Keep it Positive – JP Blair inducted into the Oklahoma Music Hall of Fame

Jim Paul Blair’s wife, Katey, accepts his induction into the OK Music Hall of Fame – photo © Pamm Tucker

The Class of 2022 Induction Ceremony and Concert for the Oklahoma Music Hall of Fame was held in the Muskogee Civic Center on November 11. Inductees this year were: Wade Hayes, The Turnpike Troubadours, and Bluegrass legend, Jim Paul Blair, known by those close to him as JP. Earlier inductees were Harley Hamm (Funky Spirit Award), Ronald Boren (OMHOF Governor’s Award 2022), and Cliff Casteel (Above and Beyond Award 2022).

Jim Paul Blair (1961-2020) was born in Odessa TX, but he was a true Okie in his heart. He attended college at Oklahoma State University, Stillwater (majoring in accounting), however by night and anytime he had the chance, JP would be found doing what he truly loved, which was playing music. While at OSU, Jim was a member of Student Entertainers, and played alongside his sister Karen and Garth. Yes, that Garth, Garth Brooks. In 1984, graduating with his accounting degree, Blair was playing bluegrass with The Red Valley Barnstormers. 

Jim’s music was influenced by his mother, Ramona Reed, a Bob Wills Texas Playgirl, who sang with Bob’s band and is also a member of the OMHOF. He was born with the music in his blood, and it was apparent everywhere he went.

Blair was probably a rarity as he worked with numbers by day, and played the banjo, guitar, and sang on evenings and weekends. Jim held the title of CFO of the Rehab Group in Nashville, at the age of 28. This only fed more into his hunger for music, and he was an original member of The Neverly Brothers and the Neverly HIllbillies. In 1998, Jim returned to Oklahoma and became one of the most passionate Okies from Muskogee. 

Blair traveled Europe with City Moon, performed as Hank in a tribute band called Hankering for Hank, and also performed as Buddy Holly. A body of work combining music and philanthropy overlapped in ways that changed his local community, and extended music family for the better.

In November 2021, Blair’s final project was released posthumously, after a lung infection took him at only 58 years of age. Legacy was a project brought to fruition through the efforts of Jim Paul’s widow, Katey, and his daughters, Jessica, Valerie, and Cassidy. JP’s tracks were supplemented by other area musicians, and the final album was mixed and mastered by his family.

I went to social media and asked which song I should highlight with this article. John M. Cooper, of the Red Dirt Rangers, Jean Wiles, Virgil Bonham, and several others suggested White Freightliner Blues.   

Another noteworthy track, El Camino Katey, was written by JP about he and his wife’s dream of owning one of Chevrolet’s iconic coupé/utility vehicles. Gary Thomson owns the car that is on the cover of Legacy, which also helped inspire the song.

Katey shared of this one

It was written about me, and the El Camino belongs to Gary Thomson. We had been looking to buy an El Camino together, but Gary wasn’t selling. He offered to let us use it in a photo shoot for the album cover, but Jim and I never got to buy an El Camino together. 

He had wanted to add another song to the album that was an original written by him, and he stayed up almost all night when he wrote it. He asked me to go on to bed because he had a burning song in his heart he had to write. He wrote the lyrics and composed it that night, then performed it on a Thursday night at the Oklahoma Music Hall of Fame. I was totally surprised. The lyrics are sweet and funny just like Jim.”

Katey described her late husband perfectly from the Hall of Fame podium when she said, “Jim was a unicorn, a magical human. He was beloved by everyone who knew him.”

She also recalled his favorite saying, one we should all live by: “Keep it positive.”

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About the Author

Pamm Tucker

Growing up in Oklahoma, music runs throughout Pamm Tucker's veins. Her earliest memory of music is standing beside her Grandma's upright, singing. "Trust in The Lord". Little did the 5 year old realize that this was the foundation of things to come. Being very active in 4-H, Pamm was elected as reporter at the age of 9 and held this position for many years. Taking extensive journalism marketing and free-lance writing classes while attending college helped to spark her interest in being a journalist. Her skills helped her acquire the position of journalist for the Northern Oklahoma college school newspaper. An Oklahoma native and no stranger to music, she has performed with the likes of Lulu Roman, Jean Shepherd, Willie Nelson, Tanya Tucker (no relation) Gene Watson and Charlie McClain just to name a few. Even today you can find her tapping her foot to every genre of music.