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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 2006 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 Leona Williams, which she submitted to this site on Monday 19 June 2006.
Sean Brady would like to take this opportunity to say 'thank you' to Leona Williams who has made a special contribution to a unique part of this online 'celebration of a Lone Star Hero'.
This quote was submitted on Monday 19 June 2006.
'Gene Watson is one of the greatest singers in the industry.
His voice is unmatched in its ability to capture an audience with sincerity and communicate that feeling to everyone in the building.
Gene Watson is pure country at its finest'.
Thank you, Leona Williams, for your support of Gene Watson.
About Leona Williams...
Leona Williams was born Leona Belle Helton in Vienna, Missouri on Thursday 7 January 1943 and picked up her professional last name from her first husband. Leona sang in her family band as a child and, by 1958, had landed her own radio show on Jefferson City's KWOS called 'Leona Sings'.
It was also in 1958 that Leona married bassist Ron Williams and they both joined Loretta Lynn's road-show. It was as a result of appearances on Jefferson City's KWOS that brought her to the attention of Loretta Lynn, who asked Leona Williams to join her touring band as a bassist and backup vocalist.
Roy Acuff (Tuesday 15 September 1903 - Monday 23 November 1992) recorded Leona Williams' 'Once More' and included the track on 'Once More - It's Roy Acuff' (Hickory Records, 1959).
In 1966, Loretta Lynn enjoyed her first No.1 on the Billboard country music singles chart with 'Don't Come Home A-Drinkin' (With Lovin' On Your Mind)'.
Loretta Lynn recorded Leona Williams' 'Get What You Want And Go' (co-written with Loretta Lynn and Ron Williams) and included the track on 'Don't Come Home A-Drinking' (Decca Records, 1967).
Leona Williams' goal, however, was to be an artist in her own right, so she signed as a solo artist with Hickory Records in 1968, where she cut a few minor hits for the label, including 'Once More', 'Country Girl With Hot Pants On' and 'Yes, Ma'am, He Found Me In A Honky Tonk'. It was also at this time that her marriage to Ron Williams broke up.
Bobbie Gentry recorded Leona Williams' 'Papa's Medicine Show' and included the track on 'Local Gentry' (Capitol Records, 1968).
Tammy Wynette (Tuesday 5 May 1942 - Monday 6 April 1998) recorded Leona Williams' 'Broadminded' (co-written with Jimmy Payne) and included the track on 'Take Me To Your World / I Don't Wanna Play House' (Epic Records, 1968).
Although she had joined Hickory Records in 1968, it wasn't until 1970 that Leona Williams saw the release of 'That Williams Girl, Leona' (Hickory Records, 1970), her first album for the label. Her second album for Hickory Records, 'The Best Of Leona Williams' (Hickory Records, 1972), which was mostly a collection of singles that she'd recorded, was not released until 1972.
In 1974, with a broken marriage behind her and three children to bring up (one of those children was Ron Williams), Leona Williams decided to sign with RCA Records; she had a couple of songs produced by Ray Pennington but nothing came of them.
Connie Smith recorded Leona Williams' 'Dallas' and included the track on 'That's the Way Love Goes' (Columbia Records, 1974).
Then, in January 1975, Leona Williams met Merle Haggard.
Merle Haggard was putting the finishing touches to his album project 'My Love Affair With Trains' (Capitol Records, 1976), so he asked Leona Williams to add harmony vocals to the track 'Where Have All The Hobos Gone', a track written by Leona's future husband Dave Kirby (Sunday 10 July 1938 - Saturday 17 April 2004).
Leona Williams moved from Hickory Records to MCA Records, where she recorded a landmark album; 'San Quentin's First Lady' (MCA Records, 1976) was released in 1976 and was the first country music album to be recorded by a female country artist inside a prison and featured The Strangers, Merle Haggard's backing band. 'San Quentin's First Lady' (MCA Records, 1976) was subsequently released on CD in 2005.
