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Gene Watson, however, felt that things were, at long last, going his way. He had begun work on 'At Last' (Warner Bros. Records, 1991), his second album for Warner Bros. Records, when the relationship between himself and Lib Hatcher ran into some problems. In the latter part of 1990, it was reported that Gene Watson and Lib Hatcher had both issued suits against one another over management fees.
The legal wrangle with Lib Hatcher lasted for about a year, during which time Gene Watson could not sign any management/booking deals with anyone else. Warner Bros. Records became aware of the situation and, following the release of 'At Last' (Warner Bros. Records, 1991), they dropped Gene Watson from their roster.
The major label recording career of a country music legend had ended - something that the country music industry should never have allowed to happen and something that they should be thoroughly ashamed of.
Gene Watson then turned to veteran manager Jack McFadden in Nashville. Jack, who had established himself in Nashville in 1983, was renowned as a formidable talent manager and had worked with the likes of Merle Haggard, Freddie Hart, Susan Raye, Keith Whitley (Thursday 1 July 1954 - Tuesday 9 May 1989) and Lorrie Morgan.
It was also Jack McFadden who brought Billy Ray Cyrus, and the 'Achy Breaky Heart' phenomenon, to the world of country music. Jack McFadden was aware of Gene Watson’s situation, but he agreed to manage him.
Jack McFadden approached a number of major record labels in Nashville, but none of them were willing to take a chance on Gene Watson, an artist with a lawsuit hanging over his head.
However, an independent recording project was agreed with Canadian record producer and former recording artist Gary Buck. There were several provisions within the contract, which meant that if no major label acquired the rights to the recording, Gary could release it on Mercury/Polygram Records in Canada.
The recording sessions for 'In Other Words' (Broadland International Records/Mercury Canada, 1992) took place in Nashville on various dates in December 1991 and February 1992; the album initially gained a release only in Canada on Gary Buck’s own Broadland International Records label through a deal with Mercury Canada.
'In Other Words' (Broadland International Records/Mercury Canada, 1992) later gained a release, on Broadland International Records, in the United States in 1993, when a single from it, 'One And One And One', managed to make its way into the Billboard country music singles chart, stopping a little outside the Top 50.
On a sad note, Gary Buck passed away at his home in Didsbury, Alberta in Canada on Tuesday 14 October 2003 - Gary Buck was sixty-three years old.
In the early 1990s, the country music market place was quite different to how it was when Gene Watson emerged on the country music scene in 1975. Garth Brooks was now the major country music artist, most new country acts were young and Gene’s new manager, Jack McFadden, was now busy promoting his new discovery Billy Ray Cyrus.
Sadly, Jack McFadden passed away in Nashville on Tuesday 16 June 1998 - Jack McFadden was seventy-one years old.
It was around 1993 that Gene Watson became despondent and seriously considered quitting the country music industry for good. He had no management and felt that he didn’t have anything to look forward to. He had had no major hit songs since 1989 and felt that the country music industry had turned its back on him.
While he was considering retiring from the business he contributed so much to, a name was thrown at him, that of an old friend and booking agent by the name of Allen Whitcomb.
Gene Watson traveled to Nashville to meet with Allen. They talked, a deal was struck and Gene Watson once again had a recording home. Gene Watson signed a recording contract with singer/songwriter/producer Ray Pennington and joined the roster at Step One Records in September 1993.
Step One Records, which was based in Nashville, was also owned by Ray Pennington who acted as the company’s chief executive.
Gene Watson’s debut album for Step One Records was 'Uncharted Mind' (Step One Records, 1993) and the first single released from it was a song called 'Snake In The House'. This track was written by a then new artist called Wade Kimes who, in later years, recorded under the name of Royal Wade Kimes. Once again, Gene Watson brought a new songwriter to prominence.
Gene Watson’s relationship with Ray Pennington at Step One Records was one of mutual respect and admiration. Gene was now wearing less hats in the recording studio than he was in the 1970s and 1980s. In the old days, Gene was looking for material, organising the musicians and working on his own musical arrangements.
