Jeremy Tepper, SiriusXM’s ‘Outlaw Country’ Chief, Dies at 60

Jeremy Tepper, a musician, journalist, executive, program director of SiriusXM’s “Outlaw Country” channel and for decades a leading light of the Americana/ alt-country movement, died Friday of a heart attack. Singer Laura Cantrell, Tepper’s wife of 27 years, confirmed the news on social media. He was 60.

“Lost my good friend Jeremy Tepper last night,” Steven Van Zandt, guitarist in Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band and founder of “Underground Garage,” parent platform of Tepper’s radio show, wrote on social media Saturday. “An incredibly tragic loss so young. He ran my Outlaw Country station on SiriusXM brilliantly. It is actually quite a complicated format and he made it look easy. Our deepest love and condolences to Laura and his family and friends.”

Tepper, far left, with Willie Nelson and producer Buddy Cannon in 2017. (Photo by Jason Davis/Getty Images for SiriusXM)
Jason Davis

A native of New York State, Tepper was a music lifer. He was frontman of the band World Famous Blue Jays, co-founded the Diesel Only record label in 1990, and worked extensively as a journalist and editor for music publications, becoming editor of the Journal of Country Music and as a country music critic for Pulse! Magazine. He joined Sirius as format manager for Sirius Satellite Radio’s Outlaw Country channel in 2004, beginning a two-decade stint at the satellite radio service that also saw him working with the “Willie’s Roadhouse” and “Road Dog Trucking” channels. He also helped book and organize the annual Outlaw Country Cruise.

Launched by Tepper as a vehicle for his band’s music, Diesel Only’s profile rose significantly in 1996 with the release of the compilation “Big Rig Deluxe,” featuring songs by Marty Stuart, Buck Owens, and Steve Earle. Initially focused on the strain of country sometimes called “trucker music,” the label released dozens of albums over the course of its 15-year run by artists including Cantrell, Dale Watson, Amy Allison, Ween, Will Rigby, Tammy Faye Starlite and many others.

In 1996, journalist Peter Blackstone wrote of the label, “Jeremy Tepper has established himself as a unique and indispensable cog in the alt-country underground.”

Yet his greatest impact was unquestionably from “Outlaw Country,” which is described on its home page as “No borders, no b.s.— from country’s roots and legends to today’s outsiders that just won’t be fenced in.” Tepper was one of that genre’s leading crusaders for more than two decades. Earlier this year, singer and Tepper’s SiriusXM colleague Mojo Nixon passed away after a performance on the Outlaw Country Cruise.

Tepper is survived by Cantrell, who he married in 1997, and their daughter, Bella.

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