Memorial set for Red Dirt rocker Chad Sullins


A mainstay of Oklahoma’s Red Dirt music scene, Chad Sullins has balanced the sound of a rocker with the soul of a poet.

“Sullins was a poet in the mold of Woody Guthrie and Bob Childers. He was the essence of what Red Dirt means to his artists and fans until his last breath,” said Josh Crutchmer, author of the book “Red Dirt: Roots Music Born in Oklahoma, Raised in Texas, Home Anywhere, “in a statement to The Oklahoman.

“He loved a song and he loved it when it found ears. His passing is a tragedy, but he spent his last day singing for his friends at The Farm in Stillwater, then put everything he had into his gig. Altus, and I know if he could choose his last 24 hours, he would have chosen. “

Oklahoma singer-songwriter and Red Dirt rocker, Sullins died June 27 in Altus. He was 43 years old.

Sullins, who had a history of heart problems, died of a ruptured aortic valve, according to a post on his official Facebook page.

“He’s never really had his due in this mortal world, but no one who heard him play or spoke to him at an Oklahoma bar will ever forget him,” Crutchmer said.

Oklahoma born and raised

Born in Hobart and raised in the Altus area as well as Knoxville, Tennessee, Sullins told The Oklahoman in a 2012 interview that he worked at a job he hated in the southwestern oil fields of Oklahoma when a friend introduced him to Red Dirt’s music. this enigmatic and intoxicating mix of country, rock, folk, blues and western swing.

“I had played in different punk and rock bands and stuff growing up. I mean, I got my first guitar when I was 16, and started my first band when I was probably 18 or 19. I was born and grew up listening to old country music from my step dad and mom but just to piss’ em off, when I got my first guitar I learned all the punk songs that I could get my hands on, ”Sullins said with a laugh in 2012.

“For me, Red Dirt’s music was kind of the bastard child of country music. You know, kinda like the punk rock version of country music. So, I immediately fell in love with it. “

He started writing songs and got his first gig for Jason Savory at the Stillwater bar on the Watering Hole in 2005. The owner offered Sullins a weekly slot, but the singer-songwriter only knew the original six songs. that he had just played.

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Chad Sullins performs in Stillwater at the Bob Childers' Gypsy Cafe, an annual benefit for the Red Dirt Relief Fund.

“I got home (to Altus) that week and learned 30 covers, then I started playing my weekly gig at Stillwater… and I finally ended up moving there,” said Sullins. “Then it was like a year later when I had my first show on The Strip at Willie’s.”

Sullins honed his songwriting skills over long miles while working as a truck driver and later as a touring musician.

“I like to listen to guys who write songs from their experiences and who write songs from the heart. And that’s what I’m trying to do, ”Sullins told The Oklahoman in 2014.

He has written hundreds of songs and recorded several albums as frontman of Chad Sullins and the Last Call Coalition and as a solo artist.

“He was a real troubadour. He was coming back from the front lines,” said John Cooper of Oklahoma’s venerable group, the Red Dirt Rangers.

Although his sound sits at the blues-rock end of the spectrum, Sullins was proud to make his place in the Red Dirt music community. He enjoyed the opportunities to play at The Farm, the family owned Stillwater property that was once the home of singer-songwriter Bob Childers and is now recognized as the birthplace of Red Dirt music.

“When Bob passed away (in 2008), that first weekend, everyone got together at The Farm, and I was invited to go… I didn’t even play that night because I was so impressed with everything that was going on at the. I was just standing in the corner watching, ”Sullins told The Oklahoman in 2012.“ There was a big circle around the fire, and all the world was playing and drinking and having fun and playing Bob songs …. With this scene we are all like a big brotherhood.

Loyal supporter

Sullins was a strong supporter of the nonprofit Red Dirt Relief Fund, which provides a safety net of essential aid to Oklahomans in the music business in times of need.

“He was actually at the press conference when we launched the Red Dirt Relief Fund. So he was … a selfless supporter – like so many musicians – of this cause,” said Katie Dale, executive director of Red Dirt Relief Fund. noting that Sullins has often performed at the Bob Childers’ Gypsy Cafe, the organization’s largest annual fundraising event.

“When we started a fundraiser to help complete her memorial expenses and take care of her children within 48 hours, I think, we had raised $ 10,000 without really trying very hard. It just shows how Chad really is. was important to so many people in our community. “

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Chad Sullins performs outside the Stonewall Tavern in Stillwater as part of the 2019 Bob Childers' Gypsy Cafe Songwriters Festival, the flagship fundraising event for the non-profit Red Dirt Relief Fund.  Sullins died on June 27 at the age of 43.

After the Red Dirt Relief Fund helped the singer-songwriter when he experienced health issues in 2014, Sullins was eager to perform “Shows of Gratitude” to raise awareness and more money for his coffers.

“Chad was one of those guys with a gruff exterior and a complete heart of gold,” said Cooper, founder and board member of the relief fund.

Along with the Red Dirt Relief Fund which is launching a fundraiser to help Sullins ‘family cover funeral and other expenses, the organization is co-sponsoring the celebration of Chad Sullins’ Last Call on July 31 at noon at Tumbleweed Dancehall & Concert Venue. from Stillwater. The Oklahoma lineup of musicians for the event includes Red Dirt Rangers, BC & The Big Rig, Dylan Stewart, Chris Blevins, Chloe-Beth, Kyle Nix and Sullins’ daughter Presley Sullins.

Admission to the show for all ages is a suggested donation of $ 10.

“I’ve talked to a lot of people who are going to be coming from out of town to be there, just to be able to be together and celebrate Chad. And everyone is so excited about it, because that’s what he wants, ”Dale said. “He would like us to all get together, play music, laugh, tell jokes and kiss each other around the neck. And I’m just grateful that we have the chance to do that.”

Sullins was predeceased by his nephew Chance, his father Bill, his grandmother Martha and his grandfather Glenn. He is survived by his mother Marsha, son Corbin, daughters Presley and Madison, brothers Brad and Randy, sister Gena and many other relatives, friends and fans.

Chad Sullins Last Call Celebration

With: Red Dirt Rangers, BC & The Big Rig, Dylan Stewart, Chris Blevins, Chloe-Beth, Kyle Nix, Presley Sullins and more.

When: Noon on July 31.

Or: Tumbleweed Dancehall, 5212 W Lakeview Road, Stillwater.


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