Red Steagall talks about Texas Culture
“I’ve been in country music and western music for over 40 years. And I’ve written a lot of country songs. They are primarily talking about the working man and the society of the working man. And we call them honky-tonk songs and western swing. So I did that for a long, long time. Then I started recording something that I always loved and that’s cowboy music. And that talks about a particular people, a particular group of people during a particular period in the history of mankind. And those stories have so much interest to people all over the world. You got a gal on horseback. You’re moving cattle. You’re riding through the countryside. You ride off into the sunset in the evening. The cowboy always got the girl. It’s a romantic lifestyle according to the rest of the world.
Out here being a cowboy is a lot of hard work. But it is a lifestyle where you get to ride out in the morning and watch the prairie come alive. Watch the animals wake up and start their day. You work with animals. You work with cattle, with horses. Sometimes with dogs depending on how tough the brush is. So it is a romantic way of life but it’s also very, very hard work. It’s important to me that we preserve the image of the day of the cowboy, the day of the agricultural society because if we don’t preserve it now and talk about it and preserve it in a quality manner, 50 years from now nobody will know we’ve existed. So it’s my goal to do the best job I can possible do with my poetry and my music to preserve that lifestyle in words and music.
There will always be people that want to be cowboys. There will always be people who want to live in the country. But not be able to afford it, but they want to live there. They long for the country side. They long for being outdoors. They long for the skies at night when you see the stars. They live in the cities for a lot of different reasons. There will always be people that live in the city who wants to be out in country. The west was settled by people from the big cities in the east. So as long as there are those folks I will keep on writing songs and poems for them. And I write a lot about the past but I also write a lot about the present too. Trying to preserve what’s happening today. I like to look back at the past and write about it because it makes me think about how lucky I am today. I like today. I know it’s the good old days. So I like to write about what we’re doing today because soon it’ll be the good old days. I hope we can preserve the heritage, the tradition and especially the values of honesty and the integrity, work ethic, dedication to family and the conviction in your belief of the lord. And practise common decency and respect for your fellow man every day.
Think of all the different backgrounds. Texas was made out of, primarily from a Caucasian standpoint, of the Celtic group from back east who were natural herdsmen. And they came west. That’s the Scottish and Irish, Welsh and English. Then we have a large population of German settlers that came into the middle of the state. We have the slaves that came, so we have the gospel sound of the Negro south. We have the influence of our friends below the border. That gave us the Latino musical beats and the felling of the “corridas” which is the Mexican ballads. And you melt that down into a little pot. That’s what we call Texas music.
It’s influenced by the old world ballroom sounds, the old world folk tunes by the Celtic people, the Negro sounds of the gospel south and the Latino sounds of the Mexican peasant. So that’s were our music comes from. It’s influenced by all of that. The German dance halls in central Texas still are the greatest in the world. Some of them weren’t really that big because there was not a very large population there to begin with. But the dances have always been important. And the western swing started in west Texas with of course Bob Wills. And Bob’s idea was to have a band as big as the big bands in the east. Instead of those sections of woodwinds and sections of brass he had fiddles and steel guitar.
But it all came from a time when everybody was down. We were in the depression. We were in the dust bowl. Nobody had any money. Lots of people didn’t have anything to eat. So they gathered together with dances. And they forgot about their problems for a while. They associated with each other and they danced and had a good time. They all brought what they could to eat. Sometimes they stayed for four, five days. They’d go to a ranch house out in west Texas and they would move all the furniture out in the front yard and they’d dance in the living room. And the only music they might have would be one fiddle or maybe one guitar or the lady of the house played piano. It was a very simple kind of life.
So there are lots of things we’re proud of. But it’s that feeling of belonging to something that’s special. We’re proud of being Texans. I guarantee you that if you meet someone from Texas they’ll tell you that they’re from Texas.”
Almost Out of Gas is a platform for projects surrounding Texas culture. Wine, spirits, beer and cook-offs with great food bring people in communities together, and we are compelled to seek out and document the social and cultural impact of the true “social networking” of the common man—that is the lifestyle we feature. We know the host of these get-togethers is the main draw, and we are intent on bringing you the same beauty we see in the rickety, creaky and sometimes forgotten gathering spots: the Texas Honky-Tonks.
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