What is Red Dirt Country Music? + The Best Artists in the Genre
Have you found yourself wondering what Red Dirt Country Music is?
I, too, asked myself the same question, and this is what I have found. Let’s discuss what Red Dirt Country Music is, where it comes from, and what artists are at the forefront of the genre.
What is Red Dirt Country Music?
Red Dirt Country Music is an American folk music style created in the late 20th century.
Typical instruments used in its production are guitar, fiddle, steel guitar, Dobro, harmonica, bass guitar, drums, banjo, and mandolin.
Critics say it can be a mix between folk, rock, country, bluegrass, blues, western swing, honky tonk, and it has, on occasion, Mexican influences.
Singer-Songwriter Jimmy LaFave, a former Stillwater native, said, “Its sound is hard to put into words and has to do with the spirit of the people it originated from.” While some say, its flavoring is more southern rock.
Who Started Red Dirt Country Music and Where?
The Father of the Red Dirt Country music scene is Bob Childers.
Originally born in West Virginia, Childers and his family moved to Ponca City, Oklahoma, when he was only seven years old. It was at the age of 16 that he began to develop his connection with music and the guitar.
In the ’70s, local musicians would gather at Childers’ old two-story house known as The Farm, where they would jam and write songs.
If you have had the chance to visit the breathtaking state of Oklahoma, you may have encountered its red dirt. The pioneers of the prairie are where Red Dirt Country is rooted.
There are many bars surrounding the Oklahoma State University in Stillwater, this is the hub of the Red Dirt sound, and it earned its nickname as North Austin because of its established local music scene.
Are Red Dirt and Texas Country Music the Same?
There was a time when Red Dirt and Texas Country music were sonically distinct. It’s believed around 2008, the gap between the genres diminished.
A way to now view Red Dirt is as an umbrella under which Texas Country music falls. Examples of the Texas sound include Pat Green, the Randy Rogers Band, and outlaw legends Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings.
So the answer is yes, and no, depending on the time frame you are viewing the genre from. So whichever way you want to spin it, Red Dirt country music brings many tones to the table.
Popular Red Dirt Country Artists
Turnpike Troubadours (Oklahoma)
The Turnpike Troubadours band was formed in 2005 in Tahlequah, Oklahoma.
In 2007 the group found success with their debut album Bossier City. They gained ground in Oklahoma and the red dirt scenes. Band members have faded in and out of the group.
The current members are RC Edwards on bass guitar, Kyle Nix on fiddle, Ryan Engleman as lead guitarist, Evan Felker as lead singer and guitarist, Gabriel Pearson on drums, and Hank Early on steel guitar.
The band is known for its poetic lyrics and spirited live shows. A few of their most popular songs are “Good Lord Lorrie,” “The Bird Hunters,” and “Diamonds & Gasoline.”
Whiskey Myers (Texas)
Whiskey Myers is a band from Palestine, Texas, and has been active since 2007.
Their sound is a mix between southern rock and country. The group combines Cody Cannon on lead vocals and acoustic guitar, Cody Tate on vocals, lead and rhythm guitar, John Jeffers on vocals, lead, slide and lap steel guitar, Jeff Hogg on drums, Tony Kent on drums and percussion, and Jamey Gleaves on bass.
Cody Cannon and John Jeffers were the original members. Their style was inspired by artists such as Lynyrd Skynyrd, Hank Williams Jr., and Waylon Jennings.
Whiskey Myers found recent commercial success in 2018. This is when the group was featured in four episodes of the hit series Yellowstone.
Randy Rogers Band (Texas)
The Randy Rogers Band originated in San Marcos, Texas, and has been together for more than 17 years.
Randy Rogers, the group’s lead vocalist, was introduced to music by his grandmother. She taught him to play the piano at the early age of six.
Brady Black on fiddle, Geoffrey Hill on guitar, Les Lawless on drums, John Richardson on bass guitar, and Todd Stewart on guitar, fiddle, mandolin, and keyboards are the additional members of the band.
