Red Dirt Music
Down on The Farm in Stillwater
“It was a family farm for 60, 70 years, and then in 1979, two crazy college boys actually found out that a house was for rent here,” Cooper said in between filming last month on The Farm.
Cooper and his buddy Danny Pierce, now a college professor who flew in from Tennessee for the mini-doc, lived there while attending Oklahoma State University. While Cooper and his fellow musicians penned and played songs for hours on end, Pierce became the caretaker and constant at The Farm.
“It evolved slowly. It was far enough from town to be away from local law enforcement and we had no neighbors here,” Cooper said. “It was a party house and because it was a party house, musicians found out about it.
“There was no ‘gotta shut it down at 2 (a.m.).’ We didn’t shut it down ever,” he added with a laugh. “In the ‘80s, after the bars closed down, the rally cry would go up, ‘Party at The Farm.’
“If you want to name drop, Robert Earl Keen’s been here. … Garth came out here back in the old days,” he said, referring to the OSU alumnus who became a country music superstar.
In the 1990s, the late Bob Childers, known as “the godfather of red dirt music,” became the main musical tenant at The Farm.
“It was a stopping place for a lot of musicians,” recalled Jimmy LaFave. “It was where the drug culture met the cowboy culture … there’s a lot of wild stories out of here. But (I remember) the music, the good music, and the feeling of having a tribe of people to belong to.”
The Rangers, Childers, LaFave and their contemporaries became mentors to the next generation of red dirt players. Cody Canada, Stoney LaRue, Mike McClure, Jason Boland and Monica Taylor were among those who gravitated to The Farm in the ‘90s. Taylor even lived for a few months under a tarp behind Childers’ trailer house.
“It was just so wonderful,” Taylor said. “At night, I could hear people pulling in … and rap, rap, rap on Bob’s door. And I’d wake up and go, ‘Oh, must be somebody with a new song’ and it usually was.”
The last year someone lived on The Farm was 1999; Pierce was the last to move away. The house was abandoned when it burned down in 2003.
But the shed dubbed the Gypsy Cafe, where much of the jamming took place, still stands. As the sun went down on the recent reunion, the musicians packed the shed to keep the music playing.
Though The Farm has become fallow, the red dirt scene keeps flourishing, with No Justice, Chris Bell and John Parker Millsap among those who represented the new generation for the mini-doc.
“The magic never left; it just moved down the street,” said Steve Rice of No Justice, recalling his first meetings with Boland and LaRue in Stillwater. “The magic’s still here.”