Leona Williams became Merle Haggard's third wife on Saturday 7 October 1978, a ceremony at which Bonnie Owens (Tuesday 1 October 1929 - Monday 24 April 2006), Merle's second wife, served as a bridesmaid. Merle had married Bonnie Owens in 1965, but they separated in 1976. Bonnie Owens had also been married to country music legend Buck Owens (Monday 12 August 1929 - Saturday 25 March 2006) in the years between 1948 and 1953.
Merle Haggard recorded Leona Williams' 'Mama, I've Got To Go To Memphis' and included the track on 'I'm Always On A Mountain When I Fall' (MCA Records, 1978).
Leona Williams became an invaluable member of Merle Haggard's backing group; she and Merle enjoyed a Top 10 hit on the Billboard country music singles chart with 'The Bull And The Beaver' in early 1979 (the single reached No.8).
Merle Haggard recorded Leona Williams' 'Where Have You Been' and included the track on 'The Way I Am' (MCA Records, 1980).
Merle Haggard recorded Leona Williams' 'After I Sing All My Songs'; the track was included on the Merle Haggard and George Jones (Saturday 12 September 1931 - Friday 26 April 2013) duet album 'A Taste Of Yesterday's Wine' (Epic Records, 1982).
Leona Williams and Merle Haggard also recorded an album of duets, 'Heart To Heart' (Mercury Records, 1983).
Leona Williams also contributed a number of songs to Merle Haggard's country music career, two of which reached No.1 on the Billboard country music singles chart.
Merle Haggard recorded Leona Williams' 'You Take Me For Granted' and included the track on 'Going Where The Lonely Go' (Epic Records, 1982); the track was No.1 on the Billboard country music singles chart for one week in May/June 1983.
Merle Haggard recorded Leona Williams' 'Someday You're Gonna Need Your Friends Again' and included the track on 'Going Where The Lonely Go' (Epic Records, 1982).
Merle Haggard recorded Leona Williams' 'Someday When Things Are Good' (co-written with Merle Haggard) and included the track on 'That's The Way Love Goes' (Epic Records, 1983); the track was No.1 on the Billboard country music singles chart for one week in June 1984.
Merle Haggard and Leona Williams recorded 'We're Strangers Again' and included the track on 'We're Strangers Again' (Mercury Records, 1983); the track, 'We're Strangers Again', which charted in 1983, marked the dissolution of Leona Williams' relationship with Merle Haggard.
George Jones (Saturday 12 September 1931 - Friday 26 April 2013) recorded Leona Williams' 'If I Painted A Picture' (co-written with Charles Browder) and included the track on 'Who's Gonna Fill Their Shoes' (Epic Records, 1985).
Randy Travis and Tammy Wynette (Tuesday 5 May 1942 - Monday 6 April 1998) recorded Leona Williams' 'We're Strangers Again'; the track was included on Randy Travis' 'Heroes And Friends' (Warner Bros. Records, 1990) and earned a Country Music Association (CMA) nomination for 'Duet of the Year' for Tammy and Randy.
In 1983, Leona Williams left Merle Haggard and filed for divorce. Leona moved back to Vienna, Missouri where she lived on a farm with her new husband Dave Kirby (a former member of Merle Haggard's band, The Strangers) who she married in 1985.
Gene Watson with Justin Trevino, Dave Kirby (Sunday 10 July 1938 - Saturday 17 April 2004) and Leona Williams
Sadly, Dave Kirby passed away on Saturday 17 April 2004 - he was sixty-three years old. Dave Kirby, a native of Brady, Texas where he was born on Sunday 10 July 1938, was a masterful songwriter and had had the privilege of having twenty four of his compositions recorded by Gene Watson.
In 1999, Leona Williams saw the release of her solo album 'Melted Down Memories'.
Johnny Bush and Hank Thompson (Thursday 3 September 1925 - Tuesday 6 November 2007) recorded Leona Williams' 'Don't Sing Me No Songs About Texas'; the track was included on 'Johnny Bush Sings Bob Wills' (Texas Music Group Records, 2000).