The shared passion and love for the music these members create together have bonded them into a unique brotherhood. This bond keeps the foundation of the group strong. It allows them to connect to their fearless spirit and co-create a sense of camaraderie.
Red Dirt Rangers (Oklahoma)
The Red Dirt Rangers started in Stillwater, Oklahoma, and have been touring since the late 1980s.
John Cooper on mandolin, percussion, and vocals, Brad Piccolo on guitar and vocals, and Ben Han on lead guitar and vocals are the band’s core members. At the same time, Randy Crouch on fiddle, Don Morris on bass, and Rick Gomez on drums make guest appearances.
Before the Red Dirt Rangers were formed, John, Brad, and Ben were members of the Farm’s musical brotherhood. They shared creative space with Jimmy LaFave, Bob Childers, and many other red dirt artists.
Most important to the Red Dirt Rangers is staying true to themselves, taking the road less traveled, and sharing joyous moments creating music with friends.
Cross Canadian Ragweed (Oklahoma)
In 1994 Cross Canadian Ragweed formed in Yukon, Oklahoma. This is where the band met in high school, moving to Stillwater after graduation.
The members of the group were Cody Canada on vocals and lead guitar, Grady Cross on guitar, Jeremy Plato on bass guitar, and Randy Ragsdale on drums. Their sound was influenced by southern rock, outlaw country, and 90’s grunge.
The Cross Canadian Ragweed called it quits in 2010 when former drummer Ragsdale felt he needed to stay at home with his son, who was diagnosed with autism. He moved back to Yukon to work in the Oil and natural gas industry.
Cross also returned to Yukon and now owns and operates the local bar the band first cut their teeth. Canada and Plato continue playing live music in the band The Departed with Eric Hansen on the drums.
Female Red Dirt Country Artists
When researching female red dirt country artists, I had difficulty finding them among the mass amounts of male acts.
I look forward to hearing more female voices in the Red Dirt country world. We all have a story to tell, and the female perspective needs to be heard, shared, and respected. This is true if we hope to create a balance in the music industry and, ultimately, across the globe.
Who are your favorite female red dirt country artists?
Jamie Lin Wilson (TX)
Jamie Lin Wilson is a native of Sealy, Texas.
She picked up a guitar when she was 19 years old. After seeing a solo performance by Natalie Maines during a Dixie Chicks concert, she felt inspired to play. That Christmas, she was gifted an acoustic guitar, and from there, she began performing at open mics in College Station.
Wilson fell in love and married her college sweetheart, Roy. Together they have raised their two children on the road as she’s constantly touring, sharing her gifts with those who will listen.
Born and raised in Waco, Texas, Ray has been gracing the stage with her nostalgic presence since she was a youngin’.
As a child, she entered herself in local variety shows and talent competitions. In doing so, she caught the attention of the Gimble Family. Kayla Ray considers the legendary Waco family a significant influence on her sound.
Fiercely independent with a work ethic to boot, Ray entered the national touring scene as the tour manager for Jason Eady. While juggling her managerial duties, she also opened the show, sang duets, and kept everyone on track.
Since 2014 Ray has focused on her career and already has shows lined up for 2023.
Courtney Patton (TX)
Courtney Patton is said to have the heart of a poet. She possesses the capability to change how her listeners think about music.
Her classic country sound was inspired by artists such as Joni Mitchell, Don Williams, and Merle Haggard. Patton is married to fellow Texas Troubador Jason Eady. He co-produced her latest album, Electrostatic, in 2022, along with the Band of Heathens’ Gordy Quist.
Kaitlin Butts (Oklahoma)
Although Kaitlin Butts currently resides in Nashville, Tennessee, she still considers herself a Tulsa girl at heart.
In 2011 she graduated from Union High School and attended the University of Central Oklahoma’s Academy of Contemporary Music. Her music career has taken her to many places. However, she claims her success is attributed to the seeds sown in Oklahoma.
Butts’ career soared after the release of “How Lucky Am I” in 2017, a song she wrote for her husband Cleto Cordero for Valentine’s Day.
