Bob Childers left his mark on many of Oklahoma’s Red Dirt musicians. While his legacy is widely regarded among the singer-songwriters across the state, it is now a focal point for Red Dirt Relief Fund, an all-volunteer nonprofit dedicated to medical bill assistance for Oklahoma musicians.
Bob Childers’ Gypsy Cafe is one of its principal fundraising events. According to Red Dirt Relief Fund secretary and event producer Katie Dale, guests should wear walking shoes.
This year, it runs 4:30-11:45 p.m. April 26 in Stillwater. Featuring 71 musicians, the event is so large that it occupies three venues: Eskimo Joe’s, 501 W. Elm Ave.; Stonewall Tavern, 115 S. Knoblock Ave.; and George’s Stables, 502 W. Elm Ave.
“It’s basically a songwriter, song-swap festival,” Dale said. “We invite songwriters and pair them up. This year, because we have so many on the bill, there will be some groups of four. It’s a 45-minute acoustic set.”
Each stage has its own leader; this year’s are led by stage masters Cody Canada, Kaitlin Butts and Mike Hosty. The groups of musicians change from year to year, and while they take turns performing each other’s songs, they must also perform at least one of Childers’ songs.
“Every year is a discovery where fans get a chance to meet an artist or hear an artist they’ve never heard of before,” Dale said. “Also, they get to hear artists that they love and they’re fans of … in a new way.”
Being alumni of The Farm — the Stillwater property considered the home of Red Dirt songwriting — many of the musicians on the bill knew Childers. One of them, Jimmy LaFave, will be given the inaugural Gypsy Cafe Artist of the Year award during his set, which will take place before the 11 p.m. finale, when as many musicians as possible are crammed onto the stage.
Gypsy Cafe began in 2011 as a showcase originally sponsored by Red Bull, with the proceeds going to a nonprofit. Rather than selecting an organization, Dale said, John Cooper of Red Dirt Rangers said, “Why don’t we start one instead?” and Red Dirt Fund was born.
Red Dirt fund is modeled after the Grammy Foundation’s MusiCares emergency assistance fund, and beneficiaries must reside in Oklahoma and have worked as a musician for at least five years. Documentation such as show posters, websites or a social media account with performance dates and locations help the committee verify the amount of time performing. Since its inception, the fund has provided over $60,000 in assistance. Last year’s benefit raised over $22,000, earning enough to match the $21,950 distributed to musicians in 2016.
LaFave, Canada, Cooper, Butts, Hosty, Jason Boland, Brandon Jenkins, Mike McClure, Cale Lester, Monica Taylor and others who have signed for the April 26 event are a who’s-who of Red Dirt.
For Dale, the mentorship part of Gypsy Cafe has as much to do with Childers as the music and musicians on the stage. A few hours before the concert, a noontime picnic is held at The Farm, where new musicians meet those who are more experienced.
“It’s very much like a family,” Dale explained. “We always try to invite young or up-and-coming so that they get a chance to spend some time and collaborate with musicians who have made it.”
Tickets are $20-$50. Visit reddirtrelieffund.org/gypsycafe.
Bob Childers’ Gypsy Cafe
4:30-11:45 p.m. April 26
501 W. Elm Ave., Stillwater
115 S. Knoblock Ave., Stillwater
502 W. Elm Ave., Stillwater
Print headline: Six-string solace, Bob Childers’ Gypsy Cafe event raises money for Red Dirt Relief Fund.