Price paused a minute and finally said, “I have too many to name, but Gene Watson would be right at the top.”
But Watson—who was born in Palestine and raised in Paris—is such a low-keyed individual that he considers singing “just something I like to do,” like working on cars in his shop.
Watson had a string of country hits in the l970s and 1980s, including “Love in the Hot Afternoon,” “Farewell Party” and “Fourteen Carat Mind.”
WATSON’S affinity for cars is no accident. For a time in his youth, his family lived in an old school bus his father had converted into a home he could relocate to where the work was.
“Everybody is into mobile homes these days,” said Watson. “I lived in one way back then, but it was yellow.”
Cars were his passion while he was growing up. He drew cars in school and saved his money to buy car magazines.
Music was something Watson says he didn’t think about; it was just natural.
HE SANG at his church and with his family, all of whom were musically inclined. The family always gathered around the radio to listen to the Grand Ol’ Opry.
Watson’s father also played the guitar. And, from field workers, Watson learned some blues songs to go with the gospel and country.
Watson had no intentions of becoming a country star, but was “perfectly satisfied playing in clubs on weekends and working on cars during the week.”
But in 1974 his single, “Bad Water” was modestly successful. He followed it with “Love in the Hot Afternoon,” which made him a star whether he liked it or not. The hits kept coming in the 1980s.
Watson was good with the sad songs, and acquired a reputation for projecting a song as if it were a story narrative.
Other singers like Don Williams and Brad Paisley also focused on the slow songs of Watson’s style.
TODAY, WATSON is a grandfather and lives quietly as an anti-star with his wife in northeast Houston. He reappeared in 2007 with “In a Perfect World,” his best album in nearly two decades
Meanwhile, as country music undergoes more changes, Watson’s head is under the hood of a truck. He didn’t care a long time ago, so he’s indifferent to what happens today.
Gene Watson will be appearing Friday night, October 16, at East Texas’ Lovelady Gym—a country venue that somehow fits his laid-back style.
(Bob Bowman of Lufkin is the author of 40 books about East Texas. He can be reached at bob-bowman.com)