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In January 1961, when he was seventeen years old, Gene Watson married Mattie Louise Bivins; they had two children - Terri Lynn was born on Sunday 11 March 1962, while Gary Wayne was born in 1965. It was at this time that Gene had to lie about his age in order to get a job building missile silos in Abilene, Texas.
Five years later, in 1966, Gene Watson moved to Dallas, Texas where an uncle helped him get his first professional job as a singer at a club called The Palms.
However, Gene still didn't take the possibility of making a living at music seriously, until he moved to Houston where he formed a band called Gene Watson and The Other Four, a band that included one of his brothers (Eddie Watson on vocals) and three of his cousins (George Watson on drums, Pat Watson on bass guitar, and Donnie Watson on vocals, rhythm guitar and bass).
Gene Watson and The Other Four landed a recording deal with Houston-based Tonka Records, for whom they recorded the songs 'If You Can't Come, Just Call', 'You're What's Happened To Me' and 'Please Don't Laugh At Me'. According to the information displayed on the Tonka record label, the first two tracks were written by Gene Watson.
It was also at this time that Gene Watson decided to drop Gary from his name. Gene maintained that people were calling him Larry and Gerry, so he decided to use his middle name (Gene) instead - even then, people assumed his name was Eugene, which it wasn't. The band, Gene Watson and The Other Four, however, did not last very long and was soon disbanded.
Gene Watson in a Houston, Texas auto-body repair shop, circa 1961
While in Houston, Gene Watson found work as an auto body repairman and auto body painter in order to support his wife and two children. It was at this time that Gene experienced lots of lean times, and lived from hand to mouth and from apartment to apartment. In order to make some extra money, Gene decided to form a new group which he called Hailball Express, in honour of a Ford automobile that he drove; 'Hailball' is a local Texas expression for a hailstone.
It was while singing and performing with Hailball Express at The Dynasty Club in Houston that Gene Watson came to the attention of two Houston businessmen, who were very impressed with Gene’s vocal prowess; Gene had been performing at The Dynasty Club in Houston, Texas for most of the 1960s.
Russ Reeder was a record distributor and Roy Stone owned a record store. Together they formed Wide World Records which was based in Houston, Texas. Wide World Records’ full address was 2817 Laura Koppe, Houston, Texas 77016. Russ and Roy persuaded Gene to record, initially in Houston and later in Nashville.
Gene Watson’s initial release for Wide World Records was 'I’ll Run Right Back To You' coupled with 'Autumn In June' in 1969; the latter track was written by Gene’s cousin Bill Watson. Both tracks were pleasant country ballads and were produced by the legendary producer Cowboy Jack Clement (Sunday 5 April 1931 - Thursday 8 August 2013).
Gene Watson’s next single release coupled 'John's Back In Town', a song composed by Waylon Jennings (Tuesday 15 June 1937 - Wednesday 13 February 2002) and Bill Mack, with 'Florence Jean'. As it turned out, it was Waylon Jennings who had been one of the artists who had recorded 'Love in the hot afternoon' before Gene’s rendition of the song emerged in 1975.
Waylon Jennings' version of 'Love In The Hot Afternoon', was never released as a single, but his version of the song can be found on the 6-CD box set 'Journey: Six Strings' (Bear Family Records, 1999); this box set also includes Waylon Jennings' version of 'Farewell Party'.
Waylon Jennings' version of his own composition 'John's Back In Town' (co-written with Bill Mack) can be found on the 6-CD box set 'Journey: Destiny's Child' (Bear Family Records, 1999); this box set features Waylon Jennings recordings made between 1958 and 1968.
Details of further Gene Watson single releases, including 'The Birds And The Bees' coupled with 'My Eyes Are Jealous', can be found within the Gene Watson vinyl singles discography.
The quality of these initial vinyl singles from Gene Watson is first rate, in terms of musicianship, vocal prowess and production values. Gene’s choice of song material from the very beginning of his career could never be faulted.
The popularity of Gene Watson, at least within the Houston area of Texas, was growing apace at this time, thanks to Houston radio stations KENR, KIKK and KNUS, all of which played his records on a regular basis, and because of Gene’s various personal appearances in the area.
It was while Gene Watson was working at Wide World Records that he saw the release of his first full album of material - the self-titled debut album 'Gene Watson' (Wide World Records, 1969) was recorded and released in 1969.
'Gene Watson' (Wide World Records, 1969) includes some of the material previously released on vinyl single, along with some new tunes. 'Gene Watson' is a first class release, containing as it does, some truly authentic, traditional country music. The record is very much a collectors’ item, so if you see it in a record store, do snap it up. You’ll find that it’s a worthy addition to your country music collection.
The release of 'Gene Watson' (Wide World Records, 1969) did little more than further Gene’s loyal local Texas following, but over the next couple of years, he continued to record and release further fine vinyl singles, this time for a new label called Resco Records which, like Wide World Records, was also based in Houston, Texas.
The formation of Resco Records came about as a result of differences between Russ Reeder and Roy Stone, who both decided to go their separate ways. When the two managers split, Roy Stone chose to take the masters they had recorded and subsequently re-released 'Gene Watson' (Wide World Records, 1969) under his own label, Stoneway Records, in 1973.