]

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  1. Stillwater NewsPress. Robert Wayne “Bob” Childers. April 28, 2008. Retrieved July 29, 2008.
  2. Wooley, John. Godfather of Red Dirt music returns with disc, a Tulsa show. Tulsa World, Dec. 31, 2002. Retrieved Aug. 4, 2008.
  3. 1 2 3 Mack, Joe. A final farewell to the rainbow rocker. [ permanent dead link ]The Current, May 2008, p. 24.
  4. 1 2 Payne County Promotions website. Texas Troubadours Interview with Bob Childers. Retrieved Aug. 4, 2008.
  5. Critter, Chris B. The 'green' beginnings of red dirt. [ permanent dead link ]The Current, December, 2008, p. 68-9. Retrieved January 13, 2009.
  6. Galvin, Mark. Bob Childers releases new CD. Archived November 20, 2008, at the Wayback Machine ., Ponca City News, July 5, 1999. Retrieved Aug. 4, 2008.
  7. Binky Records website. Bob Childers. Archived 2008-05-11 at the Wayback Machine . Retrieved Aug. 4, 2008
  8. Ribbon of Highway website.Ribbon of Highway website Archived 2013-10-29 at the Wayback Machine . Retrieved Aug. 2, 2008.
  9. Propaganda Media Group, Inc. Ribbon of Highway - Endless Skyway: Concert in the Spirit of Woody Guthrie Archived 2006-01-12 at the Wayback Machine .. Retrieved Aug. 2, 2008.
  10. Binky Records website. Restless Spirit: A Tribute to the Songs of Bob Childers. Archived 2008-05-11 at the Wayback Machine . Retrieved Aug. 4, 2008.
  11. Cranke, Jared F. A True Celebration of Stillwater Music. Archived 2011-02-09 at the Wayback Machine .Stillwater Scene, Vol. 3, No. 6, November 2003. Retrieved Aug. 4, 2008.
  12. Conner, Thomas. The nominees for Spot Music Award "Best Oklahoma Sound Act" are.... Tulsa World, Oct. 15, 2999. Retrieved Aug. 2, 2008.
  13. Wooley, John. Red Dirt's music's like a present. You gotta open it up to know what it is. Dec. 15, 2000. Retrieved Aug. 4, 2008.
  14. Allen, Tony. Bob Childers’ natural music makes latest album soulful. [ permanent dead link ]The Daily O'Collegian, May 6, 1997. Retrieved Aug. 4, 2008.
  15. 10th Annual Woody Guthrie Folk Festival. July 11–15, 2007. (Program booklet.)
  16. Transcript Staff.July 8 tribute to Bob Childers to kick off 11th annual Woody Guthrie Folk Festival. Archived 2012-09-07 at Norman Transcript. June 26, 2008. Retrieved July 29, 2008.
  17. 11th Annual Woody Guthrie Folk Festival. July 9–13, 2008. (Program booklet.)
  18. Chancellor, Jennifer. Bob Childers to be inducted into Oklahoma Music Hall of Fame. Tulsa World, Aug. 7, 2008. Retrieved Aug. 9, 2008.
  19. Lang, George. Hall of Fame names Rejects ’08 rising stars. The Oklahoman, Oct. 9, 2008. Retrieved Oct. 9, 2008.

Further reading