In Memory Of
2020 and 2021 has been a real challenge for everyone, including all of us at Oklahoma’s International Bluegrass Festival. OIBF 2020 had to be cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic and it was hard on everyone. OIBF lost several special friends, Byron Berline and Jim Paul Blair, who were not just important to the festival itself, but to each of us who worked alongside them to create and present this wonderful event for the past 24 years. Just 2 months before Byron left us, we lost his musical partner of over 40 years and multiple bands, legendary banjo player John Hickman. They will remain in our hearts as we go forward with the festival that was so much a part of their lives. Rest well dear friends, OIBF will carry on in your honor.
Jim Paul Blair
It is with profound sadness and grief we report that our dear colleague and friend, Jim Paul Blair, passed away on February 11th, 2020 from a rare lung infection and pneumonia. He was only 58. Jim was not just a friend to OIBF, he served the festival for over 20 years as a board member, Treasurer, grant writer, tax preparer and in endless other areas. Jim was an integral and irreplaceable part of the success of OIBF. Over the years Jim also graced the stage at OIBF with The Neverly Hillbillies, Hankerin’ 4 Hank, Bonham Review and many others, and as our always surprising emcee for the Random Band Jam. He once described that task this way: “The Fun Girls just tell me the theme, dress me up and tell me what to do and I do it. It’s always a hoot. They do all the work and I just show up!” Beyond his work with OIBF Jim was the former Executive Director of the Oklahoma Music Hall of Fame and an active supporter of his community of Muskogee. His friend Cliff Casteel described Jim as, “Musician, health administrator, historian, humanitarian and columnist.” Creative, intelligent, fun loving, musically gifted, generous of spirit – all these phrases are just a few ways to describe Jim. We will miss all that he did for OIBF, but we will miss him more as a dear friend. Rest in Peace dear friend. Our hearts are with his wife, Katey and his entire family. For a bit more about Jim Paul Blair click here.
It is with a very heavy heart I must tell you that our dear friend John Hickman passed away this morning, May 11, 2021, in his sleep at his home in Guthrie, OK. His wife Sue was by his side as always. Sue says she is glad John is now free of the health issues he’s had for the past several years which had robbed him of the ability to do what he loved best, play the banjo. While John was a close friend to us, and to many, he was also a legendary banjo master whose innovative style influenced generations of players. He was also a quiet, humble man with a wry and often hysterical sense of humor that his closest friends enjoyed. He could often deliver one sentence and have everyone falling on the floor laughing. Today I picture him with my Mom, Dee Fernandez, enjoying a jam session with a lot of friends in her heavenly garage, while she cooks up a pot of spaghetti for him. Their inside joke was they always said, “don’t worry, I’ve got your back”. Rest in Peace John and pick to your heart’s content now. Here’s a picture of John in 2016 after being honored by the American Banjo Museum in Oklahoma City, with his buddy Byron Berline, me and my husband Richard. It was a great night.