Alt-country impressionist Jeremy Tepper dies at 60

Jeremy Tepper, who championed music spanning country, rock and roll during a long and varied career as a journalist, singer, record label owner and radio producer, died June 14 in Queens. , punk and general American-style anarchic, high-energy music. He is 60 years old.

His death at Elmhurst Hospital was caused by a heart attack, said his wife, musician Laura Cantrell.

Mr. Tepper, who was born in upstate New York and educated in Manhattan, is perhaps an unlikely champion of a musical style known as “alt-country” or “outlaw country,” but he prefers to call it It’s called “gear rock”—a style of music favored by long-time pop music.

Away from the big hats and ostrich-skin boots of Lower Broadway in Nashville, where one might hear music from taverns, jukeboxes, truck stops and big radios, Mr. Tepper satirically celebrated America’s greasy corners.

“It’s dragging all the truck driving music — streamlined, guitar-based country rock — onto the modern interstate,” he told Newsday in 1990.

Mr. Tepper is rig-rock’s biggest fan and biggest supporter. He has written about it for publications such as Pulse and Country Music Magazine, as well as his own magazine, Street Beat, which is dedicated to jukeboxes and the music in them.

His record label, Diesel Only, has promoted the careers of artists such as Dale Watson, Ms. Cantrell and his own band, the world-famous Blue Jays. It also released collections of truck classics from artists such as Buck Owens, Marty Stuart and Steve Earle.

“Jeremy was always happy, kind and generous with his time and energy,” said musician Jason Isbell. “Without his tireless work and curiosity, many of us would never have found our audiences.”

Mr. Tepper is best known for his roles at SiriusXM, first as a host in the early 2000s and since 2004 as a programmer, producer and overall manager of the Outlaw Country and Willie’s Roadhouse channels.

He hired musicians such as Shooter Jennings, Elizabeth Cook and Mojo Nixon as DJs, playing eclectic mixes of Jimmie Rodgers, Jerry Lee Lewis, Lucinda Williams and Old 97’s.

“Jeremy supports artists who are outside the boundaries of mainstream music,” said Emmylou Harris, another frequently rotated artist on Mr. Tepper’s channel.

A ubiquitous presence at bars, festivals and award shows, Mr. Tepper made connections and introductions, forming a community around the music he loved most.

“He was the first person to put me on Willie Nelson’s bus and introduce me to him,” musician Margo Price wrote in an email. “It was Farm Aid in 2016. I smoked Doubies with Willie for the first time, and Jeremy Tepper was the only one in the car with us.”

Over the past decade, he’s assembled many of his favorite performers for the Outlaw Country Cruise, a raucous nine-day trip to the Caribbean with 1,200 excited fans — even though no one More excited than Mr. Tepper.

“Jeremy loved music more than anyone I knew,” Mr. Earl said in an email.

Love transcends music. Mr. Tepper loved the blue-collar culture of America’s highways. While in college in the 1980s, he worked part-time for national interstate pit trade magazines, such as Main Event, about professional wrestling, and Vending Times, which focused on pinball machines, jukeboxes and various coins.

During that time, he fronted the world-famous Blue Jays, a country band born out of the anarchic fusion of punk, rock and roots music that emerged from Manhattan’s East Village in the 1980s. As Spin magazine wrote in 1992, he was “a 28-year-old giant with a voice as thick as tar.”

Their songs celebrated working-class life on the road, especially the men and women who drove 18-wheelers up and down the country.

In one song, “Good Morning, Truck Driver,” Mr. Tepper exclaims, “It’s not because I love driving — it’s the only thing I can do.”

Jeremy Evan Tepper was born on November 18, 1963 in Poughkeepsie, New York, to Elly (Zeitlin) Tepper, an artist and educator, mother Noel Tepper is a lawyer.

His passion for Americana exploded in high school, when he worked part-time at a record store while poring over his parents’ collection of country albums. Like many suburban boys in the late 1970s and early 1980s, he was drawn to the manic power of punk and post-punk music, and he found his way into the likes of Johnny Cash, Jimmie Rodgers and Hank Williams. Similar energies were found.

He studied journalism at New York University. At the time, he was editor of the trade magazines Modern Truck Stop and Vending Times, and upon graduation in 1986 he became the magazine’s senior editor.

He married Ms. Cantrell in 1997. two grandchildren from a previous relationship; his parents; and his brother Anderson.

Mr. Tepper remained a major figure in the alternative country music scene until his death. On June 12, he participated in an exhibit at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland honoring his close friend Mojo Nixon, who died in February during an Outlaw Country Tour.

He continued onstage, crouching like a punk rocker with a microphone to his mouth, belting out weird songs about flying saucers, barbecues and big gear.

“This is not a camp,” Mr. Tepper told Spin. “This is alt-country music.”

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