Guitarist Steve Ripley, who served bandleader and producer for country group the Tractors, died at his home in Pawnee, Okla., on Thursday (Jan. 3) after a battle with cancer. He was 69 years old.

Ripley, who died just two days after his birthday, was born on Jan. 1, 1950, and grew up in small-town Oklahoma. Early on in his life, Ripley began to take influence from powerful musical memories of his family members' car radios, including his dad singing along to Bob Wills' "Roly Poly" and his aunt blasting Elvis Presley's "Heartbreak Hotel" when he was six years old. A voracious musicology enthusiast, Ripley explored the intersection of music and culture throughout his life, notably in his radio series, Oklahoma Rock & Roll, which traversed the state's hefty musical contributions to American pop culture.

At the same time, he began playing in bands as a high schooler and helped found the Tractors in the late '80s. The group signed to Arista Records in 1994, putting out their debut single and biggest hit, "Baby Likes to Rock It," that same year. The group went on to release a substantial body of work over their multi-decade tenure as a band. In addition to his work with the group, Ripley also played guitar for iconic artists such Bob Dylan, Leon Russell, JJ Cale, Roy Clark, Johnnie Lee Wills and more.

In 1987, Ripley and his family moved back to Oklahoma, where Ripley became the owner of the Church Studio, the recording venue which Russell had owned in the '70s. There, Ripley produced seven Tractors records as well as a solo project, Ripley, in addition to hosting a slew of other recording artists and even mentoring younger musicians who worked there, such as then-fledgling Oklahoma boy band Hanson.

"Knowing and working with Steve was a pleasure," says the group's Isaac Hanson in a press release. "Whether we were recording, mixing or simply sharing our love for great music, Steve was a wealth of knowledge and a source of encouragement. Steve will always be to me, to all of us, a beloved friend, and an immense musical talent gone too soon."

Ripley is survived by his wife Charlene, as well as two children and two siblings. Funeral details have not been announced.

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