Oklahoma musician, entertainer Jim Paul Blair dies at 58

By Jimmie Tramel/The Tulsa World - February 12, 2020 12:01 pm

Muskogee civic leader Jim Paul Blair, a musician and entertainer who once served as executive director of the Oklahoma Music Hall of Fame, has died. He was 58.

Blair was born into the music scene. He was the son of Ramona Reed, a Grand Ole Opry performer and Texas Playboys member who was inducted into the Oklahoma Music Hall of Fame in 2009.

When Blair was a child, it was common for him to hang out in his mother’s hotel room with Bob Wills and members of the Texas Playboys, according to an Oklahoma Magazine story about Blair and Reed.

Blair embraced his destiny and became a multi-instrumentalist and vocalist. Former Tulsa World entertainment writer John Wooley once wrote that Blair’s bluegrass banjo is “so hot he can fry eggs on it.”

After graduating from Clayton High School, Blair attended Oklahoma State University, where he played in a bluegrass band, the Red Valley Barnstormers. The lineup sometimes included Garth Brooks.

“I met him through my sister,” Blair said in 2003. “He was a year behind me in college, and he called me out of the blue one day, introduced himself and asked if I wanted to jam. I said ‘sure,’ and he was at my door in about five minutes. He lived in Iba Hall and I was in Bennett, and I said ‘Boy, you must drive fast.’ He said, ‘I ran.’”

Blair said they ended up playing until dawn “and he ended up doing some things with our band from time to time. The biggest thing we did together was opening for the New Grass Revival at Horse Thief Canyon in Perkins back in September of ‘84. One of our guys couldn’t make it, and Garth filled in. We had a blast that night.”

After about 10 years of playing in bands in Stillwater and Oklahoma City, Blair moved to Nashville in 1989 and became an original member of the Neverly Brothers and the Neverly Hillbillies. He returned to Oklahoma in 1998 and played many styles of music with an assortment of bands. He toured Europe with the country band City Moon.

Jim Paul Blair as Hank Williams Sr. in “Hankerin’ for Hank” at The Poncan Theater, Aug. 16, 2010.

Blair has played in the Hank Williams tribute band Hankerin’ 4 Hank, which performed at The Poncan Theatre  and he played Buddy Holly in Muskogee Little Theatre’s production of “The Buddy Holly Story.”

Blair again portrayed Holly during Jana Jae’s annual music festival last June in Grove.

In a Facebook post after Blair’s death, Jae described the loss as a “heartbreaker.”

Blair died from complications as a result of a recent illness. On Feb. 2, he posted this on Facebook: “I think this is the greatest challenge I have ever faced in my life. Keep it positive!”

 

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