By Robert K. Oermann
A celebration of the life of country musician and puppeteer Steve Hall is scheduled for Saturday, Feb. 2, at the Nashville Nightlife Dinner Theater.
Best known as the creator of the popular TNN-TV cowboy puppet Shotgun Red, Hall died at age 64 on Dec. 29, 2018. He and his puppet were regulars on TNN’s flagship series Nashville Now in 1983-1993.
Adept on guitar, saxophone and piano, Hall began playing country music five nights a week as soon as he graduated from high school in Minnesota. He was the leader of the country band Southbound ‘76 when he discovered his puppet in a Brainerd, MN hobby shop in 1980.
After traveling to Nashville to compete in a Seagram’s “Battle of the Bands” contest, Hall and his endearing dummy decided to “crash” Ralph Emery’s early-morning TV show in Music City.
The ploy worked. Emery took a shine to the scruffy, mustached, cowboy-hatted and gravelly voiced Shotgun Red. When Emery graduated to hosting TNN’s Nashville Now, he brought Shotgun Red to national stardom on the program.
The puppet became so popular that Hall/Red and Emery recorded two LPs for RCA Records on Music Row. Ralph & Red: Songs for Children and Christmas With Ralph & Red were issued in 1989.
Steve Hall and Shotgun Red were tapped to host the puppet’s own show, TNN’s Country Clips for six years. In addition, Red was a regular on TV’s Hee Haw for a decade. He also hosted The Shotgun Red Variety Show on RFDTV and appeared on Buckmasters on The Outdoor Channel.
Red/Hall debuted on the Grand Ole Opry in 1993. The act later made several more Opry guest appearances.
Steve Hall & Shotgun Red were nominated as Comedian of the Year at the TNN Music City News Awards in 1995 and 1996.
Shotgun Red reportedly had one of country music’s largest fan clubs, with more than 100,000 members. In the wake of the puppet’s popularity, Steve Hall renamed his group The Shotgun Red Band.
The group became the “house act” at The Nashville Nightlife Dinner Theater. It also headlined regularly on the General Jackson showboat.
As a solo pianist, Hall issued the CD Country Crossroads in 2007.
Steve Hall died in his hometown Brainerd, MN while visiting there to go ice fishing.
He is survived by his sons Steve Hall Jr. and Jimmy Gunter, daughter Angela Bavetta, nine grandchildren, three great-grandchildren, two brothers, a sister and his fiancée Sheila Keeton.
Saturday’s memorial event is scheduled for 3:00 p.m. The Nashville Nightlife Dinner Theater is located at 2416 Music Valley Drive.
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