Gene Watson at Little Nashville Opry

by Tamela Meredith Partridge

Country singer/songwriter, Gene Watson, and his Farewell Party band members are looking forward to returning to the Little Nashville Opry on Saturday, March 25, at 7:00 p.m.

“We have a lot of fans and friends at the Little Nashville Opry,” Watson says. “Every time I can remember playing there we’ve packed the house. It’s a great venue to play and we always enjoy working for them.”

Always a hard worker, Watson and his six siblings traveled with their parents from one sawmill town to another to find work in the mills or picking crops. The converted school bus they rode in was also home when they got to where they were going. The family finally settled in Paris, Texas, where they engaged in the auto salvage business.

“I’d get out of school and ride my bicycle to work where I’d take cars apart to sell the used parts,” Watson says.

The Watson family often escaped the harsh realities of a hard life through music.

“We did most of our singing in the Pentecostal Church,” Watson says. “My dad also played the blues. Singing was a way of life back then. Music came naturally to me. I did it all the time. I couldn’t imagine anybody would ever pay me for doing it.”

Watson and his younger brother began performing professionally as teenagers by playing at local functions and clubs.

“My brother and I were still in school at the time,” Watson says. “We went to Dallas and Ft. Worth and played on some of the big jamborees that were broadcast on the radio where it was sort of a package-type thing. We were just a couple kids that people liked listening to. My brother eventually gave it up, but I stuck with it.”

Married at 17, Watson settled in Houston and supported his wife and children by finding daytime employment in car engine and bodywork repair. During the evenings, Watson’s no frills and easy-flowing vocal style made him a favorite performer amongst area honky-tonks and night clubs.

“To entertain people, I think, is one of the things that I do best,” Watson says. “Even as down and out or tired as you can get running the road and keeping up with the schedule, when you step out on the stage and see the people that paid their money to come and see you perform—that’s everything.”

Watson’s ability to choose just the right songs is found in the 1975 debut smash, “Love In The Hot Afternoon,” No. 1 hit, “Fourteen Carat Mind,” and more than twenty Top Ten hits including, “Paper Rosie,” “Farewell Party,” “Should I Come Home (Or Should I Go Crazy ),” “Nothing Sure Looked Good On You,” and “You’re Out Doing What I’m Here Doing Without.”

“I’m a ballad singer,” Watson says. “I love truthful songs that tell a story and talk about people and their lives. If a song calls for a tear, then we’ll cry. If a song calls for a smile, then we’ll laugh. That’s what I like to do.”

Even though his roots are pure country, Watson’s signature sound stems from a combination of musical influences.

“I don’t get too far away from the traditional country music that has made me what I am,” Watson says. “Although, I might experiment at times with a little bit of jazz, blues or some edgy songs that veer off from what I usually do. I do a lot of blues accents, phrasing and slurs in my singing. I think that is probably anywhere from 50 percent to 75 percent of my style. The other thing is proper diction. I hate to sing a song that the people can’t understand the words to it.”

Even though times have changed throughout Watson’s lengthy career, his vocals have continued to offer the best in country music entertainment.

“I just sing and I’ll always be singing,” Watson says. “Even if it’s just for my own personal entertainment, I would always sing.”