Sunday, January 10, 2016
– Red Simpson, one of the leading trucker country singers and purveyors of the Bakersfield Sound, died on Friday at 81 in Bakersfield, Cal.
Simpson had several truck driving songs reach the charts and also achieved success as a songwriter with Buck Owens and Merle Haggard among those recording his songs.
Joseph Simpson was born March 6, 1934 in Higley, Ariz, the youngest of a dozen children. Simpson was raised in Bakersfield. By 14, he penned his first song.
While working at the Wagon Wheel in Lamont, Fuzzy Owen saw him and made a deal for Simpson to play piano at his Clover Club. Simpson got a job replacing Buck Owens at the Blackboard Club on weekends.
Singer Bill Woods, who influenced Simpson, asked him to write truck-driving songs. He came up with four, although by that point, Woods was no longer recording. Soon, Simpson was writing for another influence, Owens. He penned Owens' top 10 hit, "Gonna Have Love."
Truck driving songs were popular in country during the period with Red Sovine, Dick Curless, Dave Dudley, Jerry Reed, and Kay Adams leading the pack. Capitol Records producer Ken Nelson, a giant in the country field, was looking for an artist who could record trucking songs by 1965. Haggard was reportedly Nelson's first choice, but was not interested. Simpson filled the bill.
His first, Tommy Collins' "Roll, Truck, Roll," which barely cracked the top 40 Billboard charts in 1966. Simpson recorded an album of the same name, which hit number seven.
Later that year, Simpson charted with a few other singles, "Highway Patrol" and "Diesel Smoke, Dangerous Curves."
Simpson also enjoyed success as a songwriter. Owens went to number one with "Sam's Place" in 1967. As a result, Simpson decided to be a songwriter full-time.
But he returned to performing in 1971 as a result of his number 4 hit, "I'm a Truck," penned by postman Bob Staunton. That proved to be his highest charting song ever.
In 1976, Simpson signed to Warner, releasing "Truck Driver Heaven." He continued releasing truck-oriented songs, including "The Flyin' Saucer Man and the Truck Driver" and "Hello I'm a Truck," a 1984 re-recording of "I'm a Truck."
Simpson continued releasing singles until 1985, but none were higher than 63.
In 1995, Simpson enjoyed a bit of a resurgence, going into the studio to record duets with Junior Brown, "Semi Crazy" and "Nitro Express."
A Bakersfield.com story said Simpson recorded more than a dozen albums. Simpson's "Lucky Ol' Colorado" and "You Don't Have Very Far to Go," co-written with Haggard, were recorded by The Hag. "Very Far" was recorded three times by Haggard and by Rosanne Cash, Connie Smith, Jeannie Seely, Roy Clark, Billy Mize and Bonnie Owens. Wynn Stewart and Alan Jackson also recorded Simpson songs.
Simpson participated in a Country Music Hall of Fame two-year exhibition on the Bakersfield Sound in 2012. He
Simpson continued performing in the Bakersfield area. He headline the grand opening and visited other times during its two-year run.
Simpson had a heart attack on Dec. 18 after a Northwestern tour, but was thought to be on the mend.