Monday, January 11, 2016

Roll, Truck, Roll

Category:  Obituary

The great Red Simpson has died.

Simpson died Friday (1/8) in a Bakersfield hospital of an apparent heart attack.  He was home recovering from a December heart attack he had suffered while performing in the Pacific northwest.

Joseph "Red" Simpson is hardly a household name, but his influence was enormous.  Along with the Maddox Brothers and Rose and Wynn Stewart, Simpson helped put the unique stamp on west-coast country music that later became known as the Bakersfield Sound, paving the way for Bakersfield superstars Buck Owens, Merle Haggard, and Dwight Yoakam.  As a songwriter, his songs "Gonna Have Love" and "Sam's Place" were hits for Buck Owens.

In addition to his songs, his guitar was featured on several recording sessions for Owens, including Buck's great instrumental classic "Buckaroo" and his Christmas song "Santa Looked a Lot Like Daddy."  Simpson also played on Merle Haggard sessions, including the hit "I Take a Lot of Pride in What I Am."  Haggard pointed out in a farewell tweet that Simpson was "one of the original musicians on 'Okie From Muskogee,'" adding that Simpson was "a friend for over 50 years."

One other thing that Simpson helped bring into the forefront of country music was the "trucker song."  His 1966 song "Roll, Truck, Roll," along with other songs such as Dave Dudley's "Six Days on the Road" and the Willis Brothers' "Give Me 40 Acres," helped popularize songs with truck driving themes in country music, creating a deep and ongoing bond between the two.  Simpson's biggest charted hit as a singer was another trucker song, "Hello, I'm a Truck," a humorous look at truckers from the perspective of the semi, complete with good-natured jabs at his buddies ("he's gonna take out that tape cartridge of Buck Owens and play it again...I don't know why he don't get a Merle Haggard tape!").

Simpson had finished his first album in decades, Soda Pop and Saturdays, scheduled for release next month.  He was also slated to received the "Founder of the Sound" award at the annual Ameripolitan Music Awards in Austin.

Simpson was 81.

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