I remember the first time I met Steve Hall. I was giving my feet a rest while sitting behind the Houseboat magazine booth when suddenly Ray and Betty Chesney from Horizon Yachts came looking for me.
"There is someone that you've just gotta meet," said Betty as I quickly jumped to my feet. The Horizon owners introduced me to Steve, and we started talking about his 80- by 18-foot custom Horizon Yacht that he had just taken delivery on that past fall. That's when Ray jumped in with a smile and said, "Do the voice, then he'll know who you are."
Caught a little off guard, Steve gave me a little bit of background on himself. He told me he was the voice of Shotgun Red. When I hesitated for a moment with a puzzled look on my face, out came the voice and instantly I made the connection. If you're not expecting it, hearing that very distinctive voice coming from Steve will surprise you while putting a big smile on your face-all at the same time.
Steve's character Shotgun Red is the famous puppet that is known all over Tennessee and beyond for his standup comedy. The story goes that Shotgun was found in a Minnesota hobby shop by Steve in 1980. From that point he became the emcee for Steve's band, which helped launch both their careers.
Red became a regular member of the "Nashville Now!" cast for over 10 years and he also appeared for 10 years on one of country music's most successful syndicated and cable network TV programs, "Hee Haw." The little guy even hosted TNN's first music video show, "Country Clips," for six years.
So in just a matter of a few moments I went from shaking Steve's hand, to getting a quick taste of his comedy as he continued to tell jokes using his character's voice that kept me laughing.
It was obvious this guy was a real character himself, and I was instantly interested in doing a story on him and his new Horizon Yacht in our magazine. If he could get me laughing in just a matter of minutes, I could only imagine what it would be like to spend a day with him out on the water.
A few months later I came to Nashville, Tenn., to meet with Steve and to see his houseboat in person. The boat is owned by him and his fiancée, Sheila Keaton, and although it's named Miss Sheila, Shotgun Red gets plenty of attention on this boat, including a painting of him inside, as well as what Steve refers to as his floating billboard with Red on both sides of his houseboat.
As I stepped on the Horizon Yacht for the first time I was surprised to see a crowd was already starting to gather. I got the feeling that wherever Steve goes, the party is sure to follow.
Before we took a cruise around J. Percy Priest Lake, which is just outside of Nashville, Steve gave me the full tour of his beautiful boat. The 80-foot Horizon Yacht includes a 12-foot front deck with a 56-foot cabin and the nine-foot back deck has a three-foot swim platform. The tour started in his galley, which is also the set where he does his cooking show on the celebrated sportsman's show "Buckmasters" at www.buckmasters.com. He taped 26 shows last year and many people still don't believe it was really shot from his houseboat, but rather a studio set. But Steve is quick to assure everyone that his show really does take place from the galley of his houseboat. One of the features he asked for when designing the custom houseboat was a taller ceiling, which now comes in handy for the film crew when shooting the cooking show. The raised ceiling also gives the galley and salon areas a wide-open feel that just invites you in.
Shelia's Added Touch
Steve met his fiancée nearly 20 years ago when she was the production assistant for the show "Hee Haw." Then two years ago they started dating and they're now partners in Steve's business as well as in the houseboat.
"Shelia designed the boat's interior, including the window treatments, the counter tops and the wood paneling," says Steve. "She did a great job with the colors and everything really flows well,"
His Own Plans
Steve left the decorating to Shelia, but he had a list of his own when it came must-have items.
"In the galley, every boat should have a trash compactor," explains Steve. "It's your choice on taking out your trash once a day or once a week." Other key appliances include a built-in microwave, side by side Trio refrigerator, smooth top range and a dishwasher. He also loves the workmanship of the cabinets and the overall construction throughout.
"We worked with Jason (Stockton) at Horizon and we never got a no from him," says Steve. "I just got a `yeah we can do that.' We really took our time to order what we wanted. Everyone told us we'd find out everything we really needed after we got it, but we worked closely with the designer and we studied the floor plan for a month to make sure we liked it."
One of those changes included laying the stairs down a few degrees, which makes access to the top deck a lot easier. He also wanted the bed in the master stateroom to be a little lower, which meant less head room below. He just turned that room under his bed into what he calls a "kid cuddy" that also doubles as a catchall storage space.
The boat was number 327 for Horizon and it was the custom service and their willingness to work with them on their last-minute changes in the final hour that really sold the couple on this manufacturer.
"I'm not sure they wouldn't come down to change a light bulb," joked Steve. "We looked at other manufacturers, and although we liked some of the beautiful designs, we didn't feel they were practical. Luxury plus common sense equals Horizon."
Growing up in Minnesota, Steve wasn't a stranger to boats by any stretch of the imagination. He rented plenty of houseboats, but this was the first time he ever bought one and he couldn't be happier with his decision.
He loves his twin 4.3 MerCruiser engines with Bravo II outdrives because it gives him plenty of power. The engines were mounted wide for more control and he also went with a 15 KW Westerbeke generator that is C.O. safe. One amenity he wasn't sure about but is glad that he added it was the bow and stern thrusters that make docking his boat a very easy process. On the boat there are three 99-gallon fuel tanks-one for each engine and one so he can gas the jet skis.
The quick-witted Shotgun Red did make an appearance on this day. From the top deck he posed for photos and entertained the kids onboard. The two still perform on a regular basis as part of Steve Hall and the Shotgun Red band, which was the lead act on the General Jackson Showboat in Nashville for over 12 years that includes more than 3500 shows. Besides regular shows at the Nashville Nightlife Dinner Theater, Steve also entertains small corporate groups with a day cruise aboard Miss Sheila that includes music and entertainment and those trips can be booked by calling 615-226-8090.
As we were leaving his boat I commented once again on how nice and clean it looked, but he told me it was a little too clean for him.
"A boat should be clean enough to be healthy, but dirty enough to be happy," said Steve with a smile. And with that I headed to the Nashville Nightlife Dinner Theater to catch Steve's performance that night, which only capped off a great day. He and his sidekick Red closed the show with impressions of country music stars, songs and a great comedy act that left the crowd roaring, including myself.