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The Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture

SKINNER, TOM (1954–2015).

A guitarist and songwriter, Tom Skinner is recognized as one of the leaders and originators of Red Dirt music, a blend of blues, rock, country, gospel, and folk whose geographic origins center around Stillwater, Oklahoma. He was born in San Francisco, California, on January 8, 1954. Soon after his birth, his parents, Richard G. and Ramona B. Skinner, both native Oklahomans, moved the family to Oklahoma. Tom Skinner and his brothers, Mike and Craig, grew up in the Route 66 town of Bristow. In 1972 Tom Skinner enrolled briefly in Oklahoma State University (OSU). During his time there he learned to play guitar. Instead of finishing college, he enlisted in the U.S. Air Force, where he played in bands.

In 1978 Skinner re-enrolled at OSU. His brothers followed, and they performed at Willie's Saloon and other venues as The Skinner Brothers Band; Garth Brooks frequented the open microphone nights there. The Skinners eventually became the nucleus of Brooks's group Santa Fe. At the same time, the Red Dirt sound began to take solid commercial shape. Skinner received a bachelor's degree in 1982. In the later 1980s Skinner joined Brooks in Nashville for a short time but soon returned to Oklahoma for his young son's sake.

Later Skinner migrated to Louisiana where he began recording for Binky Records. His albums include Times Have Changed (1996), and Acoustic Skinner (1998). Many of Skinner's songs have been covered by other Red Dirt luminaries such as Stoney LaRue, The Red Dirt Rangers, The Great Divide, Mike McClure, and Cody Canada and The Departed. Skinner is considered "a songwriter's songwriter."

Along with membership in the Mike McClure Band, Skinner also made a significant contribution to Tulsa's local music scene in the 2000s. He hosted a weekly "Wednesday Night Science Project" and invited both his friends and new singer-songwriters to join. Mike McClure helped produce Skinner's critically acclaimed, self-titled album in 2012. Some of the recording for the CD was completed at Steve Ripley's Farm studio near Pawnee. For his pioneering participation in the Red Dirt music movement, for his longtime commitment to local singer-songwriters in Oklahoma, and for his own highly respected songwriting, in 2015 Tom Skinner was inducted into the Oklahoma Music Hall of Fame. He died in Tulsa on July 12, 2015.

Hugh W. Foley, Jr.


Hugh W. Foley, Jr., Oklahoma Music Guide II (Stillwater, Okla.: New Forums Press, 2013).

"Tom Skinner," Vertical File, Research Division, Oklahoma Historical Society, Oklahoma City.


The following (as per The Chicago Manual of Style, 17th edition) is the preferred citation for articles:
Hugh W. Foley, Jr., “Skinner, Tom,” The Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture, https://www.okhistory.org/publications/enc/entry?entry=SK006.

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