Red Simpson, the country song writer who Merle Haggard called "a huge part in the Bakersfield sound", has died at the age of 81.
According to Billboard, Simpson had suffered a heart attack while touring the Pacific Northwest in December. He had been released from the hospital but became ill again on Friday.
Simpson was born in Bakersfield in 1934 and was already writing music at the age of 14. In the early 60's, he began playing in clubs around southern California and was discovered by Fuzzy Owen. Their relationship and his growing popularity eventually saw him sitting in for Buck Owens at the Blackboard Club on weekends.
In 1962, Simpson and Owens began writing together with their first hit together coming in 1965 with Gonna Have Love (1965 / #10 Country) and they followed with Sam's Place (1967 / #1 Country).
Also in 1965, Simpson was signed to Capitol Records specifically to record songs about trucking. Over the next fifteen years, he charted eight times with songs specifically in that genre including Roll Truck Roll (1966 / #38 Country), I'm a Truck (1971 / #4 Country) and the very unlikely The Flyin' Saucer Man and the Truck Driver (1979 / #99 Country).
Over the years, he continued to both write and play live along with recording his own music and with artists like Merle Haggard and Junior Brown. In recent years, he played weekly at Trout's in Oildale along with other Bakersfield area clubs.
Merle Haggard posted a remembrance of Simpson on his Facebook page on Friday night:
He played a huge part in the Bakersfield sound and was a dear friend of mine for over 50 years. One of the original musicians on "okie from Muskogee" RIP Red Simpson.