In 2003, Leona Williams saw the release of 'Honorary Texan' (Heart of Texas Records, 2003), an album that included her recording of 'Memories To Burn', a track originally recorded by Gene Watson.
Gene Watson recorded 'Memories To Burn' and included the track on 'Memories to Burn' (Epic Records, 1985); the album included 'Cold Summer Day In Georgia', which featured beautiful backing vocals from Leona Williams, along with the exquisite guitar work of Dave Kirby (Sunday 10 July 1938 - Saturday 17 April 2004).
'Cold Summer Day In Georgia' was included, for the first time on CD, on Gene Watson's 'Ultimate Collection' (Universal/Hip-O Records, 2001).
Pretty Miss Norma Jean recorded Leona Williams' 'Good Morning' and included the track on 'The Loneliest Star In Texas' (Heart Of Texas Records, 2005).
In 2006, Ferlin Husky (Thursday 3 December 1925 - Thursday 17 March 2011) saw the release of 'The Way It Was' (Heart of Texas Records, 2006).
Ferlin Husky's 'The Way It Was' (Heart of Texas Records, 2006), which was produced by Leona Williams and Justin Trevino, included two tracks, 'Dear John' and 'As Long As I Live', which were duets with Leona Williams, along with 'The Way It Was', which was written by Leona Williams.
Ferlin Husky's 'The Way It Was' (Heart of Texas Records, 2006) also included recorded Dallas Frazier's 'Champagne Ladies' (co-written with Arthur Leo 'Doodle' Owens).
In 2008, in what was seen as both a smart and obvious move, the album 'Leona Williams Sings Merle Haggard' was released.
It was also in 2008 that Leona Williams saw the release of 'New Patches' (Heart of Texas Records, 2008); the album included 'You Put Out An Old Flame Last Night'.
Gene Watson recorded 'You Put Out An Old Flame Last Night' and included the track on 'Sometimes I Get Lucky' (MCA Records, 1983).
Gene Watson with Darrell McCall and Leona Williams
On Tuesday 30 October 2012, Leona Williams saw the release of 'By George This Is...Leona Williams' (Ah Ha Entertainment, 2012), a tribute album to George Jones (Saturday 12 September 1931 - Friday 26 April 2013).
Leona Williams' 'By George This Is...Leona Williams' (Ah Ha Entertainment, 2012) included one brand new song, 'Ole George', which was written by Leona Williams, along with her renditions of classic country songs, which were originally recorded by George Jones (please note that Billboard country music single chart placings refer to George Jones):
'Window Up Above' (written by George Jones) (No.2, 1960)
'A Picture of Me, Without You' (written by Norro Wilson and George Richey) (No.5, 1972)
'He Thinks I Still Care' (written by Dickie Lee and Steve Duffy) (No.1 for six weeks in Spring/Summer 1962)
'I'll Share My World With You' (No.2, 1969)
'Color Of The Blues' (written by Lawton Williams and George Jones) (No.7, 1958)
'The Race Is On/White Lightning'/Why Baby Why' (medley)
'The Race Is On' (written by George Jones and Don Rollins) (No.3, 1964)
'White Lightning' (written by J.P. Richardson) (No.1 in April 1959)
'Why Baby Why' (written by Darrell Edwards and and George Jones) (No.4, 1955)
'I'm Not Ready Yet' (written by Tom T. Hall) (No.2, 1980)
'Walk Through This World With Me' (written by Sandy Seamons and Kaye Savage) (No.1 for two weeks in early 1967)
'Things Have Gone To Pieces' (a duet with Gene Pitney) (No.9, 1965)
'When The Grass Grows Over Me' (No.2, 1968)
'He Stopped Loving Her Today' (written by Bobby Braddock and Curley Putman) (No.1 for one week in July 1980)
'You Comb Her Hair' (No.5, 1963)
'Who's Gonna Fill Their Shoes?' (written by Troy Seals and Max D. Barnes) (No.3, 1985)