Looking down the road - Mustang man building new life behind the microphone

By Traci Chapman
Published on June 7, 2008

Bob Deupree is following his heart, picking up his guitar and “living the life” of a professional musician.

“I’ve done lots of things over the years, but this is where I want to be,” he said. “My intention is just to do more and more music.”

Playing a mixture of his songs — which he describes as country and blues — and some old standards, Deupree said he has slowly evolved from a part-time writer to performing and looking down the road to a full-time career in music.

Deupree said he has been writing songs — more than a 100 of them — “for years.” He said he loves picking up his guitar and finding something new to write about.

“It always changes,” he said. “Sometimes it’s something funny and then I’ll think about an event in my past or someone in my life, and that becomes a song. It always varies.”

Although he has been writing for a long time, Deupree said he is fairly new to the performance side of the business. He said he finally realized if he wanted to “make a name” in the music business, he had to jump into those deep waters.

“I say it was like jumping in a lake, but it really was like jumping out of an aircraft the first time,” he said. “I was scared to death.”

That first jump was as a member of the Nashville Songwriters Association, he said. Five or six years ago, he said he went with a group of musicians to a Norman Borders store where they would perform gigs on Friday nights. Watching his friends, he said he knew he had to take the plunge.

“For years I never dreamed of performing, but I knew it was the only way I could really make a living at this, so there I went,” he said. “I’ve never looked back.”

Deupree said he plays “little gigs” all around — including a recent appearance at Charlie Bean in Mustang — and also has established himself as a regular at the Oklahoma State Fair and Woody Guthrie Festival in Okemah.

His association with the state fair began a few years ago, he said, when owners of the Grape Ranch in Okemah and the Blue Door, an Oklahoma City club, turned the daytime entertainment over to him. In addition to performing, Deupree said he also books other acts and organizes the event over 11 days.

“It just sort of happened,” he said. “Here I am right in the middle of the mix all of a sudden. I’m the host, I set the stage set up and am just there from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m., and I perform a lot. It’s a great time.”

Deupree has become a staple at the Woody Guthrie Festival, keeping an “open mike” going for 3 ½ days, performing and interacting with other musicians.

“I set up at Lou’s Rocky Road Tavern. It’s a big old fenced in back yard with a little stage there,” he said. “Saturday morning it’s the main venue in town with a pancake breakfast. Big names all show up, including Woody Guthrie’s sister if she’s healthy enough,” he said.

“Here are these incredibly talented people who show up from all over the country, and I look around and say to myself, ‘Well, Deupree, you’re holding your own here,’” he said. “It’s really been a neat experience.”

Deupree said his music has helped him make friends all over the country. He said one of the things he likes best about it are “little extras” he can do to meet and get to know people.

“Another little deal that I’ve done that’s been a fun deal at the festival, I just take a cheapy camera and take their picture. I’ll take the picture the next year and have people sign one for me for my collection and give them one,” he said. “It’s just added a little fun deal for me to make friends.”

The next step, Deupree said, is to pull together a CD and try to move his music forward in Nashville.

“There are a couple of people in Nashville that I keep in touch with. I’m trying to get organized to get demos to them,” he said. I’m also trying to get a CD together. The closest thing I’ve got is some live performance right now from the Woody Fest. I’m trying to combine that — 10 songs, just me and my guitar playing live — with some stuff I’m doing in the studio.”

Deupree and his brothers have been long-time Mustang residents. After attending high school in Putnam City, Deupree said he went to the University of Oklahoma on a wrestling scholarship, competing on a national championship team.

After a varied career “doing a little bit of everything,” Deupree said he specialized in hauling restaurant equipment for about 18 to 20 years. He said he enjoyed that business, but “now’s the time” to take a run at a full-time musical career.

The best thing about pursuing his dream, he said, is when he can connect with someone in the audience.

When people enjoy my little performance, it’s usually because they can understand the lyrics. I might have worked hard to write a song and it’s great when someone says they like one of my songs, it’s worth a lot. I really get something out of it when someone comes up and says they liked what I did,” he said. “It doesn’t take much to please a songwriter.”

Deupree will perform at Charlie Bean from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. June 13.

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