West Texas is where Kat Hasty calls home.
Her daddy listened to Rock & Roll and is responsible for it being her first love for music. She soon became intrigued and inspired by folk rock artists such as Bob Dylan.
She is known for her angsty raw lyrics that paint a picture of oil towns and desert highways. My favorite is “The Highway Song;” it stings and cuts to the quick, reminding the listener of their own addictions and stitched-up scars.
Male Red Dirt Country Artists
Stoney LaRue (Texas)
Stoney LaRue has been making an impact on the Red Dirt country music scene for over 20 years.
He was born in Taft, Texas, and raised in Oklahoma. He started in Stillwater, playing in local bars like many of his peers. His interests in philosophy and inner truth and his experiences on the road playing in dives and dance halls make him a renaissance man.
LaRue has sold over a million records during his career, loves performing live, and has no intention of slowing down anytime soon.
Paul Wade Bowen was born in Waco, Texas, and is a father, family man, and brother-in-law of Cody, Canada.
Bowen started playing in bars and barbecue joints with the band West 84, with his buddy Mat Miller until 2001, then became Wade Bowen and West 84, releasing his first record in 2002, Try Not To Listen, which became a hit throughout the Lone Star State.
At the time, he was playing up to 250 gigs a year. Live magnetic performance and well-rounded original music are what you’ll experience at one of Bowen’s live shows. A long list of accolades decorates his artistry, along with a humble heart that can evoke emotion from his worldwide fanbase.
Born in Tulsa, Oklahoma, Jenkins taught himself guitar, played in the jazz band, and sang in the choir during his years at Central High School.
When he moved to Stillwater to attend Oklahoma State University, he became a member of the Red Dirt Music community. Jenkins often played 150 shows a year, performing in Oklahoma, Texas, and Europe on several occasions.
In 2016 he made a move to Nashville to pursue a publishing deal.
Two years later, he passed away after experiencing complications following heart surgery. The procedure was to correct a congenital disability (enlarged heart), and he was to receive a new heart valve.
Jenkins may have passed away at 48, yet his memory and music’s message still live on within the red dirt community.
From Tecumseh, Oklahoma, McClure wrote his first song when he was ten, accustomed to growing up in a small town; it was when leaving home behind, he found his musical influences.
McClure got his start in Stillwater playing music at Bob Childers notorious “Farm” house alongside other budding red dirt artists. He is a renowned producer in the Red Dirt music scene, producing acts such as Cross Canadian Ragweed, Stoney LaRue, Whiskey Myers, and many more.
Previously a member of the band The Great Divide, he parted ways in 2002 to pursue other ventures.
It wasn’t until Lafave and his family moved to Stillwater from Wills Point, Texas, that he traded the drums for guitar and songwriting.
At 15, he started playing and singing originals in the band The Night Tribe. After graduating high school and burning the candle at both ends, Lafave worked as a club manager during the day and played music at night.
He supported Woody Guthrie and frequently appeared on the Woody Guthrie Folk Festival lineup. Although Lafave passed away in 2017 from Myxofibrosarcoma, he shared his gifts of music and art behind him.
He recorded over 15 records during his lifetime, won awards for his songwriting abilities, and was inducted into the Oklahoma Music Hall of Fame.
New Red Dirt Country Artists
Wyatt Flores (Oklahoma)
First-semester college dropout Wyatt Flores quickly realized music was his true destiny. Soon after pulling the plug on postsecondary education, he made his way home to Stillwater, Oklahoma.
A year after playing live music regularly, he moved to Nashville, TN. He now is singing and storytelling for a living with vibes reminiscent of Jason Isbell, John Prine and Caamp.
Read Southall Band
Read Southall spent many hours listening to 90’s country radio while irrigating cotton on a tractor.
When visiting his grandmother, gospel music was on in the background. At a young age Southall played in local bands and sang in the choir. He started out performing as a solo artist and quickly had a fan base in his home state of Oklahoma.
