Music

Red Dirt Music Pioneer Tom Skinner Dies at 61

Tom Skinner, a musician known as a leading figure in developing Oklahoma’s Stillwater Red Dirt music scene, died on Sunday evening.

The musician dealt with many health issues in recent years, including multiple heart attacks. Still, he continued to play countless gigs, including his weekly Wednesday night residence called the Science Project. Skinner played what would be his last show of the residency in Tulsa, Okla. on July 1.

The influential singer-songwriter was also slated to co-headline the Woody Guthrie Folk Festival in Okemah, Okla. on July 9, but was hospitalized a few days before the event. A group of musicians and close friends took over the slot to represent the Science Project and played a set full of Skinner songs from over the years.

Skinner was credited for helping develop the Red Dirt sound, which is a unique combination of rock, country and folk, in Stillwater, Okla. He was a mainstay of the town’s music scene in the ’70s and ’80s. Skinner also played in an early version of Garth Brooks‘ band and moved to Nashville, Tenn. in search of success. Though, he eventually left the group and headed back to Oklahoma shortly before the now-superstar made it big.

“Hey, man, Garth Brooks wanted to be in Tom Skinner’s band just like we all did,” John Cooper, band member of the Red Dirt Rangers, told NewsOK. “He was just persistent enough to keep at him until Tom finally said OK. You know, we all wanted to be Tom Skinner. The first time I saw Tom … I was just like ‘This is the coolest thing I’ve ever seen. I want to do that with those guys.’ And I know Garth felt the same way — we all did.”

Skinner was inducted into the Oklahoma Music Hall of Fame at a ceremony in his hometown of Bristow in January. Sources told OK News that a “musical celebration” will be held to honor the musician instead of a formal funeral. Further details are expected to be released in the coming days.

Next: 15 Legendary Musicians Who Shaped Red Dirt Music 

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Red Dirt Music Pioneer Tom Skinner Dies at 61