Bakersfield country singer-songwriter Red Simpson, 78, has enjoyed a long, distinguished career. A key architect of Bakersfield's crackling, regional musical style, he's had his songs recorded by the biggest names in the business — Merle Haggard, Dwight Yoakam, Gram Parsons, Lucinda Williams, even Annette Funicello. Heck, Buck Owens alone cut more than 25 of them during his legendary mid-1960's peak.
And Simpson even made the country chart Top Five with his slightly cracked 1971 hit, “Hello, I'm a Truck.”
Simpson, who will appear at Burbank's Viva Cantina on Saturday, has been taking it fairly easy for the last several years, working a few local dance jobs around Bakersfield and enjoying life with his longtime spouse, Joyce. But all that changed earlier this spring, when a triple-threat dose of Simpson-mania broke out in California, Tennessee, even Germany.
Simpson was recently invited to perform at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum in Nashville, headlining a special concert in conjunction with the opening of the museum's Bakersfield Country exhibition, where he also participated in a panel discussion that re-united him with such notable colleagues as singer Rose Lee Maphis and fiddler Don Maddox. The German record label Bear Family just issued a boxed, five-compact-disc retrospective set, “Hello, I'm Red Simpson,” and in Bakersfield, March was officially designated “Red Simpson Month” with a tribute concert and two nights opening for Merle Haggard.