This is part of a series of posts I’ve entitled, “Stories From the Road.” Each week I will post a new story from Rick Sikes, a Texas musician who traveled the roads of Texas, Oklahoma, New Mexico and out to California for well over twenty years. With hours to pass in a bus full of sweaty musicians, they found ways to entertain themselves. These stories are told in Rick Sikes’ words. I’ll do my best to correct grammar, but I want to keep them in his own voice.
This week I’m going to switch gears again and talk about another Country Music Legend Rick had the pleasure of working with.
“I had the good fortune to work with Red Foley in 1963. He had a great voice and stage presence that propelled him to stardom in the fifties. We got the tour through an agent I had in Waco. When I got the gig, my grandmother, who was a God-fearing woman, said, “I’m so proud you boys are going to work with a good Christian man. Maybe he will help y’all straighten up and do right.” Red had just finished up his last episode of the TV series, “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington,” and flew in from California. I had never met him and didn’t know much about him other than admiring him on the Grand Ole Opry for many years, and of course, his records. I told the boys in the band, “Y’all don’t drink or cuss in front of him. Be on your best behavior. This is a good job, so let’s not blow it.”
That first night, his plane was late and he met us at Mission Stadium in San Antonio. He came rushing into the dressing room with his guitar and ran back out to get his suitcase out of the cab. We introduced ourselves to him and all shook hands. He asked the guitar player to tune him up with us and he showed us the songs which had difficult chords. Then, he opened his suitcase and pulled out a fifth of Vodka, unscrewed the cap and tossed it into the trash can. He took a long swig from the bottle (straight) and offered us a drink. We all declined, of course. He had just gotten his dentures and had to keep sucking them up, making a funny sound. But, when we went on stage, he was great and had the audience spell-bound. He always said a little prayer at the beginning and end of the shows. He’d also say, “My, isn’t this a lovely crowd we have boys?” We’d always say in unison, “Yes, Mr. Foley.” That tour was an eventful and exciting gig.
Pat Boone (Red’s son-in-law), had a big interest in the Hushpuppy Shoe Company at that time. Of course, all of us guys wore cowboy boots, but Red Foley wanted us to wear patent leather Hushpuppies that they were just beginning to market. He gave each of us a pair of bone white, maroon and black patent leather shoes, which he insisted we wear. So, that’s what we wore on stage. None of us had seen patent leather shoes before and they were really shiny. You could take a little bit of vaseline on a cloth and shine them up where they were glassy. People asked us many times how we got our shoes to shine so good. I’d tell them, “Well, when you work with Mr. Foley, you have to keep your shoes shined like this because he insists.”
So anyway, one night, one of the guys let the fire fall off his cigarette onto the top of one of his shoes. They were basically plastic and the fire sat on top until it burned through the shoe onto his toe. He did quite a little dance for us on the bandstand. Needless to say, he didn’t care much for the plastic shoes after that.
But, I got to meet a lot of the Grand Ole Opry stars on the tour with Red Foley. One show we did in Lufkin, Texas had Sonny James, Uncle Cyp Brasfield, Frankie Miller, Marsha Lynn and ourselves. The newspaper article advertising the show misspelled my name, putting Sykes instead of Sikes. But things like that happened often. I remember one time I had a show at Fort Sill Air Base in Lawton, Oklahoma and when we pulled up at the venue, the marquee said, “Appearing tonight, Red Skies.” So, having my name misspelled wasn’t unusual.”