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Red Dirt Music Community Loses a Legend

Searching for the Sound by BRYAN CANTRELL

1969 – 2018: Tulsa native Brandon Dean Jenkins passed away on March 2 from complications arising from heart surgery. Above left, John Cooper and Brad Piccolo of Red Dirt Rangers and Scott Evans join Brandon Jenkins at Guthrie Green in August 2016. Evans and the Red Dirt Rangers are among the many acts slated for Brothers and Sisters of the Dirt, a memorial benefit for Jenkins at the Shrine at 18th Street and Boston Avenue on March 18 at 2 p.m.


BETH TURNER for GTR NEWSPAPERS


This was never the plan. 
My job is easy. At least, that’s what I thought. That’s what it’s supposed to be. I write about music. Local music that I love and want to listen to and talk about, learn more about and introduce to people.  
This month, I feel like I’m in over my head. I find myself searching for words to assign meaning to the loss our music community has suffered, and honestly, it’s beyond my expertise.

I can’t put this tragedy into words, much less eulogize this 48-year-old Central High School graduate and Red Dirt Legend.

I need help. I need a true wordsmith; someone who can capture feelings and emotions and articulate them beautifully and concisely. 

I need Brandon Jenkins.

Perhaps I can lean on Brandon a little and use his words to get me through this column.

“I’m runnin on empty, my
options are few.” 

– Finger on the Trigger, album: Down in Flames

The way I feel right now, it’s not surprising that’s the first line that comes to mind. It’s not true, however. I have many options. I could reminisce through personal memories like seeing Brandon for the first time in the 1990s at a place I’d never heard of called Miss Tee’s (still going strong on West Edison Street). What a great double discovery that was for a new-to-the-scene 20-something. I could talk about my favorite Brandon Jenkins songs or why I love a guy who can sing about the Lord sending down angels, then follow it up with a song about “Red Dirt, Bluegrass, Green Country White Trash.” I could talk about his gentle nature, his focus and work ethic, his authenticity, his brilliant and often overlooked guitar skills (considered a songwriter foremost, but the guy could flat out play).

No, my options are many, so, clearly, that’s not the line to lift. Let’s try another.

“Lift your eyes and see through the sorrow, muster all the strength you can borrow.”
– Be the Revival, album: Tailights in a Boomtown

That’s more like it. I knew he’d have the right words. Yes, let’s all see through the sorrow, and borrow strength from each other. And let’s do it on Sunday, March 18 at the Shrine, 18th Street and Boston Avenue, for Brothers and Sisters of the Dirt, a memorial benefit for Brandon Jenkins.

Fans, friends, family, musicians, and all of the above will gather to raise money and pay respects. Doors open at 2 p.m. There will be a silent auction, raffles, food, and, of course, music.

The long list of acts to perform include Monica Taylor, Scott Evans, the Red Dirt Rangers, Brad James, Dylan Stewart and many others. All proceeds go to the Jenkins family. Speaking of the Jenkins family…

“In this life, you gotta give what you can give.”
– Get Down in the Mud, album: I Stand Alone

Although financial concerns seem trivial when dealing with the loss of life, medical costs are still a very real problem for musicians and their families. Jenkins’ family (he is survived by his wife Michele and his parents Wilma and Dean Jenkins), in addition to being overcome with grief, is simultaneously burdened by medical bills and related expenses. Please consider easing that burden by purchasing an album or two or donating to the family via PayPal at paypal.me/BrandonJenkins682. Hearts Beat for Jenkins shirts are also still available at topcottonprinting.bigcartel.com.

This issue of financial burden is not unique to the Jenkins’ situation. Red Dirt Relief Fund is a 501©3 non-profit organization that provides a safety net for musicians. Since 2012, Red Dirt Relief Fund has given out more than $75,000 to 48 music people in 20 Oklahoma cities and towns. 

Consider making a donation at reddirtrelieffund.org to strengthen and expand that safety net.

“Don’t get caught up in the race.” 
– Song title from 1996 album Faded

Life is not a race. The race is what interferes and distracts us. Our lives are moments spent doing what we love, and when we face grief, we’re reminded to never take those moments for granted.

For me, those moments are often centered around music. Whether it’s a weekend festival or a Wednesday night at my favorite watering hole, nothing gets me away from the race better than live music. I know many of my readers feel the same way, so I’m going to conclude this month’s column with a few upcoming shows. It is my job after all. The easy part.

Just as we can borrow strength from each other at the benefit concert, we can continue to lean on each other and draw strength in the weeks and months to come from the rich community we are fortunate enough to have in Tulsa.

Just as with Bob Childers, Tom Skinner, Jimmy LaFave and other Red Dirt legends that we’ve lost, we can take comfort knowing that Brandon Jenkins’ music lives on. I’m betting there will be a spike in Brandon Jenkins covers at some of these gigs, so it may be just the comfort we’re looking for.

As always, there’s no shortage of great local music on the horizon. Here are just a few that stand out to me:

• March 31 – Hosty at The Colony
• April 6 – Brad James Band at Blackbird
• April 8 – Leon Russell Birthday Celebration at Cain’s Ballroom featuring Ann Bell, Jamie Oldaker, Jimmy Markham, Frank Padilla, Beau Charron, Don White, Wink Burcham, Brandon Holder, Jim Paul Blair, Casey Van Beek, Brian Lee, Charles Tubberville, and Paul Benjaman
• April 12 – The Soup Kitchen with Dane Arnold at The Colony
• April 26 – Kalo at Blackbird
• April 27 – Red Dirt Rangers at Guthrie Green
• Every Sunday at The Colony – Paul Benjaman’s Sunday nite Thing
• Every Wednesday at The Colony – Tom Skinner’s Science Project
• Every Tuesday at Soul City – Dustin Pittsley and Friends
• Every Sunday at Soul City – Sunday Dinner Show with Bruner & Eicher

As I always do, I want to end my column by reminding you to keep searching, keep listening, but this month, I have a different sign off. Raise a glass, say a prayer; be thankful to have crossed paths with the great Brandon Jenkins. Rest in peace Red Dirt Legend.

Updated 04-19-2018

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