Musicians, Fans Rally Around Red Dirt Legend
Searching for the Sound by BRYAN CANTRELL
BRANDON JENKINS: The Tulsa native released his 17th album, Tail Lights in a Boom Town, on Feb. 9. As we go to press, Jenkins is awaiting a heart valve replacement surgery at his home in Nashville.
“This is art. This is trying to lift the spirits of people and trying to advance the culture a half step. Or a quarter step. Why not do it together?”
That rhetorical question was posed by John Cooper of Red Dirt Rangers in a recent conversation I had with him about the unique nature of Tulsa’s music community.
“Music is not a competition,” Cooper continues. “Our philosophy was always, all boats rise. If one of us does well, we all go up.”
As logical as that sounds, there are very few music scenes across the country that truly live by that attitude and develop the family-like community that Tulsa-area musicians have built.
They not only share and collaborate on music, they support each other like family. Recently, that family was called upon to rally around one of their own.
Hearts Beat for Jenkins
Tulsa native Brandon Jenkins writes songs with an insight and perspective that is rare and should be celebrated. You’re most likely to be familiar with his song “Feet Don’t Touch the Ground,” which has been covered numerous times, but his catalogue is vast and has recently grown with the release of his 17th album, Tail Lights in a Boomtown.
I wish that was the only news I had for you on Brandon Jenkins.
On the day of the album’s release, Feb. 9, the Red Dirt icon was on bed rest at his home in Nashville awaiting surgery to replace a heart valve.
Needless to say, this is a serious procedure.
“I ain’t gonna lie, they got me pretty scared,” Jenkins said on Feb. 2.
In addition to being scary, it’s also very expensive and will be followed by more medical costs during recovery. Jenkins’ drummer Michael Fitch has set up the fundraiser, “Hearts Beat for Jenkins.” Buy a shirt for $20 and 100 percent of proceeds go directly to Jenkins. The shirts are available at topcottonprinting.bigcartel.com.
There are many other ways to support Jenkins: buy his albums and merchandise from brandonjenkins.com, or road trip to Denton, Texas, and attend the Feb. 18 benefit concert.
If you’re not familiar with Jenkins’ music, check him out on a streaming service. Let it stream all day, you’ll love what you hear, it’ll cost you nothing, and while it doesn’t generate as much money for Jenkins as it should (I’ll stay off that soap box for now), everything helps.
Nobody has Red Dirt music and the Tulsa sound more ingrained in his soul than Brandon Jenkins. His father, Dean Jenkins, was a popular radio disc jockey on Tulsa radio stations and , while his uncle, Gordon Shyrock, is a Grammy Award-winning bass player best known for his collaborations with J.J. Cale and Leon Russell.
During his college years at Oklahoma State University, Jenkins became part of Stillwater’s burgeoning Red Dirt music scene before moving to Austin in 2003. In 2016, he relocated to Nashville, but he still makes frequent trips back to Tulsa for gigs, often to promote his independently released albums.
On Feb 7, a post on Jenkins’ Facebook page read, “Thanks y’all for all the love, and help paying the mounting bills! Like most musicians I don’t have insurance.”
As we go to press, Jenkins is still confined to bed rest awaiting the open-heart proceedure.
Hang in there Brandon. We’re thinking about you, we love you, and most importantly, the beard will grow back.
Spreading the Dirt in Key West
Did I bury the lead in that last section? Yes, it’s true. Brandon Jenkins’ iconic beard has to be shaved for the surgery. Hopefully by the time you read this, Jenkins will be far enough along in his recovery that the idea of a beardless Brandon Jenkins will be our biggest concern. It’s a shame the beard has to go, but given the situation, I can live with it. Without it… Whatever.
Also a shame, but in perspective something I can live with, is that Jenkins was unable to perform at the Mile 0 Festival in Key West, Florida, Feb. 7-10, where he was part of a who’s who lineup of Red Dirt musicians that included Turnpike Troubadours, Jason Boland and the Stragglers, Red Dirt Rangers, Cody Canada & the Departed, Stoney Larue, The Great Divide and many others.
This was the inaugural year for Mile 0 Fest and its success – more than 50 bands and several thousand in attendance – is a testament to the growing popularity of Stillwater’s number one export, Red Dirt music.
Own a Priceless Piece of Tulsa Sound History
Question: How do you sustain the viability of a vibrant music scene like the one we enjoy here in Tulsa? If you answered, “By supporting youth music programs and putting instruments in the hands of young Tulsans,” you’re eligible for the grand prize, and it’s a big one.
The original dance floor from Cain’s Ballroom has been repurposed. Local craftsman Roger Cowan of Dog Tired Guitars has built four guitars out of planks from the 80+ year old, aptly named hard rock maple dance floor, and one of them is being auctioned off to raise money which will go directly toward buying instruments for Tulsa kids.
Raffle tickets are $10 and can be found at tulsaband.com. Help ensure that the next J.J. Cale, Leon Russell or Wayman Tisdale will have the means to nurture and develop his talent, and take a shot at winning the coolest Tulsa Sound relic and piece of rock and roll history you’ll ever have the opportunity to own.
Until Next Time
Please continue to send thoughts, prayers, and especially purchases Brandon Jenkins’ way. I’ll be back next month, hopefully with great news to report on the Red Dirt legend’s recovery. Until then, keep searching, keep listening.