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Gene Watson's peers within the country music industry believe in the sheer talent of this unassuming man from east Texas, so much so that Gene is regarded by many of them as 'the singer's singer' - and rightly so!
All of Gene Watson's Peers who were contacted during 2009 were most gracious with their time and words. It is here, within this special part of the Gene Watson Fan Site, that you have an opportunity to read a quote from Cleve Francis, which he submitted to this site on Tuesday 23 June 2009.
Sean Brady would like to take this opportunity to say 'thank you' to Cleve Francis who made a special contribution to this unique part of this online 'celebration of a Lone Star Hero'.
This quote was submitted on Tuesday 23 June 2009.
'Sean, thanks for you inquiry.
I have always been a fan of Gene's music. He will always stand as one of the more significant voices and careers in country music.
He is a 'foundational' link in the history of contemporary country music as we know it.
Thanks for all of your efforts in keeping this great artist's work before the world'.
Thank you, Cleve Francis, for your support of Gene Watson.
About Cleve Francis...
Cleve Francis was born Cleveland 'Cleve' Francis, Jr. on Sunday 22 April 1945 and was raised near Jennings, Louisiana, an area where the importance of music such as African, Cajun and rural American rhythms prevailed.
It was into this rich blend of sounds that young Cleve Francis first became aware of his own musical voice. When he was eight years old, he felt so moved by the varied notes heard over the radio that he summoned up the courage to ask his mother for a guitar he knew they could ill afford.
Seeing the enthusiasm in her son’s eyes, or perhaps sensing his natural talent, Mrs. Francis struck a bargain with her son that would shape his lifetime.
Cleve's mother agreed to purchase the instrument, under the condition that Cleve get all his homework done and study very hard. With the agreement set, Mrs. Francis saved quarters for nearly a year until she was able to purchase a Silvertone guitar from the Sears & Roebuck catalogue. And, true to his word, Cleve excelled in his schoolwork as he slowly developed his musical skills.
Cleve became the accompanying guitarist for a local gospel quartet known as the Mid-South Spiritual Singers. In addition to touring on weekends with the group, Cleve also played the tuba in his high school band, as well as becoming the musical director of its chorus. Despite Cleve’s obvious musical abilities, his mother knew that the only certain road out of the poverty and segregation of the rural south was through a solid education.
After high school graduation, Cleve Francis enrolled at Southern University in Baton Rouge. While attending the university, Cleve met Dr. Huel Perkins, head of the music department. Cleve reluctantly admitted that he played the guitar and sang. Huel set up an appointment to hear a sample of his student’s abilities. A session that was scheduled to last twenty minutes ended up spanning the course of an entire day, including the recording of several country ballads.
Dr. Perkins was so impressed with Cleve that he insisted on purchasing a new guitar to replace the old Silvertone that had developed a severe crack in its side. It was with Dr. Perkins’ encouragement and sponsorship that the young pre-med student gave his first formal concert before a group of over a hundred of the university’s music majors.
After completion of his studies at Southern, Cleve headed off to graduate school at the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia. Cleve soon found an enjoyable way of earning extra spending money by performing in the colonial taverns and around the Tidewater area in small venues. It was with the encouragement of his Williamsburg fans that he cut his first recording, 'The Willow Tree', in 1966.
With his master’s degree in biology, Cleve Francis moved on to medical school at the Medical College of Virginia (VCU). While he made no recordings during this period, he did write songs, develop musical associations and earn money for his medical school expenses by working of the road with other musicians during the summer months.
During his residency at George Washington University Medical Center, Cleve Francis began performing at the 'Singer’s Studio' in Washington’s fashionable Georgetown district. Teamed with fellow guitarist Billy Pierce, Cleve entertained hundreds of fans with such favourites as Sam Cooke’s 'You Send Me' and The Eagles’ 'Desperado'.
In 1978, with his medical training complete, Cleve Francis set up his cardiology practice in nearby Alexandria, Virginia and, as time passed, the young doctor’s reputation as a highly skilled medical practitioner spread throughout the area.
