Country singer, Farewell Party Band in Athens concert May 14
By Ronnie Thomas
DAILY Staff Writer
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At an age when many pickers and singers close their guitar cases for good, 61-year-old Gene Watson continues strong as ever with his high-energy country music shows.
He compares himself to an old-fashioned doctor, who was always on call. He and his Farewell Party Band pack up and go without much notice.
"We work the year round, whenever people want us. We try to be there, unless I get too tired and too beat up," he said during a telephone interview from his Houston home.
Look for Watson to be in top form when his tour bus rolls into Athens on May 14 for a concert at Yesterdays Event Center, three miles out on Brownsferry Road. The doors open at 6 p.m. A buffet meal, including drink and dessert, will be available for $6.95. The show starts at 7:30.
Fans may buy tickets at Railroad Bazaar in Decatur and Athens for $24.
For more information, phone (256) 232-2506 or go to www
Perhaps Watson's blue-collar approach to music tracks to his work as an auto body repairman, a career he began when he left hometown Paris, Texas.
After a short stay in Dallas, he arrived in Houston. He said his only hard-core scheduling rule is that he always takes off Christmas.
One of seven children, he put together his first band — Gene Watson and the Other Four — when he was 22.
"They were all Watsons. We became weekend warriors around Houston," he said, as he continued work as a full-fledged body man.
He recorded several songs on small independent labels before scorching the airwaves with the steamy, "Love in the Hot Afternoon," for Resco in 1974. He followed it with "Pick the Wildwood Flower," a song he says is as biographical as any of his tunes gets.
When Capitol Records picked him up in 1975, he added a third song that gained more nationwide attention, "Where Love Begins." But those top-10 singles didn't fill the four hours per night he performed in clubs. He used a host of songs others made popular and put his twist on them.
He fronted for Conway Twitty and Loretta Lynn. Sometimes, Mickey Gilley was on the card.
"They're driving buses, and I'm driving a four-wheeler," he said. "I had a guy and his wife working with me, opening the shows. He was from New York, she was from West Virginia and here's this fellow from Texas. It got interesting. At first, they drove their own car, too, before they finally got a bus. It was extremely trying and tough back then."
Watson said he used staff bands, where he could. Otherwise, Twitty's band backed him one night, Lynn's the next.
It wasn't long before he became huge in country music circles, churning out hit after hit: "Paper Rosie," "Fourteen Carat Mind," "Should I Come Home (Or Should I Go Crazy)," "Farewell Party," "(When We Were Down To Nothing) Nothing Sure Looked Good On You," and "Got No Reason Now For Goin' Home."
Watson, who has more than 20 top-10 singles, said he never wanted to be a superstar. He said it's a status "that applies if you accept it as that. I'm one of those guys who stay and sign autographs after the show."
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