Red Steagall

photography by Alex Lepe

When Red Steagall began writing poetry, he wrote about things that were important in his mind and heart. His mother was a school teacher. In addition to proper grammar, she taught him two things: “First, to ride for the brand,” Steagall says. “If you tell a man you’re going to do a job, break your back to do that. If it’s too tough for you or you don’t like it, you have two options: You can either quit, or you can grit your teeth and do the job you told him you’d do. Second: You should always be the kind of man to ride the river with. Be dependable. These things molded me to who I am today.” 

Songwriter, poet, recording artist, television personality, film actor, and radio host, Steagall’s entertainment career has spanned over four decades. More than 200 of his compositions have been recorded both by him and other artists, including Ray Charles. Steagall released his 24th album, Classic Red Steagall, in September 2014.

He was inducted into the Texas Music Hall of Fame, the Texas Country Music Hall of Fame and Tex Ritter Museum, America’s Old Time Country Music Hall of Fame, and Colorado Country Music Hall of Fame, along with numerous special awards for his music.  

While Steagall is best known for his Texas Swing dance music and country songs, writing poetry is what he loves most.

In 1985 Steagall attended the first National Cowboy Poetry Gathering in Elko, Nev. “I found where I belonged,” he says. “My heart and soul are with the men and women who make their living on horseback working cattle, providing beef for the dinner tables of America. They live in a society that is dedicated to honesty, integrity, loyalty and work ethic, dedication to family, conviction about their belief in God and most importantly, practice common decency and respect for their fellow man every day they live,” he continues. “Those are the kind of people I admire most. I write about things that I’ve seen. Edgar Guest wrote a poem one time, and there’s one line: ‘I’d rather see a sermon than hear one any day.’ ”   

The Texas State Legislature named Steagall The Official Cowboy Poet of Texas in 1991, the year he hosted the first “The Red Steagall Cowboy Gathering” in the Stockyards National Historic District of Fort Worth. The 25th anniversary of this authentic Western event is scheduled for Oct. 23-25.

Steagall is a proud fourth-generation Texan from Montague County on both sides of his family. He graduated from West Texas A&M University with a degree in animal science and agronomy. Steagall married the love of his life 38 years ago. He and Gail run a ranch in Parker County.

In recognition of Steagall’s contribution to the Western way of life, he was inducted into the Texas Trail of Fame, the Texas Cowboy Hall of Fame and the Texas Rodeo Cowboy Hall of Fame. His numerous honors include the Charles Goodnight Award, the Boss of the Plains Award, and the W.A. “Bill” King Award for Excellence in Agriculture.

“They don’t come any better than Red Steagall by any measure,” says W.R. “Bob” Watt, Jr., president emeritus of the Fort Worth Stock Show & Rodeo. “Red is a highly respected, well-known, multi-talented entertainer whose knowledge of the history of the West and the cowboy way of life is most impressive.”

Steagall launched his one-hour syndicated radio show, Cowboy Corner, in 1994. Among the show’s featured artists is country music singer, songwriter and actress, Reba McEntire.

Steagall discovered McEntire when she was singing the national anthem at a rodeo in the late 1970s. “I’m so proud to call Red my friend, and I’m even more proud to be his friend,” she says. “He told me early on that he would help keep me out of the chug holes and on the straight and even path. He did that by introducing me to the right people—people like him, that care about other folks, our country and God. Red is an American treasure, along with his music, his stories and his love for Texas. We both agree he was born a century too late. But I think we all are so lucky to have him in this day and time. He’s sure taught me a lot.”

Steagall was named Poet Laureate of Texas in 2006.

In 2009, he launched his first television show, In the Bunkhouse with Red Steagall. His current show on RFD-TV is titled Red Steagall Is Somewhere West of Wall Street.

“I am so proud when people ask me where I’m from, that I can say ‘Fort Worth, Texas,’ ” Steagall says. “Fort Worth has a heart, a soul and a character.”