By the mid 1980s, Cleve was performing at the nationally acclaimed 'Birchmere' in Alexandria. As his celebrity steadily grew around the Washington area, Cleve decided to become involved with two important causes: AIDs education and awareness and the plight of Vietnam era veterans.
By the early 1990s, Mount Vernon Cardiology occupied the vast majority of Cleve’s time and energy. As a full-time physician and important member of the local medical community, it had become increasingly difficult to pursue his part-time musical avocation. But a strange coincidence took place that would yet again change the course of Cleve’s life.
While treating a cardiac patient at Mount Vernon Hospital, Cleve was introduced to the patient’s brother 'Big John Hall', who was formerly a member of the 1950s rhythm and blues group known as 'The Heart Beats'. As John's brother recovered, Cleve and John discussed their mutual love of music. Fascinated by the singing doctor, John asked if he could hear a few of Cleve’s tunes.
What followed was a serendipitous chain of events which ultimately led to a meeting with the president of Capitol Nashville Records; Jimmy Bowen had worked with such legendary stars as Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Junior, Glen Campbell, Gary Morris and Garth Brooks.
With a new album 'Last Call For Love' and a professionally produced music video, Cleve Francis was overwhelmed by the response to the album’s lead single 'Love Light'. Suddenly his performance was being aired over CMT (Country Music Television) in the same rotation as tunes by Alan Jackson, Vince Gill, Patty Loveless and Billy Dean; what was even more outstanding was the fact that his video won Music Row Magazine’s 'Independent Video Of The Year' in 1990.
With a three record deal now signed with Jimmy Bowen, Cleve Francis was sent on a country radio tour. Crisscrossing the United States, Cleve visited all the top country music stations and attended 'listening parties' throughout the nation. As his new album 'Tourist in Paradise' (Liberty Records, 1992) was released in Nashville, Cleve quickly became the darling of virtually every major television and newspaper outlet.
From New York to Washington, Atlanta to Chicago, articles were written about the singing cardiologist. He was featured in newspapers and periodicals from coast to coast; The New York Times, Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, Atlanta Constitution, Time and People Magazine all wrote fabulous and complementary articles about the doctor, who also happened to be a country music sensation.
CNN, CBS' 'This Morning' (later replayed on '60 Minutes'), The Today Show and Good Morning America all aired interviews or segments about the singer who was still holding down regular office hours as a practicing cardiologist in Alexandria, Virginia.
It was clear that Cleve would have to take time off from his medical practice if he was going to fully explore the possibilities of his musical abilities. With the consent of his partners, Cleve took a leave of absence as he struck out across America in his tour bus.
Cleve Francis began with a three-day performance schedule at the Colorado State Fair, followed by a hectic schedule of personal appearances. Thousands of fans welcomed him wherever he went, but after two years of constant travel and no breakaway hit, it was time to take stock.
In 1994, Cleve Francis returned to his medical practice after the release of 'You've Got Me Now' (Capitol Records, 1994), which was Cleve's last Capitol Records album.
Still vitally interested in advancing the cause of African-American country artists, he collaborated with the Country Music Foundation and the Country Music Association to increase their efforts to provide opportunities for talented young performers.
Cleve Francis also worked closely with the Country Music Foundation and Warner Brothers Records to produce a first of its kind three-CD box set entitled 'From Where I Stand'.
The three-CD box set contained recordings of many unknown African-American country artists with material dating back to the great Black harmonica player DeFord Bailey who was a star of the Grand Ole Opry in the late 1930s and early 1940s.
Cleve Francis is the president of Mount Vernon Cardiology Associates and has served as the president of the Mount Vernon Hospital’s Medical Staff. He continues to perform locally in the Washington Area at The Birchmere with his eleven-piece band, as well as at local charitable events. In his spare time he composes music, poetry and delivers motivational addresses on health issues.
At some point in the future, Cleve Francis hopes to publish a book on his life and experiences in country music.