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Russ Reeder was happy to assume full management control of Gene Watson's career. His belief in Gene remained so strong that Russ formed Resco Records specifically for him. While being interviewed some years later, in 1978, Gene spoke highly of Russ, stating that Russ had devoted a great deal of faith in Gene, so much so that Gene felt that he (Russ) was very much the guiding light in the early days of his career.
Gene Watson's debut single for Resco Records was 'Bad Water', a song previously recorded by The Raeletts (Ethel - Darlene - McCrea, Margie Hendricks, Patricia Lyles and Gwendoly Berry), who were Ray Charles' backing singers.
The Raeletts had recorded the song four years previously in 1971. The song, which Gene loved, was his first charted single in the United States. The single made its debut on the Billboard country music singles chart on Saturday 25 January 1975, but it only reached a lowly position of No.87.
'Bad Water' may have achieved a low chart position for Gene Watson, but more importantly it came to the attention of Ed Keeley, the then promotional executive at Capitol Records. Ed was impressed with the fact that an independent single had managed to make its way into the national country music charts. Ed liked the song and was so impressed with Gene's performance of it that he flew to Houston and immediately negotiated a recording contract with Russ Reeder.
The outcome for Gene Watson was that he had procured a five-year recording contract with Capitol Records, a major league record company, and the outcome for the country music industry was that it now had a new country music star.
Gene Watson had already recorded 'Love In The Hot Afternoon' for Resco Records and it was already in circulation, when he signed his recording contract with Capitol Records. The song, previously recorded by several others, including Jim Ed Brown, became a regional hit. The other artists who had previously recorded the song had all changed the lyrics around, because it was felt that the song was too risqué, for 1974, to gain vital radio airplay.
However, following discussions with Russ, Gene decided to record the song exactly the way that it had been written. 'Love In The Hot Afternoon' would turn out to be one of Gene Watson’s best loved tunes.
'Love In The Hot Afternoon' was also recorded by Waylon Jennings (Tuesday 15 June 1937 - Wednesday 13 February 2002); Waylon's version 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's version of 'Farewell Party', but his version of the song was never released as a single.
Gene Watson later recorded Waylon Jenning's little known composition 'John's Back In Town'; this latter track was co-written by Waylon along with legendary songwriter and country music disc jockey Bill Mack.
Waylon Jennings' version of 'John's Back In Town' 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.
The Resco Records-issued single of 'Love In The Hot Afternoon' from Gene Watson became extremely popular throughout a wide area of Texas, Louisiana and Oklahoma, but by the time Capitol Records re-issued it on their own label, the song had already become a major hit in those market areas and was beginning to descend the charts.
Ultimately, this fact thwarted the song from going to the top of the charts, but 'Love In The Hot Afternoon' did reach No.3 on the Billboard country music singles chart in the United States of America and was also pronounced the No.4 song in America for the entire year of 1975.
All of a sudden Gene Watson had a glorified country music career!
Gene Watson is held in such high esteem that 'Love In The Hot Afternoon' was recorded by a fellow Texan country music artist some twenty-five years later; Mark Chesnutt recorded 'Love In The Hot Afternoon' and included the track on 'Lost In The Feeling' (MCA Records, 2000).
On a sad note, Vincent Wesley Matthews, one of the co-writers of 'Love In The Hot Afternoon', passed away on Saturday 22 November 2003; Vincent Wesley Matthews was sixty-three years old.
'Love in the Hot Afternoon' was also the title of Gene Watson's debut album for Capitol Records in 1975. On Tuesday 3 September 2002, the album was re-released, along with 'Paper Rosie' from 1977, as a special 2-for-1 CD set, by Hux Records in England.
Gene Watson would be the first to admit that he felt scared to death at this time. He wasn't so concerned about the success of 'Love in the hot afternoon' - he loved the success naturally - but he was equally concerned about what song he was going to come up with as his next release. Gene has always been a stickler for material and has always had the freedom to pick and choose his own songs.
Russ Reeder was his producer, but he never told Gene what to record or what not to record. Russ might suggest something or bring Gene a particular song, but he never once told Gene that he was going to record a certain song and that he (Gene) didn't have a choice in the matter. Russ worked inside the control room and Gene worked inside the studio with the musicians.
As far as the arrangements on songs were concerned, 99% of that was Gene's doing. He would work up the arrangements with the musicians who, at this time, would have included such Nashville session greats as fiddle players Lisa Silver and Buddy Spicher, Lloyd Green and Sonny Garrish on steel guitar, Junior Husky on bass, Tommy Alsup on guitar, along with DJ Fontana, Buddy Harmon and Kenny Malone on drums. In those early days of recording, Gene would reschedule his sessions if Hargus 'Pig' Robbins, his favourite piano player, was not available.