Southall now has a band composed of country boys who can rock and roll. The members consist of Read Southall on lead vocals and rhythm guitar, John Tyler Perry on lead guitar and vocals, Reid Barber on drums, Jeremee Knipp on bass and vocals, Braxton Curliss on the keyboard, and Ryan Wellman on lead guitar.
Josh Meloy (Oklahoma)
Josh Meloy’s grandfather bought him his first guitar. A few of his influences are Whiskey Myers, Waylon Jennings, and Evan Felker.
Originally from Hennessy, Oklahoma, Meloy is proud of his red dirt roots. He started writing his music when he was 19 living in a camper in Stillwater, when he saw a live performance by William Cark Green, the inspiration he felt after the show pushed him to pursue his dream.
Trenton Fletcher (Oklahoma)
A native to Fox, Oklahoma, Fletcher is now immersed in the Stillwater music scene. It took him only a short time to realize he wanted to write his material and make music his full-time job.
Even at his first show with his old college roommate, he had originals prepared for the set. During the week he hosts open mics, holds residencies and does gigging on the weekend. Fletcher found his sound after listening to Cross Canadian Ragweed, Jason Boland, Whiskey Myers the list goes on.
Pecos & The Rooftops
Pecos & The Rooftops consists of Pecos Hurley on vocals and acoustic guitar, Garrett Peltier on drums, Kalen Davis on bass, Brandon Jones on rhythm guitar, and Zack Foster on lead guitar.
The band is based out of Lubbock, Texas, and has been gaining traction in both the Red Dirt and Texas Country scenes since 2019, raw country mixed with rock and roll is the sound these close-knit friends created while in college.
Who is the Best Red Dirt Country Singer?
A surplus of talent is growing out of the Red Dirt country music scene, so picking just one artist isn’t easy.
In my opinion, the best red dirt country singer is Bob Childers, who coined the first Red Dirt sound poet; my hat goes off to his legacy.
Childers Farmhouse may have burned down in 2003, but the red dirt sound that first echoed through its halls still lives on today. Unique individuals like Childers have paved the way for the current red dirt artists of our time.
Texas Red Dirt Radio
KFLP focuses on Country and Texas Music covering the region of Panhandle/South plains. The station serves the Texas counties of Floyd, Lubbock, Motley, Hale, Crosby, and Briscoe.
It is a 25,000-watt station located in Floyada, Texas. If you want to hear Texas Country/ Red Dirt Music, it is broadcasted every hour of every day. In the coverage area, it is the only locally owned station.
Kickin Country 103.1 KKCN
KKCN is the only station in San Angelo, Texas that plays Texas Red Dirt music.
The 100,000-watt station is located south of downtown Saint Angelo and is owned by Townsquare Media, with its first air date being August 1977 (as KCWB).
Real Texas Radio
Real Texas Radio is an internet-based station created in 2015. Their slogan is “Texas; it’s not just country music, it’s Music Country!” The focus is on Texas artists and the Oklahoma Red Dirt Scene.
Big Country 97.1 KVRP
KVRP broadcasts to the Abilene, Texas area.
The 100,000-watt station is owned by 1 Chronicles 14, based in San Antonio. The first air date was in 1981. The station also airs Texas Tech’s Red Raiders football, basketball and baseball games.
The Texas Legend KULP 106.7 FM & 1390 AM
KULP broadcasts to El Campo, Bay City, and Wharton, Texas.
The station’s format is based on country music. KULP gave the Rice Belt its first local radio station in 1948. The station’s call sign (KULP) was the nickname of the original majority owner Louis “Culp” Krueger.
Final Thoughts: Red Dirt Country Music
Red Dirt Country Music is a feeling that expresses all of the emotions the orchestra of the heart is capable of playing. The more I listen, the deeper the genre roots its way into the depths of my soul. It seems until one faces heartache and pain, the simple joys of life can not truly be appreciated or fully understood.
It is with the breaking that our hearts open and with Red Dirt Country music that the spirit of the west lives on.