Red Simpson Biography

Joseph Simpson, 6 March 1934, Higley, Arizona, USA. The youngest of 12 children, he grew up in Bakersfield, California, where the family relocated in 1937. He claims to have written his first song, ‘Chicken House Boogie’, to sing to their chickens, when he was 14. Introduced to country music by his father and an elder brother who both played in a local band, he went on to learn piano, fiddle and guitar. He served in the US Navy and formed a band, the Repose Ramblers, while serving on the USS Repose during the Korean War. After Naval service, he returned to Bakersfield, where he found work on the club circuit including the famed Blackboard Club and also played with Bakersfield area bands including with Buck Owens and Merle Haggard. In 1962, he signed as a writer with Cliffie Stone and in the mid-60s, he recorded some truck driving songs for Capitol Records. He gained two Top 40 Billboard country chart hits, in 1966, with ‘Roll Truck Roll’ (written by Tommy Collins) and ‘The Highway Patrol’. The following year, he had further success with ‘Diesel Smoke, Dangerous Curves’. He also recordedThe Man Behind The Badge, a collection of police songs.

In the late 60s, he concentrated on writing rather than recording and his songwriting collaboration with Buck Owens saw Owens gain chart success with several of their songs including ‘Gonna Have Love’, ‘Sam’s Place’, ‘The Kansas City Song’ and ‘Only You Can Break My Heart’. In 1971, he returned to recording and gained his biggest hit (a number 4) with ‘I’m A Truck’, a song written by Bob Staunton, a postman. In 1972/3, he gained two further Top 65 hits, ‘Country And Western Truck Drivin’ Singer’ and ‘Awful Lot To Learn About Truck Drivin’’, before he left Capitol. In 1976, recording for Warner Brothers Records, he gained a minor hit with ‘Truck Driver’s Heaven’, an attempted genre song based on Eddie Dean’s ‘Hillbilly Heaven’. His final chart entry came in 1979, when recording for K.E.Y. an attempted humorous ditty ‘The Flying Saucer Man And The Truck Driver’, which failed to catch the public’s sense of humour and managed only two weeks of chart life at number 99. In the late 80s, he underwent surgery for cancer of the nose and a malignant mole on his back. Rated by followers of the genre as one of the best singers of truck driving songs, he is sometimes affectionately referred to as Suitcase Red, owing to the fact that he invariably has a suitcase full of songs with him.

Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.

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