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Country Music Pioneer Red Simpson, Known for Truck-Driving Songs

Red Simpson in the 1950s.

Musician Red Simpson died Friday night at age 81 in Bakersfield, California, where he helped pioneer the “Bakersfield Sound” in Country Music. Along with Buck Owens and Merle Haggard, Simpson created a California style of honky-tonk in the 1950s and ‘60s.

According to music critic Joe Nick Patoski, "The third leg on that Bakersfield stool belonged to Red Simpson. He was in there from the very beginning. You can hear him on “Okie from Muskogee.”

“Okie from Muskogee" is the anti-hippie song Merle Haggard recorded in 1969. Simpson became known for truck-driving songs, and charted in 1971 with "I'm A Truck."

He also influenced country rock musicians like Gram Parsons. According to Patoski, "People don’t realize that he wrote the song that was later embraced by Gram Parsons and became part of that whole West Coast country-rock thing, “Close Up The Honky Tonks.” That’s Red Simpson, too." Simpson died due to complications from a heart attack that he suffered in mid-December.

Former KRTS/KXWT News Director