Music legend Bob Childers, 61, known as the Godfather of Red Dirt music, was remembered Saturday morning in a memorial service as someone who loved people and lived his music.
He died Tuesday at his home in Stillwater.
More than 150 mourners overflowed the chapel at Trout Funeral Home. They ranged from music executives to bikers who arrived wearing leathers, from cowboys to Indians, from hippies to rednecks and from young to old — in other words, Childers’ friends.
Those who loved Childers were as eclectic as the sounds which formed his Red Dirt music — a mix of folk, rock, country, bluegrass, blues, western swing and honky tonk, with even a few Mexican influences.
The Rev. Guy Fox, pastor of Kildare Baptist Church, chose three scriptures which reflected Childers’ life: John 3:16; I Corinthians 13:13 and Romans 8:35-39. All three passages speak to God’s love, reflected in Childers’ life.
Childers, who was born in West Union, W. Va., was given his first guitar by his parents when he was 16.
“This was his life,” Fox said.
Childers had 12 albums which were devoted to the themes of love of God and other people, Fox said.
“I could feel his concern and love for other people and heard it expressed in his music,” Fox said.
The pastor said Childers’ health problems led him to focus on his own spiritual needs.
“His life is a testimony for us to examine our own lives,” Fox said.
Music from “Restless Spirit” played as mourners gathered. The three-disc tribute, produced in 2004 to help defray Childers’ medical expenses, is a compilation of more than 50 of his songs.
Chris Maxwell of Binky Records in Baton Rouge shared his memories of the project.
“Four years ago when Bob’s health began to slide we did this tribute record and asked musicians to donate a song. The songs started coming and just didn’t stop. We wound up with more than 50 songs,” Maxwell said. “Bob made one request: ‘Please don’t cut anyone off this record. They just mean too much.’
“There was no greater love than what Bob had for his sons and music.”
Others, including one of Childers’ brothers, described him as a storyteller.
“Bob was special in a way,” Mark Childers said. “He lived every day. Every day was an experience and every experience was a story. Many years ago we were in a booth in the Blue Room at the Ponca Bowl and he was telling stories about San Francisco and hitchhiking. I saw a poster on the wall above him which said that sometimes we don’t realize how much of ourselves we owe to the people we love.”
He then played one of Childers’ songs, dedicated to sons Zack and Jesse, called “My Daddy.”
“My Daddy was a guitar-playing man.
He climbed high on the mountain,
he laid down right on the ground.
He drank from the living fountain.
All I know’s he made a soulful sound.”
Childers frequently performed at Oklahoma City’s Blue Door and was a fixture at “WoodyFest,” the annual Woody Guthrie Folk Festival held in Okemah. He also had a five-year run as narrator for “Ribbon of Highway,” a touring show of contemporary performers playing Woody Guthrie songs.
Known as one of the best country-folk songwriters, Childers studied music in the 1960s at the University of California in Berkeley. He traveled extensively and in 1972, while traveling through Stillwater, he discovered the music of Chuck Dunlap.
“California had the money and the reputation, but Oklahoma had the magic,” he later was quoted as saying.
By 1978 his music came to the attention of musician Jimmy Lafave, who now lives in Austin, and a lasting friendship ensued. With Lafave’s help, Childers recorded his first album, “I Ain't No Jukebox,” in 1979.
Childers traveled to Nashville in 1986, where he released two albums, and was followed by several other Stillwater musicians, including Tom Skinner and Garth Brooks. That same year he also traveled to Austin, where he released another album. He returned to Stillwater in 1991 where he concentrated on writing and added to his catalog of more than 1,500 songs.
His songs appear on seven compact discs, including the seminal Red Dirt classic, “Nothin' More Natural,” featuring "Woody's Road,” his most famous song.
He is survived by his parents, Howard and Rhea (Gaskins) Childers of Ponca City, two sons, Zach and Jesse Childers, two brothers Mark Childers of Ponca City, and Paul Childers of Waynoka, and one sister, Ann Thorpe of Ponca City.
He was preceded in death by one brother, David Childers.
A musical tribute will be held at 2 p.m. Sunday at the Blue Door, 2805 North McKinley Avenue in Oklahoma City.
Here are a couple of Childers' songs to give you a sampling. I love them.
Don't Be Afraid