After his explosive introduction to radio, life changed quite dramatically for Gene Watson, a man who had never considered music a viable way to earn a living. Gene still didn't take things for granted, though. He realised that he now had a major recording contract with a big record label, but he was also aware of the fact that he could be dropped from Capitol Records as quickly as they had signed him.
So, instead of selling his auto tools, he rolled them up and put them away safely in his garage. Gene felt that, if things didn't work out for him in the world of country music, then he could always return home to Texas and continue with the auto body repair work instead. Luckily, for Gene Watson and for the rest of us who enjoy heartfelt, traditional country music the way it should be performed and recorded, he has never had to.
Things, however, were not easy for Gene Watson in those early days. For a time, he didn’t even have a regular tour bus like most of his contemporaries and had to rely on his four-wheeler. Gene did, however, have the respect of established country music stars that were more than willing to assist and encourage this new artist from the Lone Star State.
In these early days, Gene Watson toured regularly with country music legends Loretta Lynn and Conway Twitty (Friday 1 September 1933 - Saturday 5 June 1993). He rode on their respective touring buses and was also backed on stage by their backing bands. Gene also toured extensively with The Wilburn Brothers in these early years of his country music career and also performed with them on the hallowed stage of the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville during the 1960s.
Gene Watson followed the phenomenal success of the sultry 'Love In The Hot Afternoon' with a song that was as equally erotic as its predecessor. The song, 'Where Love Begins', was written by Canadian Ray Griff and became Gene’s second Top 5 hit on the Billboard country music singles chart in 1975.
After a recording session one night, Ray Griff took Gene Watson to his office to play him some demo tapes. 'Where Love Begins' was one of those songs on the demo tapes. Ray Griff came to be a major contributor of first-rate material to Gene Watson’s music career in the years that followed.
With the release of 'You Could Know As Much About A Stranger' in the early part of 1976, a song that also reached the Top 10 of the Billboard country music singles chart, Gene Watson consolidated his position in the country music charts and put his auto body repair work on the 'back burner'.
Gene Watson concentrated his efforts on his now burgeoning country music career and, luckily for him, he had the support and encouragement of his wife Mattie and his two children.
Gene Watson’s success on the country music charts continued with the song 'Because You Believed In Me', which reached the Top 20 of the Billboard country music singles chart. The song was also the title cut of Gene Watson's second album for Capitol Records. The title of the album said it all, Gene expressing a heartfelt 'thank you' to all those people who purchased his first album and showed great belief in him as a person and as a country music performer.
On Tuesday 26 September 2005, Hux Records in England released 'Because You Believed in Me', along with 'Beautiful Country' (Capitol Records, 1977), as a special 2-for-1 CD set.
Although 'Her Body Couldn't (Keep You Off My Mind)', Gene Watson’s last vinyl single of 1976, was not as big a success as previous releases, he came back strongly in 1977 with the Billboard Top 3 hit 'Paper Rosie', the story of a beggar woman and the title track of Gene Watson's third album for Capitol Records.
'Paper Rosie' would turn out to be the song that would help endear Gene Watson to a whole new country music audience in Europe, particularly in the United Kingdom and in Ireland. 'Paper Rosie', the album, also gained a release in the United Kingdom and Ireland and helped to garner Gene rave reviews and a whole new audience of listeners and admirers.
It’s ironic that, when he first heard 'Paper Rosie', Gene Watson felt that the song didn’t suit him. He recorded it, however, but he still felt that it wasn’t really a song for him. Everyone who listened to the track felt that it would be a hit song, but Gene, for whatever reason, didn’t feel the same way. Frank Jones (Sunday 4 March 1928 - Thursday 3 February 2005), an executive working at Capitol Records, had heard the song in Canada, where it had been a big hit for its writer, Dallas Harms.
While Gene Watson was on tour in Chicago, he received a call from Frank Jones (Sunday 4 March 1928 - Thursday 3 February 2005), advising him to re-evaluate the song upon his return. Gene returned to Nashville and re-recorded the song, this time adding a flute part. On this second occasion in the recording studio, 'Paper Rosie' came together and the outcome was another Top 5 hit on the Billboard country music singles chart for Gene Watson.
The song 'Paper Rosie' was featured in the opening sequence of the 1990 movie 'Another 48 Hours', starring Eddie Murphy and Nick Nolte.
In the November 2006 issue of the United Kingdom's highly influential Country Music People, CMP contributor Spencer Leigh discussed song-writing with Kevin Welch and Kieran Kane.
Kieran Kane stated, 'I loved it when there were a lot of story songs around. Gene Watson did a lot of them and 'Paper Rosie' is like a little movie'.
