Jimmy LaFave

His songwriting is as good as his voice, and his musical taste, with his affinity for reinterpreting Woody Guthrie, Bob Dylan, and Neil Young, is impeccable. This well-loved, accomplished artist is not forgotten by those whose lives he touched with his music and love.

Jimmy grew up in Texas and Oklahoma, bought his first guitar with his mother’s green stamps, and became a major force in the Austin music scene in the early 1990s. “In Oklahoma,” he says, “you hear the word tribe a lot because of all the different Indian tribes, and I thought, What tribe of people am I part of? It was always the night people.” His album The Night Tribe pays tribute to “the all night waitresses, the 24-hour truck stop attendant, the after midnight radio host, creative, restless insomniacs up all hours of the night searching for the truth.

Austin City Limits was saddened to learn of the death of singer/songwriter Jimmy LaFave at the age of 61 after a yearlong battle with spindle cell sarcoma. The longtime Austin mainstay appeared on the show in 1996 as part of our Season 21.

Born in Wills Point, Texas, LaFave came of musical age in Stillwater, Oklahoma as part of a collective of songwriters who helped develop what’s now known as “Red Dirt music.” After relocating to Austin in the early 90s, LaFave became known for a sound the magazine Folk and Music Exchange rightly called “reminiscent of the Dust Bowl heritage of Woody Guthrie, the early rock of Chuck Berry, the quiet folk reflections of Bob Dylan, and the rock anthems of Bruce Springsteen.” He recorded several albums featuring his gritty voice and poignant songs over the course of his two-plus decades in Austin, including Austin Skyline, Highway Trance, Buffalo Return to the Plains, Depending On the Distance and his most recent LP The Night Tribe, named after his long-running band. LaFave gave an emotional farewell concert at Austin’s Paramount Theater on May 18, surrounded by his friends, family and peers, passing peacefully at home three days later. May he rest in peace.


“Jimmy LaFave has one of America’s greatest voices. It’s a unique instrument, with startling range and its own peculiar sense of gravity, liable to swoop in and wreck your expectations at any instant.”
Grammy-winning music writer Dave Marsh
The Night Tribe captures Jimmy’s vocal and songwriting strengths better than any album in his storied catalog, now 17 strong,”
– Elmore Magazine
“Clearly, Jimmy LaFave has crafted his masterpiece…although the same might have been said of several of his other releases up until this point.”
– PopMatters
“[ Jimmy ] sings with conviction about the things that matter in life, and the results are profound.”
– The Morton Report


I was so thrilled and honored to receive the First Annual Restless Spirit Award last night in Stillwater, Oklahoma. And I was doubly blessed when I learned that today I will be one of the June 14th 2017 inductees into the Oklahoma Music Hall Of Fame. Other members of the Hall Of Fame include Woody Guthrie, J.J. Cale, Leon Russell, Merle Haggard and Jim Keltner! To be enshrined along with them is beyond words. Oklahoma sure knows how to make a guy feel special.
— Jimmy LaFave
photo by Scott Nelson

photo by Scott Nelson