At Step One Records, he simply arrived at the recording studio and Ray Pennington did all the rest. The release of Gene Watson’s debut album for Step One Records, 'Uncharted Mind' (Step One Records, 1993), opened some doors for Gene, in that some American country music radio stations were willing to add some if its tracks to their play-lists.
In musical terms, it very much appeared that Gene Watson was back from the dead and that a revival of his career looked distinctly possible.
In 1996, Gene Watson’s second album for Step One Records was released; 'The Good Ole Days' (Step One Records, 1996) was an album of exquisite Texas swing and tasteful balladry and included a track which would ultimately put the Gene Watson name firmly back on the Billboard country music singles chart, after an absence of some four years.
The song in question, 'Change Her Mind', entered the Billboard country music singles chart on Saturday 25 January 1997. By March 1997, the single had reached No.44, thanks in no small part by the work carried out by an excellent promotion team at Step One Records.
One of the reasons for the revival in Gene Watson’s career at this time can be attributed to the fact that many of the people programming the song for American country music radio did not know who Gene Watson was and thought that he was a new, young artist. Most listeners to American country music radio thought the same thing.
The follow-up single, 'No Goodbyes', didn’t achieve as high a chart position, only reaching the Billboard Top 70.
The release of 'The Good Ole Days' (Step One Records, 1996) also afforded Gene Watson the opportunity to re-record three of his hit songs for a new generation of fans, namely 'Love In The Hot Afternoon', 'Speak Softly (You're Talking To My Heart)' and 'I Don't Need A Thing At All'.
1997 also saw the release of Gene Watson’s third album for Step One Records; 'Jesus Is All I Need' (Step One Records, 1997) was an album project that Gene Watson had been wishing to record for some time - a collection made up entirely of religious material.
The recording of 'Jesus Is All I Need' (Step One Records, 1997) was also very much a family affair; six of the ten featured tracks had been written by Gene’s cousin Bobbie Bost, while his sisters, Virginia Ruth Watson Thompson and Mary Lois Watson Templeton, provided wonderful harmony vocals.
'Jesus Is All I Need' (Step One Records, 1997) was re-released as 'The Gospel Side of Gene Watson' (Intersound Records, 2004) in 2004 and as 'Gene Watson: Gospel at its Best' (Gusto Records, 2006) in 2006.
Gene Watson’s final album for Step One Records, 'A Way to Survive' (Step One Records, 1997), included seven new tracks, along with a re-recording of 'Fourteen Carat Mind', which was Gene Watson’s first, and only, No.1 Billboard country No.1 hit from January 1982.
'Fourteen Carat Mind' had originally been included on Gene Watson's 'Old Loves Never Die' (MCA Records, 1981).
'A Way to Survive' (Step One Records, 1997) also included, for some inexplicable reason, 'Class Reunion' and 'Old Porch Swing', two tracks which had originally been included on 'In Other Words' (Broadland Records/Mercury Canada, 1993). 'A Way to Survive' (Step One Records, 1997) demonstrated, however, that Gene Watson still possessed his extraordinary vocal ability.
On Sunday 19 July 1998, Gene Watson's driver Kenneth Anderson was killed when Gene's bus was involved in a crash. Long-time Gene Watson guitarist and backup vocalist Gary Anderson was injured.
On Sunday 27 September 1998, in Nashville, Gene Watson was honoured by ROPE (Reunion of Professional Entertainers) when they presented him with their Golden ROPE 'Lifetime Achievement Award'.
As far as Gene Watson was concerned, he was the sole entertainment for the evening and, to the best of his knowledge, that was the only reason he was there; this turned out not to be the case. Upon receiving his award, Gene Watson said little as his eyes shone with gratitude - humble as ever!
In 1999, Gene Watson saw the release of 'Eighteen Greatest Hits' (Tee Vee Records, 1999), a compilation of eighteen of his hit singles and which introduced his unique voice to a whole new audience of listeners.
It would be a further two years, however, before an album of new material would be released bearing the name of Gene Watson.
Biography - 2000