Joseph Allen Carr

June 22, 1951December 14, 2014
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Joe Carr was a talented musician, songwriter, and superb guitar, mandolin, and fiddle player, as well as an author and a music professor at the commercial music program at South Plains College in Levelland, Texas. Joe had been living with Multiple Sclerosis for many years, but he was always joyous and exceedingly funny. He died quietly in his wife’s arms from a stroke, after entering the hospital with an infection. Originally from Denton, Texas, Joe performed with Texas bands Roanoke in the 1970s and Country Gazette in the 1970s, 80s, and early 90s. He moved to Levelland in 1984 to teach at South Plains College and served for many years as the director of Camp Bluegrass. Friends of Joe Carr will always remember his irrepressible sense of humor, characterized by comic one-liners and word switches. Joe once said about his adopted home: “Levelland, Texas is the truth-in-advertising capital of West Texas.” For 30 years Joe was, to SPC students, like Johnny Appleseed, planting musical inspiration. Joe Carr was the author of many instructional books and videos for mandolin, western swing guitar, flat-picking guitar, banjo, and ukelele for Mel Bay Publications and Texas Music and Video. He was coauthor (with former South Plains colleague Alan Munde) of the 1996 Prairie Nights to Neon Lights: The Story of Country Music in West Texas and a two-man musical comedy called Two Swell Guys from Texas. Joe was a regular columnist for Flatpicking Guitar Magazine and Mandolin Magazine and frequently contributed to Fiddler Magazine. He also edited Mel Bay’s webzine “Mandolin Sessions.” He was an IBMA Distinguished Award recipient. Memorial services will be at 2 p.m. Friday, December 19, at South Plains College in the Sundown Room, 1401 College Ave., Levelland. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to: Joe Carr and Alan Munde Scholarship, South Plains College Foundation, 1401 College Ave., Levelland, TX 79336.



  • Memorial Service Friday, December 19, 2014


  • Officiating

Joseph Allen Carr

have a memory or condolence to add?

George Byrnes

January 19, 2015

Paula and family, It's been over ten years since I last attended Camp Bluegrass. In the intervening years whenever I'd see anyone who knew Joe, I would ask how he was doing. What a blessing his life has been to so many of us. Always in our hearts.

Sheryl Sultenfuss

January 16, 2015

I can remember the first time at Camp Bluegrass when Joe came out to speak to everyone. Humor spewed from him non-stop. If he let his illness get him down he didn't show it and was always an inspiration through his talent as well as his attitude. He will live on in so many lives that he touched. I hope Paula and the rest of his family can take some solace in this. My deepest condolences.

Dillon Edwards

January 11, 2015

I was a student of Joe's this last semester. I took his masters of bluegrass course at SPC and I'll be honest, I didn't pay attention much but I loved it when he'd tell a little story about the days when he played with Country Gazzette. His eyes would light up and he'd put on a smile. Joe also gave me my first chance at being in an ensemble. I was talking with Steve Williams and had just finished telling him that I had given up trying to get into an ensemble when Joe rolled around the corner saying he'd needed a drummer. Very sarcastically and without hesitation, I said I could do it but it wasn't going to be great! He looked at me and said well let's go! After improvise a beat on the drum set, I looked at him and after a couple minutes, he said well... You're the only thing I've got so you're in. The whole semester I didn't think that Id gotten any better but after our final practice before our fest week show, Joe told me that he was very glad I had joined and that he'd loved watching me learn and grow on an instrument I was unfamiliar with. One of my fondest memories from every rehearsal was when is ask joe for a joke of the day and he'd come up with some random thing that always made the whole band laugh. I think that was probably the best gift he could have given us all. I wish I had gotten to know him more but with the time that I did have, I came to love the man. Thank you Joe for believing in me and giving me a shot. I hope you're having fun teaching Angels bluegrass. I'll see ya when I see Ya.

Coy Holley

December 21, 2014

I personally had the privilege as part of my SPC music studies in both sides of the music fence (both on the Country/Bluegrass side as well as the more traditional side of music) to have had the distinguished Mr. Carr as one of my Country Ensemble instructors. From him as well as others in the department, I learned that even though sax is not normally considered a “country” instrument, there's still a place for it in the music industry somewhere. Joe was one of those who reminded me above all else that music above all else should be fun... I literally didn't even know about the memorial service ‘til I was supposed to come in for of all things an interview on my recently released books on Amazon with Stephanie Smith in Alumni Development--and I'm glad she did let me know that this was going on. Even though I only got to attend a portion of it because I had to get back home to go to work, I'm at least glad even if I didn't get to see him much after I graduated from SPC that I was able to be personally present for the special service.

There were a couple of things about the day that stood out to me most about our remembrance of Joe on Fri.--(1.) As the pictures flashed across the screen in the Sundown Room of Joe's life, this note stood out in my mind--”Dear Joe--In honor of your memory, we'll never forget to laugh.” Then later on, I actually saw this as an article in Yahoo! News and clicked onto a link that told a very interesting story that would directly relate to this:

After reading the above story on the Web and the unique image it portrayed, I could only think about one thing--”Only Joe Carr could understand something like this...” As this well-known bluegrass anthem plays out from the bell towers, I say this--Rest, pick, and continue to play well, my good man--and shabbat shalom....see you in His Kingdom!

Coy Reece Holley (SPC Alumni 1989)

Eddie Collins

December 17, 2014

Music and humor always went hand in hand. Thanks for sharing your many gifts, especially with all the young talent that passed through your music program.

Susan Dailey

December 17, 2014

"Joe was a huge inspiration to me as a mandolin player; he was a wonderful musician, entertainer, teacher and person! I am so fortunate to have had the opportunity to study with him and get to know him. My time at South Plains College and for many years at Camp Bluegrass; Joe and his family were very supportive and encouraging to me as a musician, teacher and artist, and literally took me in. I know he touched many people in this way and will live on in our hearts, and through his musical legacy as a bright shining star!"

Rees Evans

December 17, 2014

In addition to being a superb musician, Joe was a quick-witted, funny guy who made life better for everybody around him. He'll be sorely missed.

Gary Franks

December 17, 2014

I only have known Joe through Camp Bluegrass. One of the pleasures about going to Camp Bluegrass was always being welcomed by Joe at registration. His friendly face, big smile and jokes always made the long trip to Levelland worth it. His humor and talent will be missed.
My deepest condolences to Paula and his family. He loved yall very very much.
Adios Joe, rest in peace.....

Rusty & Schahara Hudelson

December 17, 2014

A great friend, band member, and teaching colleague for so many years, we are already missing this wonderful man. So thankful that he came our way.

Cara Cooke

December 17, 2014

I have always considered myself fortunate to have ever come to know Joe, his family, and his many friends. A great musician, I enjoyed listening to him and playing with him. He was, also, one of the finest teachers I have ever met – encouraging, even if you couldn't be encouraged; supportive, even if there was little hope of success; and ever, ever so patient. There are many, who might have been discouraged otherwise, whose lives were enriched by music because he was their teacher. When I attended Camp Bluegrass, one of my goals was to learn some piece of what seemed to come so naturally to him – that ability to communicate what he knew in a non-intimidating way with indescribable patience. It does not come naturally to me, so I am much better for having known him. I loved his humor, his ideas, his talents, his music, and his family and friends; and I have missed not being able to see him or them during these last many summers. Words often seem inadequate in moments like these, but my greatest sympathies and prayers go to his family. Know that Joe was one of the richest people I have ever known (in all things that really count).