Red Dirt Rangers plays annual kids holiday show Sunday 

click to enlarge ©2013 VICKI FARMER
  • ©2013 VICKI FARMER

That red on Santa’s suit is going to be a little bit darker this year as local Americana legends the Red Dirt Rangers drop by the Blue Door once again with their annual kid’s Christmas concert, a venerable Oklahoma City holiday musical tradition that has been going on so long even the band has lost track of how many shows it has done.

“I think this is the 20th or 21st Christmas show, I don’t even know anymore,” John Cooper, lead singer of the Red Dirt Rangers, said. “It’s something that we started a long time ago and have just kept the tradition going.”

On Sunday at 2 p.m., the Red Dirt Rangers Kids’ Christmas Show drops down the Blue Door chimney, 2805 N. McKinley Ave. Part of the cover ($5) goes to its charity, the Red Dirt Relief Fund.

Both big and little kids (and their parents, of course) are invited to come out and celebrate.

“We’ve always done children’s shows, and we started doing this particular one with Greg [Johnson, owner of the Blue Door] over 20 years ago because we thought it was important to the community,” Cooper said. “We were living in Oklahoma City at the time and wanted to create something that would become a tradition.”
Cooper, however, is still astonished that the kid’s concert, scheduled for the day after the band’s annual blowout at Cain’s Ballroom in Tulsa, has circled back over the past two decades.

Now, Cooper said “kids have started bringing their own kids,” allowing the Rangers to see firsthand just how much fan support and influence he and bandmates Brad Piccolo and Ben Han have developed over the years.

“It is such a weird phenomenon,” Cooper said of the resurgence in popularity, especially with the Rangers’ children’s music. “The show hasn’t really changed too much, and it’s something we’ve always enjoyed doing. [The OKC show is] always the day after the Christmas show at Cain’s [Ballroom in Tulsa], and it can make it a little challenging for logistical reasons because we tend to party pretty good at Cain’s the night before. But we always have a good time.”

Blue Door brotherhood The band has played Blue Door more than any other band in the venue’s history, and it’s quick to add that its “tight connection” to the place is one of the main reasons both Cooper, his bandmates and Johnson are determined to keep this tradition alive.

The band will perform most of its songs from its children’s record, Blue Shoe for Kids of All Ages, as well as holiday favorites. Also, Cooper said that Johnson usually has a setup of punch, fruit, cookies and “other fun stuff for the kids.”

While the band has remained committed to writing and performing songs that “write up” to youth, after more than 20 years of live shows, the Rangers also know the importance of crafting a tight, appealing show for everyone.

“Kids are a great audience because no one loves music more than kids,” Cooper said. “The thing with kids is that you have to be entertaining, because if you’re not, they don’t owe you one thing and they will just find something else to do if you don’t pull them in pretty quick.”
Beside originals like the tolerance allegory “Black Dog, White Dog” and other assorted animal tunes from the aforementioned Blue Shoes album, the Rangers decorate the show with both rocking holiday classics like Chuck Berry’s “Run, Rudolph, Run” or Elvis Presley’s “Blue Christmas” and more traditional singalong fare like “Jingle Bells,” all filtered through the band’s patented red dirt Americana sound and style.

“You have to keep it lively and interesting and generally the shows are shorter,” Cooper said. “You’re not gonna get an hour with kids. You’re gonna get 30 minutes until you start to lose them, so we try to pack as much as we can into a pretty small space.”

And even though the Rangers do all kinds of events, from rock ’n’ roll festivals to folk and bluegrass celebrations, Cooper believes that community-building events like these concerts that have kept the band together for over 26 years and, as long as they are still “standing and breathing,” will for decades to come.

“The Blue Door is the best music listening venue in Oklahoma, hands-down,” Cooper said. “The history and the acts that have come through there speak for itself.”

Saturday at 7 p.m. at Cain’s Ballroom in Tulsa, the band holds its traditional holiday show with guests Tea Leaf Green and Mike Hosty Duo.

Print headline: Red Dirt wonderland, The Red Dirt Rangers are rockin’ around the Blue Door’s Christmas tree.

 

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