Red Dirt Music Pioneer Jimmy LaFave Dead At 61

May 22, 2017

A key figure in Oklahoma and Texas music has died.

Jimmy LaFave passed away Sunday after a battle with a rare fast-growing cancer called spindle cell sarcoma. He was 61.

Born in Wills Point, Texas, LaFave moved to Stillwater when he was 15 and was instrumental in the early stages of what would become known as “red dirt music.”

After playing locally in Stillwater and touring regionally with his band Night Tribe. In 1985, he moved to Austin, Texas to expand his audience. He was named Vocalist of the Year and his band was named Band of the Year in the Music City Poll of Austin Insiders in 1991.

"He’s really crucial to red dirt music. He was the first guy to go to Austin (Texas) and really plant the flag for Okies down there and for red dirt music, not to mention the career he has -- a 40-year career of playing music all over the world,” KOSU's John Cooper told The Oklahoman in April. “Everybody that followed really owes it to Jimmy. He was the first guy in the pool.”

LaFave released nearly two dozen albums over his career and appeared on the TV show Austin City Limits. His album, Cimarron Manifesto, topped the American Music Association albums chart in 2007.

His death just comes three days after a sold-out tribute show held in his honor in Austin, Texas. LaFave led dozens of performers in a finale medley of “I’ll Fly Away,” “This Land Is Your Land,” and “Goodnight Irene.”

LaFave will be posthumously inducted into the Oklahoma Music Hall of Fame in June.

Hear LaFave's 2012 performance on NPR's Mountain Stage:

Hear LaFave's 2016 interview with the Grounded Sounds podcast (starts around 41:00):