Bob Childers

Bob ChildersIn loving memory…

Bob Childers passed away on Tuesday, April 22nd, 2008. Some called Bob the “Grandfather of Red Dirt Music.” Others called him a “Dylan of the Dust.” We simply called him our friend. We love you and miss you already. Rest in peace, our friend.

The Memorial Service/Concert at the Blue Door for Bob on April 27th was an incredible experience. Hundreds of people stopped by with a ton of food and drink… memories… and stories of our friend, Bob Childers. People showed up that haven’t been to the Blue Door in over ten years. Yes, Bob was likely smiling—or even laughing—at the commotion he had caused. And he can rest easy knowing that he now holds the record for the greatest attendance of a Blue Door show! Jimmy LaFave got the music rolling with Bob’s song “Restless Spirits”… followed by “I’ll Fly Away”… and finally a new song about Bob that didn’t leave a dry eye in the house. A big THANK YOU to everyone who attended… brought food and drink… donated… sang… laughed and cried. It was a Blue Door farewell fitting of a music giant… of a Bob Childers….

A Letter To Bob Childers

Well my friend, we finally did it, we finally packed the Blue Door. We had over 300 Okies—some from out of state— and many of your musician friends and acquaintances all on hand to hear your songs and help your family. Around 2 pm they started trickling in, bringing food and more food. My God we could have fed almost everyone who has ever played in Asleep At The Wheel, ALMOST!

Of course Childers, you know me, and I was too anxious to eat at all. I really had no idea who was coming to play that night. I knew Jimmy LaFave was gonna be there since he was the one who contacted me about doing this gig in the first place. So when it was time to get the music going, it was just find a musician and get them up. Just how you prefer it, right? Kinda like the Woody shows but more relaxed. So this time I was worried about all that, but didn’t freak out at all when they told me the woman’s toilet wasn’t working. “We’ll just tell the guys to go outside and piss in the bushes like in the days when we had only one bathroom,” I casually remarked to a very nervous Donnie Gregg. Sometime during the night it got fixed.

I am always pretty much tied in knots before a show, especially a show this monumental. I remember time and time again when we would be sitting in the courtyard before a show, and I would start to do that walk I do up and back in the courtyard as nervous as a cat. “Just relax, Mr. Promoter,” you would say from your usual seat next to the door. “My people will come, everyone is just getting their molecules arranged.”

Of course on this night they did come, old friends from the Farm days and younger kids who came to you through Ragweed and Boland and Stoney. I mentioned Michael Fracasso writing a new song that he swears is so Childers like its uncanny. It’s called “The Oklahoma Kid” or something like that. Cody read Kevin Welch’s note calling you the “hub of red dirt music,” and both Michael and Kevin wished they could have been here to sing for you. But many who loved your music did make it out, just as they did for all your CD’s release parties and the time you and Buffalo made a record here. For Mike McClure’s great “Dirt & Spirit” show, and for every single one of my Woody Tributes, from the Cactus Cafe in 1991 to last October’s 17the Annual show.

But this one was all for you, the Childers show for all time. John Cooper and I already decided we are gonna do a Bob Childers Tribute Concert next April (at least near April 22nd) which is also Earth Day and Brad Piccolo’s birthday. Now for us it will always be the day you left your body behind to just witness the rest of this in spirit. Maybe the believers are right, and you are sitting up there with Hughlett Edgemon talking about Woody and Maryjo. Maybe the skeptics are right, and you are just bone dry dead and that is it, and all we can do is remember and honor your life. I belong in both camps and have no problem living with that contradiction. For now I am suspending any disbelief and thinking that you were indeed with us last Sunday evening and will be forever as long as a Bob Childers song is played or someone sits in your chair on the Blue Door courtyard to touch a piece of history.

We laughed and we cried on this special night for you my friend. I started the show reading Jimmy Lafave’s beautiful words about you. I didn’t know he had written it until Dave Marsh quoted it on his radio show that morning when I came on to talk about you. I got through it though without breaking up and I have no idea how that happened, because I sure did cry a lot that night. “Bob Childers was the wisest man I have ever known,” Jimmy wrote. “He changed my life.” Then Jimmy took the stage and sang a moving “Restless Spirits,” before singing a new song he wrote about you. I had never seen LaFave so emotional; it was about the sweetest moment all evening, but there were more.

Most of your closest friends came to play and listen: The Red Dirt Rangers with Bob Wiles on bass, Tom Skinner, Greg Jacobs, Stoney LaRue, Jason Boland, Cody Canada, Roger Ray, Randy Crouch, Mike McClure, John Fulbright, Monica Taylor, Don Morris, Terry “Buffalo” Ware, Susan Herndon, Zen Okies, BuffaloFitz,and last but certainly not least Donnie “Dyno” Gregg, who nailed “Dust On The Bible” like he had lived with it forever. Of course he did sound and was as stellar as always.

My family came out, as did Mary Jo who sat on the front row with Cheryl and Teena all evening until the last note of “The Weight” was played. She insisted on getting her picture taken with your family. So many friends, from infants to great grand parents, all because you always let them be a part of your life. Leslie brought food of course, and she and Gaye managed the contribution jug and guided friends to your many CDs that Chris Maxwell so generously brought to help with the cause.

So many great moments, but I just can’t remember right now if I heard a particular song or just thought I did. I recorded most of it and will go back and review it when I feel strong enough. We did close with Jimmy leading everyone on “Woody’s Road,” “Oklahoma Hills” and, you guessed it, “The Weight,” a red dirt classic cover song for the ages. Hell we even held that note as long as we could on “Aaaaannnnddd you put the load right on me.” On this night Bob, you are the one who carried OUR LOAD. Your load is now gone forever.

I love you Bob today like I have for over 18 years, from the time Kevin Welch made that first introduction in 1990 at Chicago House. Thanks for playing the Blue Door my friend, and now your songs will forever fill this place. I didn’t know that our April 12th Blue Door benefit would be your last gig. Who did, except the angels? I guess it’s kinda fitting, since you have been such a huge part of this place from the start. Thanks for being my friend and thanks for your songs.

Greg Johnson
April 30, 2008