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The Silver Spotlight - October 2011 - Red Steagall

Q & A with the “Great American Storyteller” and western heritage legend, Red Steagall.


Q: Red, thank you so much for your time. Before we get started, if any of our readers are discovering Red Steagall for the first time, name five of your favorite tracks from your songwriting or recording catalog they should go download right now.

A: Dreaming Of When The Grass Was Still Deep, The Wagon Tongue, Freckles Brown, Dawson Legate, Here We Go Again.


Q: This year you released an album titled “Dreamin’ Of…When The Grass Was Still Deep”. After releasing almost 25 albums, how has your approach to songwriting and recording evolved?

A:  In the early days of my recording career I concentrated on writing songs that would be played on the radio.  After my release of “For All Our Cowboy Friends” in 1977, I simply started writing and recording for myself.  That’s how we got to this point with cowboys songs and poetry. 


Q: You were stricken with polio while you were a teenager. Rumor has it that you took up guitar as a form of physical therapy for your arms and hands. Was this how you got into music, and in some ways do you consider the disease a blessing given the career you have had and the people it has brought into your life?

A: In 1954 polio was a devastating and debilitating disease.  At first I thought my life was over but then after seeing polio patients in the iron lung ward I realized that I had an entire life ahead that may be different from everyone else but could still be productive.  I am so proud that the saulk vaccine was in full use in January of 1955 and the world today does not have to be afraid of polio.  I do consider the disease a blessing because it made me realize that I could do anything that I wanted to, I just might not do it like my neighbor.


Q: One of the things you are known for is the discovery of superstar Reba McEntire while you worked at Mercury Records. Her talent was undeniable, but what other traits did she have in those early years that made you confident of her imminent commercial success?

A:  The first time I saw Reba McEntire I, of course, was impressed with her voice and the way she controlled everything about it.  But i also found a very warm, personable, sincere, and honest human being that captivated everyone’s attention and made every single person feel as if they were Reba’s best friend.  She’s an amazing human being. 


Q: In your book “Cowboy Corner Conversations”, you share some of your favorite interviews from your radio show with the likes of Roy Rogers, Rex Allen, Ben Johnson, Reba McEntire and many more. Can you tell us what one of your favorite experiences was from your time doing that show?

A:  My radio show, cowboy corner, is an unbelievable blessing for me.  I get to record the stories of the most wonderful people and preserve them for posterity.  All of the interviews that I do are very special to me because each person has a particular role in the preservation and perpetuation of our beloved western lifestyle.  I couldn’t pick out a favorite.  I’m proud of all of them.


Q: When you look back at your long career I’d have to assume that performing at the White House for President Reagan and other heads of state in 1983 would have been one of the greatest honors imaginable. What was that night like? Did you get the opportunity to converse with the president or first lady?

A:  It was an unbelievable experience to perform for President Reagan at the White House.  I visited with him for a brief period of time out on the lawn.  Mrs. Reagan was upstairs in the residence and was not feeling good so i didn’t get to meet her on that trip.  However, my wife and I were invited to the George W. Bush White House for a dinner honoring Prince Charles and Camilla.  I had the pleasure of being seated with Mrs. Reagan.  I found her to be very pleasant and a very gracious lady.  A visit to the White House is always a memorable experience.


Q: You’ve been putting on your “Cowboy Gathering” annually now for 21 years. What is the Red Steagall Cowboy Gathering and what inspired the concept?

A:  The Red Steagall cowboy gathering celebrates the life of the men and women who make their living horseback providing beef for the dinner tables of America.  We celebrate their music, their poetry, their skills, and their horsemanship.  It all came about 22 years ago when a group of us decided that the north side of Fort Worth in old Cowtown would be the perfect spot to celebrate the cowboy.  The event was named for me and I have a wonderful staff and support group that makes it work.  We’re very proud of our event and encourage everyone to join us October 21-23 in the historic stockyards district of Fort Worth, Texas.


Q: Who are some of your favorite entertainers that have performed at the gathering over the years?

A: We have showcased Asleep At The Wheel, Waddie Mitchell, Baxter Black, Sons of the San Joaquin, Riders In The Sky, Don Edwards, The Quebe Sisters, Jean Prescott, Dan Roberts, R. W. Hampton, Andy Wilkinson, The Late Great Buck Ramsey, just to name a few.  They’re all my favorites and my special friends.


Q: Is there anything in particular about the gathering that you look forward to most?

A: I look forward to the gathering in general, not anything in particular unless I singled out the fact that i get to see dear friends that I don’t come in contact with all year long.  Over the past 21 years, relationships have been made and progressed to the point that it’s almost like a large family reunion for a great number of our participants and spectators. 


Q: You were inducted into the Hall of Great Westerners at the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum, which puts you in the company of heroes like Will Rogers, Teddy Roosevelt, Charles Goodnight and Charlie Russell. Do you have a western hero of your own who you have tried to model your life after?

A:  I have always admired people who are honest, have integrity, are self sufficient and trust worthy.  In my life I have had several role models.  I always wanted to play music like Bob Wills.  Two of my dear friends were Jim Reeves and Tex Ritter.  They probably influenced my music career more than anyone else.  I have been very fortunate to come in contact with some of most talented and influential people in all walks of life.  Folks like; John Justin, Jr., Richard Farnsworth, Rex Allen, Ben Johnson, J.J. Gibson, Jimmy Wakely, Wilford Brimley, Ernest Borgnine, just to name a few.  If I were to select the two people who stirred my imagination and made me want to be a part of the western movement it would have to be Charles Goodnight and Quanah Parker.  I would sit on the bluffs along the Canadian River and one day I would be going up the trail with goodnight and the next day I’d fight the “white eyes” with Quanah.  Because of who they were and what they accomplished, these two men will always be my real heroes. 


Q: Your career has so many different components. You are a songwriter, a recording artist, a television & radio personality, a music executive, a producer, a poet…the list goes on and on. In 100 years when people look up the name Red Steagall, what do you want to be remembered for?

A: I would like to know that I was a good friend for the people who considered me a friend, that folks will remember that I endeavored to be as honest as possible in every situation, that I loved my family and close associates and proud of each and every one of them, that my wife Gail will always know that she came first in my decision making process and with my love, and last, I would like to know that I contributed something to America’s literature whether poetic or musical that will have a life long after I’m gone.   I’m the luckiest human being on earth and I feel extremely blessed and fortunate.


The Red Steagall Cowboy Gathering and Western Swing Festival will be held October 21-23 at the historic Fort Worth Stockyards. For more info please visit