Sirius XM “Outlaw Channel” Chief Jeremy Tepper Passes

As a musician, journalist, label owner, and one of the most important people involved in connecting independent country fans with the music they want to hear, it’s going to be hard for the music community to get over the sudden and tragic loss of Jeremy Tepper. It will be even harder to fill his shoes.

Jeremy Tepper was the Program Director behind Sirius XM’s Outlaw Country channel since 2004, not to mention Willie’s Roadhouse and the Road Dog Trucking channel. For 20 years, Tepper was critical to giving a national format to many artists in independent country and Americana that otherwise might not have one. Tepper wasn’t just a figurehead. He was a hands-on curator who also helped book and organize the annual Outlaw Country Cruise.

Jeremy Tepper wore many hats, and lived many lives in the music realm throughout his career. What was a constant was his commitment to try and get cool music to the people.

Jeremy Tepper’s original passion was truck driving country music, or what he liked to call “rig-rock.” He fronted a band called the World Famous Blue Jays, and in 1990, founded the record label Diesel Only Records in Brooklyn, New York. The impetus behind the label was to revitalize and maintain a vital legacy in country music by producing 45’s for truck stop juke boxes, compilations of truck driving songs, and giving a label home to artists that specialized in this country subgenre, or that were overlooked in the New York area.

The label worked mostly in obscurity until they released a compilation in 1996 called Big Rock Deluxe that included songs by Marty Stuart, Buck Owens, and Steve Earle that became popular in underground and alt-country circles. Dale Watson, Ween, and Amy Allison all released albums on the label, as did Laura Cantrell, who Tepper would marry in 1997.

During this time, Jeremy Tepper also worked as a journalist, including as the managing editor of Vending Times, and later the jukebox trade journal Street Beat. It was understanding the business of juke boxes that allowed Diesel Only Records to work. He also worked as an editor for the Journal of Country Music and a country writer for Pulse!, which was published by Tower Records. As the internet emerged, he also worked with, which was an early MP3 distributor.

When E Street Band member and actor Steven Van Zandt started the XM Outlaw Country Channel in 2001, bringing Tepper on as a host made sense. As “DJ RigRocker,” Tepper hosted the 6 a.m. to noon shift. When Van Zandt transitioned to executive producer of the channel in 2004, Tepper officially took over as the format manager.

Tepper continued to live in Queens County, New York. He’d spent most of his life in the New York area. He was a graduate of New York University, and his father had been a lawyer in Poughkeepsie, New York.

On June 14th, wife Laura Cantell posted on social media, “I am heartbroken to share the news of the passing of my husband, Jeremy Tepper, who died suddenly today of a heart attack here in Jackson Heights. Jeremy was an amazing, unique person, a loving father, son, brother, and friend who was close with so many of you, especially his many friends in the music world. We will share more soon about plans to celebrate his life, but we are devastated by this unimaginable loss and ask for privacy and time to grieve.”

Jeremy Tepper is also survived by his daughter Bella. He was 60 years old.

“Lost my good friend Jeremy Tepper last night,” Steven Van Zandt said. “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.”

The loss of Jeremy Tepper comes just a few months after Sirius XM personality Mojo Nixon also passed away.

This story has been updated.

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