(CSC) 1. It is great to have a visit with you. What’s the latest in your world?
Well we’re working on a television show that I’m not at liberty to talk about right now but it’s a pretty exciting project. We’re still traveling quite a bit. Our radio show continues to grow. We’re now into our sixteenth year. We’re in 180 markets nation wide and have been there over fifteen years. It’s been really doing well!
(CSC) 2. Tell me about your most recent album, “Here We Go Again.” This album features impressive duets with some of the biggest names in country music! (Charley Pride, Reba McEntire, Charlie Daniels, Larry Gatlin, Ray Benson of Asleep At the Wheel, and Toby Keith.)
The most recent album was done because we couldn’t re-record a lot of those old things that were popular with our fans in the 70’s and the late 60’s, all through the 70’s and middle 80’s. So I wanted to re-do them and I asked some of my friends to help me out. We had a great time!
(CSC) 3. Were you able to personally record the duets with each artist in the studio?
No. I did a couple of them but mostly I did my vocals in the studio and then we’d just send them a CD and they put it in a computer and away we went! It’s definitely not like it used to be.
(CSC) 4. Out of all the careers you’ve held (music industry executive, recording artist, songwriter, accomplished poet, television and motion picture personality), where do you feel most comfortable?
Any of it! I love it all! It’s all part and parcel of who I am. It still thrills me greatly to hear one of my songs on the radio. It still thrills me beyond reason when somebody records one of my songs. I just love everything I do! So I don’t know how to pick out one thing and say it’s more important than the rest of them.
(CSC) 5. As a young man, you took part in bull riding at the rodeos. What a thrill that must have been for you?
Well that was back when I was stupid, before my brains came in! I had a lot of fun riding bulls. I only did it for about three and a half years. Then I figured out I could make more money playing the dances than I could riding the bulls so that career was over with.
(CSC) 6. You’ve released several books consisting of your poetry and songs that embrace the western lifestyle. What is the process that goes into putting something like that together, and where did you find the inspiration to release them?
Well for years and years I wouldn’t allow myself to write poetry or to write story line songs, because they weren’t commercial. I couldn’t get them recorded. I couldn’t use them myself in commercial radio and I was a hit songwriter. That was my job as a writer, commercial songs. So I wouldn’t allow myself to resort to that type of writing at the time.
Around 1985 I discovered an art form called “Cowboy Poetry.” I started writing poems and I didn’t write a song for five years. I wrote nothing but poetry. It was a great discipline. I’m very proud of my poetry. When I had a good collection of them, then I went to a publishing house, a university publisher. I published the first book called “Ride for the Brand.” Then I put another collection together. It had some nice songs in it also as well as the poems. I self published the second one called “The Fence That Me and Shorty Built.” Then
Then later on I did a book which was a collection of interviews from my radio show, of people that are primarily gone like Roy Rogers, Rex Allen, Ben Johnson, and Richard Farnsworth and people like that. The last book that was published allowed me to be selected as the poet laureate of
(CSC) 7. I’d like you to tell me about “The Red Steagall Cowboy Gathering” that is held each year in
We celebrate the life of the working cowboy; the men and women who make their living horseback, providing meat for the dinner tables of
(CSC) 8. What has the experience been like for you being able to have your own syndicated radio show, “Cowboy Corner?” What do you feel is the most challenging part about hosting the show? (Anyone you’d like to have on the show that you haven’t yet?)
There’s not really any challenge to it! I go out and get the interviews and then I come back and we produce those interviews. We cut them down if we need to. Then I go into the studio and do the front end and the back end of the show playing songs and reciting poetry. We have about 500,000 listeners. We have guests each week. There are a lot of people I’d like to interview that I haven’t done, people that are friends of mine. We can’t get our schedules together to do it but there are a lot of people that I’d like to interview. I would love to interview some more actors. I’ve done Rip Taylor, Harry Borgnine and Harry Carey Jr. There’s just a ton of people that I’ve already done.
(CSC) 9. Please tell me how the late great Ray Charles came to record “Here We Go Again,” a song that you co-wrote and have also recorded yourself.
Well I took it over to Ray’s office one Friday morning and played it for a fella that worked with him. He decided to record it! He recorded it and it was a hit record and it’s been recorded sixty-three times. Just the week before last, I was on Willie Nelson’s bus and he played me a record of his and Norah Jones and Wynton Marsalis. They did a blues version of the song, so I’m thrilled with their recording of it!!!
(CSC) 10. You’ve received countless honors and awards in your lifetime. Please tell me, out of all of them…which are a few that mean the most to you both personally and professionally?
Well that’s a tough one because I’m proud of every one of those albums. We’ve done twenty-three albums. A lot of the cowboy stuff has actually done me more good than the mainstream country music. I’m proud of all of them! They were all a labor of love. Some of them are concept albums; some are just a collection of songs.
(CSC) 11. Tell me about your thoughts on the current trends of the country music business, and where would you like to see it headed?
Country music is going to head wherever the industry makes it head. I’ve been in this music business for over forty years now, and I’ve seen several revolutions. We’re constantly looking for new ways to do old things, so country music changes. It has attracted a different audience. The audience that I’m used to is aging, but we also have a lot of young people who like the classic country sound of fiddles and steel guitar. So I don’t think that will ever die, it just won’t be as prevalent. It’ll be an art form kind of like jazz is. It will have a limited audience or a very large audience. So it’s not going to die it’s just going to change.
(CSC) 12. Thirty-five years ago (1974), you discovered a young woman named Reba McEntire, who was singing the Star Spangled Banner at the National Finals Rodeo in Oklahoma. What can you recall about the day that you discovered her? What was it that you saw in her musically?
Oh I remember it extremely well. I was very impressed with this young lady singing the national anthem. It sent cold chills down my spine! I thought she had one of the greatest voices I’d ever heard. And in those days John Justin, a very dear friend of mine, would provide a suite and we’d all gather in it after the rodeo and we’d play cowboy songs all night long. And this lady, as I was walking up to the room, she grabbed me by the arm and she said “Can I bring my little girl up there and let her sing to you?” I said sure. I didn’t have any idea who she was talking about. She walked into the door with this little red-headed girl on her arm and set her down beside me. She started singing with me and I realized it was the girl I heard sing the national anthem. It just blew me away! I had just written some songs with Glen Sutton and we needed a girl singer and so I invited her mother to bring her to Nashville that next January. We would cut a demo with her and we tried to plug it around town. Finally in the fall of that year we got our record deal with Mercury and that’s how it all started. She’s just like my little sister. I wouldn’t trade one minute without her. I just love her to death. She’s a wonderful human being!!!
(CSC) 13. Speaking of Reba what do you cherish most about the many years that you’ve known her, and watched her grow as one of country music’s biggest names?
The thing I cherish the most is I cherish our friendship and cherish watching her grow and contribute drastically to the music of the whole world. She’s one of the greatest entertainers that ever lived. She knows exactly what’s good for her. She and her husband Narvel make the perfect team.
(CSC) 14. With all that you have been blessed with in this life, what saves you?
There are a lot of things that save me. I have the most wonderful family in the world. I have a partner that is truly my partner. She’s my best friend and has been for a long, long time. We’ve been married for thirty-three years. I have a couple of wonderful boys. I have the greatest friends in the world. I have a very deeply rooted belief in the Lord and what he’s done for me and all the blessings that he’s bestowed upon me. I know that he’s in charge.
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