SIKES, JAMES RICHARD
SIKES, JAMES RICHARD (1935-2009). James Richard “Rick” Sikes, Texas musician, singer, songwriter, and artist, was born to James A. and Mary Jo (Kirby) Sikes on August 5, 1935, in Coleman, Texas. He had one sibling, Robert Gale (Bobby) Sikes.
Sikes learned to play guitar at a young age and had penned his first song, “The Bluebonnet Waltz,” by age fourteen. His early influences included Jimmie Rodgers. Sikes worked in the oilfields as a teen and performed music on weekends. He began playing in high school with his lifelong friend Dean Beard in the early 1950s. He appeared regularly on Abilene’s KRBC-AM radio on Slim Willet’s Big State Jamboree along with Beard. By the mid-1950s, each had gone their separate ways, and Sikes established his own band—Rick Sikes and the Rhythm Rebels—which included his brother Bobby Sikes on keyboard, bassist Tommy “Red Hoss” Jenkins, drummer Johnny “Preacher” Williams, Clyde Graham on steel guitar, and lead guitarists J. C. Griffin and Gary Marquis. In 1964 he had a weekly music show broadcast on KPAR- TV in Abilene. The highlight of his career came in 1968 when he was asked to back Bob Wills on tour. Bob Wills had sold the name Texas Playboys, and they were booked as Bob Wills and the Boys. Rick Sikes and the Rhythm Rebels had the honor and privilege of backing some of the biggest names in country music including Red Foley, Bobby Bare, Sonny James, Little Jimmie Dickens, Loretta Lynn, and Willie Nelson.
Sikes recorded several 45 rpm records during his career, including the 1965 release of “Give Me a Little” and his band’s unofficial theme song, “Standing Room Only When I Die.” In 1966 “Den of Sin” was released on Sims Records and charted at Number 1 in Denmark. During that same time period, “Valley of Tears,” released on Rebel Records, made the Top 10 charts in California. Sikes was apparently credited by well-known country music deejay and host Ralph Emery as recording and producing (with Dean Beard) the first known country trumpet solo. His music attracted a then unique mixture of cowboys and hippies long before the term “outlaw country” came into popularity.
Sikes’s music career was cut short by an arrest in 1971. He was found guilty on two counts of bank robbery and sentenced to a total of seventy-five years in prison. Bassist Tommy Jenkins was also sentenced to prison.
While incarcerated in Leavenworth Penitentiary, Sikes formed a band called Rick Sikes and the Survivors. He then advocated for a recording studio that prisoners could access to record their music and send it out to the free world. He was granted permission to create the facility with no funding provided for the project from the federal prison system. Through a connection with Sikes’s friend, King of the Hobos “Steam Train” Maury, the Peavey Corporation donated equipment for the project and a fully operational studio was built. Sikes received local recognition for the accomplishment through a newspaper interview with the Kansas City Star. A featured article in the Leavenworth Times noted that the first record was about to be released from the penitentiary studio. As far as is known, it was the only recording studio inside prison walls. Sikes wrote many songs while in prison, including “From the Bottle to the Needle.”
Sikes was released from prison in August 1985, and he returned to Coleman, Texas, where on August 24, 1985, he married Janice Kay Smith. He owned his own business, Sikes Signs, in Coleman. His second music career began in 2000 when he appeared at the Sons of Hermann Hall in Dallas for a memorial event for the late Roxy Gordon, who had encouraged his return to the stage. He was featured in the January 2001 issue of Texas Monthly in an article titled “Outlaw Country.” As a result of that story, he was approached by Aardvark Brothers Recording Studio in Abilene to record a full-length CD. Etchings In Stone was released in 2003. Sikes received the 2003 Special Achievement Recognition Award from the West Texas Music Hall of Fame, where he and his brother are listed as West Texas Music Pioneers. His album Redemption was released in 2006.
At the time of his passing on May 1, 2009, he had established a music store and recording studio, known as RiJan, in Coleman, where he continued to write and record music. He also designed and produced custom guitars. A compilation CD, Rick Sikes & The Rhythm Rebels—Early Recordings, was released in 2013.
Josh Alan Friedman, Tell the Truth Until They Bleed: Coming Clean in the Dirty World of Blues and Rock ’n’ Roll (New York: Hal Leonard Corporation, 2008). Josh Alan Friedman, “Outlaw Country,” Texas Monthly, January 2001. Kansas City (Missouri) Times, September 18, 1982. Leavenworth (Kansas) Times, February 27, 1978. Rick Sikes: From the rowdy honkytonks To a Texas legend (http://ricksikes.com/), accessed November 6, 2013. Time, September 13, 1982. West Texas Music Hall of Fame: Pioneers, Sidemen & Lesser Known Artists (www.westexmusichof.com), accessed November 6, 2013.
The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.Janice Sikes, "SIKES, JAMES RICHARD," Handbook of Texas Online (http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fsi65), accessed April 16, 2014. Uploaded on November 20, 2013. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.