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With the band

Tom Skinner’s Skyline Music Festival returns to support musicians in need

Scott Evans, Mike McClure and Paul Benjaman (right to left) perform at Mercury Lounge at Tom Skinner’s Skyline Music Festival in 2018.

Katie Dale

“It’s been said musicians don’t have insurance—they host benefits.” That’s how the Red Dirt Relief Fund (RDRF) frames their mission to help vulnerable musicians in times of need. Since 2012, the 501(c)3 non-profit has offered financial relief to help Oklahomans in the music-making business through emergency situations ranging from chronic illness to natural disasters. 

Local musician Paul Benjaman is one of the many artists thankful for the RDRF. “They are a support system intact for those who have spent night after night providing the music that facilitates a life worth living in our state,” he said.

Tom Skinner’s Skyline Music Festival, one of the biggest RDRF fundraisers of the year, returns to Tulsa on Aug. 18. For one night, more than 40 artists will take over Tulsa’s SoBo district for a celebration that’s a regular who’s-who in Oklahoma roots music. 

“There’s some honky tonk, soul, blues, a little funk mixed in there. If you want a taste of what Oklahoma music really has to offer. It’s a great chance to do that because it is such a varied line up,” RDRF executive director Katie Dale said.

The lineup may be varied, but the festival centers around the late Tom Skinner, who passed away in 2015, and his contribution to the Tulsa sound. “[He] was such a fixture in Tulsa and really inspired, mentored and influenced so many songwriters,” Dale said. “And this was his home …  it just made sense that we should honor him because he’s such an influence.” 

Performing in Skinner’s honor is meaningful to musicians like Benjaman, who will be closing out the night with Randy Crouch & the Flying Horse Band at The Shrine. “Tom Skinner blazed his own trail,” he said. “He created the Science Project at a time when there wasn’t a strong songwriter scene in Tulsa. Through his kindness and songwriting style that examined the hard truths of life, he fostered a scene that continues on to this day.”

Skinner even inspired the fest’s VIP brunch, hosted at Burn Co. BBQ, which draws from the gospel set he performed Sundays at the Stone River Music Festival in Chandler. Now in its second year, the brunch helps offset the cost of the general festival—and with John Fullbright on board to perform this time around, tickets are going fast.

“We want everyone to be able to experience the joy of this kind of family reunion and celebration of Tom,” Dale said. But even if you’re not steeped in Tulsa music history, Dale urges you to come out to the festival and see what it’s all about.

“I promise you’ll be surprised,” she said. “I promise you’ll fall in love with a new sound or a new musician, you’ll have new music that you wanna go home and listen to, and you’ll probably make a few friends along the way.” 

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Tom Skinner’s 
Skyline Music Festival
Sunday, Aug. 18, 12:30-10:15 p.m.
Burn Co. BBQ, 1738 S. Boston Ave. 
Venue Shrine, 112 E. 18th St. 
Mercury Lounge, 1747 S. Boston Ave.
$12 advance / $20 day of show / $50 VIP