In 1977, 'Beautiful Country' (Capitol Records, 1977) was released and the album lived up to its title! The album included the hit singles 'The Old Man And His Horn' and 'I Don't Need A Thing At All', both of which were hits in 1977 and 'Cowboys Don't Get Lucky All The Time', which was a hit in 1978.
'Cowboys Don't Get Lucky All The Time' also appeared on the soundtrack of the Sam Peckinpah-directed movie 'Convoy', a movie in which Kris Kristofferson had a leading role. It was due to the encouragement of Kris Kristofferson that the song was included on the soundtrack album in the first place.
On Tuesday 26 September 2005, Hux Records in England released 'Beautiful Country', along with 'Because You Believed in Me' (Capitol Records, 1976), as a special 2-for-1 CD set.
Like 'Paper Rosie' before them, both 'The Old Man And His Horn' and 'Cowboys Don't Get Lucky All The Time' were written by Dallas Harms, further strengthening his stature as a writer of some lyrical substance.
Despite the fact that 'Paper Rosie', the album, had sold reasonably well in the United Kingdom and Ireland, 'Beautiful Country' (Capitol Records, 1977) did not gain a similar release, nor did a subsequent 'Best of Gene Watson' collection, which gained only a United States release.
The release of 'Reflections' (Capitol Records, 1978) in 1978 also yielded a number of hit singles on the Billboard country music singles chart, including 'One Sided Conversation', which reached the Billboard Top 10.
'Reflections' (Capitol Records, 1978) also gained a release in the UK and Ireland in June 1979 to coincide with Gene Watson’s first tour there in June/July of that year.
Gene Watson undertook an eighteen-date tour of the UK and visited Belfast, Merseyside, Maidstone, Derbyshire, Middlesbrough, Harrow, Whitby, Carlisle, Hull, Bristol, Kenton, Hampshire, The Shetland Islands, Aberdeen, Prescott, Kendal and Colchester.
The tour, which was organised by Mike and Margaret Storey Entertainments of Huddersfield in Yorkshire, was a resounding success.
Gene Watson enjoyed a stellar year in 1979, scoring three hits on the Billboard country music singles chart. The year began on a high with the release of 'Farewell Party', a highly emotional suicide saga of unrequited love written by Lawton Williams (Monday 24 July 1922 - Thursday 26 July 2007).
'Farewell Party' was written by Lawton Williams and was originally included on Gene Watson's 'Reflections' (Capitol Records, 1978). When released as a single (Capitol 4680) in 1979, 'Farewell Party' reached No.3 on the Billboard country music singles chart.
'Farewell Party' would later become Gene Watson’s signature tune and the name of his touring band.
'Farewell Party' has a long recording history. Lawton Williams, composer of the track, recorded the song himself in 1960 for the Houston, Texas-based All Star Records label (catalogue number 7212).
'Farewell Party' was recorded by Little Jimmy Dickens as the B-side to his ‘Talking To The Wall’ vinyl single (catalogue number: 4-42013) in May 1961, with Walter Haynes playing the steel part.
'Farewell Party' was recorded by fellow Texan Johnny Bush, with Jimmy Day on steel guitar, and included on 'Sound Of A Heartache' (Stop Records, 1963).
Gene Watson's version of 'Farewell Party', thought by many to be the definitive version, featured Lloyd Green playing the legendary steel guitar part.
'Farewell Party' was actually the last song Lloyd Green recorded with Gene Watson, having played on most of the recordings Gene did for Capitol Records. The song should have been the foundation on which the recording session was based, but the track was apparently a last minute addition to the recording session. 'Farewell Party' was also recorded in one take!
Alan Jackson, a long-time admirer of Gene Watson, honoured Gene with his tasteful rendition of 'Farewell Party', which he recorded, with Paul Franklin on steel guitar, and included on (his tribute album) 'Under The Influence' (Arista Records, 1999), which was produced by Keith Stegall.
Joe Nichols, another long-time admirer of Gene Watson, honoured Gene with his tasteful rendition of 'Farewell Party', which he recorded and included on ‘Revelation’ (Universal South Records, 2004).
Gene Watson followed 'Farewell Party' with 'Pick The Wildwood Flower', which reached the Top 5 of the Billboard country music singles chart. 'Should I Come Home (Or Should I Go Crazy)', which reached the Billboard Top 3, was also the title track of yet another successful album release for Capitol Records.
Although 'Pick The Wildwood Flower' was written by noted songwriter Joe Allen, the song appears to be slightly autobiographical in nature as it is the only song in Gene Watson’s country music repertoire that actually mentions his first name, which is Gary.