Performances such as “Fourteen Carat Mind,” “Love in the Hot Afternoon,” “Farewell Party,” “Memories to Burn,” “Got No Reason Now for Going Home,” “Speak Softly,” “Paper Rosie” and “Sometimes I Get Lucky and Forget” have forged Gene Watson’s reputation as a “Singer’s Singer.” He is the envy of his peers and the idol of such younger performers as Joe Nichols, Brad Paisley, Trace Adkins, Vince Gill, Alan Jackson, Lee Ann Womack and Randy Travis. Gene, himself, views his remarkable vocal talent as a matter of course. All seven Watson children sang, as did his parents.
“I can remember singing as far back as I can remember talking. Singing was something that was not out of the ordinary for me. It wasn’t unique. My whole family were singers.”
Gene settled in Houston, TX where he developed a strong local following and staged his disc debut. In 1964, the Grand Ole Opry duo, The Wilburn Brothers, took Gene on the road briefly. Then it was back to the Texas honky-tonks and a string of local singles throughout the ‘60s.
But in 1974, one of Gene Watson’s small-label singles caught the ear of Capitol Records. He was an auto-body repairman and the featured performer at Houston’s Dynasty nightclub when the label picked up the steamy, sexual waltz “Love in the Hot Afternoon” for national distribution. It became the first of Gene Watson’s two-dozen top-10 hits in early 1975.
“Seems like my career just kind of happened accidentally,” says Gene. “It was purely unintentional. Music was just a sideline. I was going to be playing and singing no matter what line of work I was going to do. I never did really have any high expectations out of the music business. Even today, I never know what to expect from one day to the next. But there is one thing: As far as I know, I do have an impeccable reputation in the music business, and I wouldn’t take nothing for that. If anything in the world means ‘success’ to me, that right there does.”
“It’s unbelievable to me that it’s been 50 years,” says Gene. “For most of those years, it seemed like it took everything I could do to keep working as steady as I needed to. Now that I’m older, it seems like everything comes to me without trying. I’m working more shows than I was 15 years ago.
“It’s quite a compliment. I think a lot of it is because there’s not too much of what I do around anymore. I think there is still such a hunger out there for traditional country music. So I’d like to stay out there as long as I’m able to do the job and do it well. Every time I step out on that stage and see that audience, it’s a new beginning. Even though I’ve sung these songs millions of times, I look at each one like it’s brand new to me. Every night, I try to deliver that song the best that I can. Being called a ‘Singer’s Singer’ humbles me. It’s flattering, but what I do is just what I do. The good Lord just gave me the voice.”