On Saturday 19 January 1980, T.G. Sheppard, Gene Watson and The Stoneman Family were special guests on the television show 'Hee Haw'; Gene Watson performed 'Should I Come Home (Or Should I Go Crazy)' (written by Joe Allen) and 'Farewell Party', which was written by Lawton Williams (Monday 24 July 1922 - Thursday 26 July 2007).
'Hee Haw' was an American television variety show, which featured country music and humour with fictional rural Kornfield Kounty as a backdrop; the show aired on CBS-TV between 1969 and 1971 before a twenty-year run in local television syndication.
In 1980, Gene Watson celebrated five years with Capitol Records. Many agree that Gene Watson’s tenure with Capitol Records, between 1975 and 1980, produced some exquisite country music and that these years of Gene’s musical life are considered to be his 'glory days'.
Gene Watson began 1980 with 'Nothing Sure Looked Good On You' (written by Jim Rushing), which reached No.4 on the Billboard country music singles chart.
However, Gene Watson's next three single releases, 'Bedroom Ballad' (written by Joe Allen), 'Raisin’ Cane in Texas' (written by Joe Allen and D. Lay) and 'No One will Ever Know', which was written by Mel Foree (Tuesday 25 July 1911 - Sunday 28 October 1990) and Fred Rose (24 August 1898 - Wednesday 1 December 1954), only achieved Top 20 status on the Billboard country music singles chart:
'Bedroom Ballad' (written by Joe Allen) (No.18, 1980)
'Raisin’ Cane in Texas' (written by Joe Allen and D. Lay) (No.15, 1980)
'No One will Ever Know', which was written by Mel Foree (Tuesday 25 July 1911 - Sunday 28 October 1990) and Fred Rose (24 August 1898 - Wednesday 1 December 1954) (No.13, 1980)
It was at this time when Gene Watson expressed an opinion that these latter recordings for Capitol Records could have attained a higher chart position than they did had the label promoted them adequately. Gene Watson also felt aggrieved that Capitol Records appeared to be unwilling to properly promote him the way he felt they should have been.
Capitol Records apparently felt that there was no need to invest heavily in promoting Gene Watson as his records were selling consistently and his concert appearances were sell-out events.
Gene Watson was so annoyed at the attitude of Capitol Records that he was simply uninterested as to what the label called his last album; as it turned out, the album in question was called 'No One Will Ever Know' (Capitol Records, 1980).
Gene Watson felt that he was at a crossroads as far as his career was concerned and so he took some time off to contemplate his options. A number of record labels, including MCA Records and Curb Records, became interested in adding Gene Watson to their respective artists roster.
Gene Watson decided that his next musical home would be MCA Records, so he signed to the label in 1981.
However, before Gene Watson's career got underway at MCA Records, the single 'Any Way You Want Me' (written by L. Ofman), which was included on the Warner Bros. Records / Viva Records soundtrack of Clint Eastwood's movie 'Any Which Way You Can', reached the Top 40 of the Billboard country music singles chart.
Somewhere along the way, Clint Eastwood had heard the song as a demo recording by its writer L. Ofman. However, Clint Eastwood insisted that Gene Watson should record the song.
Gene Watson flew to Los Angeles, California to record the track 'Any Way You Want Me' (written by L. Ofman), which was co-produced by Gene Watson, Thomas Leslie 'Snuff' Garrett (Wednesday 5 July 1939 - Thursday 17 December 2015) and Russ Reeder.
On Monday 17 November 1980, Warner Bros. Records / Viva Records released the soundtrack for Clint Eastwood's 'Any Which Way You Can', which featured music from David Frizzell & Shelly West, Glen Campbell, Gene Watson, Ray Charles (Tuesday 23 September 1930 - Thursday 10 June 2004) & Clint Eastwood, Fats Domino, Johnny Duncan (Wednesday 5 October 1938 - Monday 14 August 2006), Jim Stafford and Cliff Crofford (Thursday 12 December 1929 - Sunday 22 November 2009).
On Friday 12 December 1980, Clint Eastwood's movie 'Any Which Way You Can', which was directed by Buddy Van Horn, made its cinema debut. The movie included a role for Jim Stafford, who was featured on the soundtrack, alongside Ray Charles (Tuesday 23 September 1930 - Thursday 10 June 2004), Gene Watson, Johnny Duncan (Wednesday 5 October 1938 - Monday 14 August 2006), Fats Domino, Glen Campbell and David Frizzell & Shelly West.
On Tuesday 18 February 2014, Clint Eastwood's 'Any Which Way You Can' was re-issued, on CD, by Varese-Sarabande Records.
Gene Watson’s first release for MCA Records was the title track of 'Between This Time & The Next Time' (MCA Records, 1981), which was another exquisite song written by Canadian Ray Griff (Monday 22 April 1940 - Wednesday 9 March 2016), and which reached No.17 on the Billboard country music singles chart in 1981; the track was followed by 'Maybe I Should Have Been Listening' (written by Buzz Rabin), which reached No.23 in 1981.
Gene Watson began 1982 on the ultimate high when he achieved his first, and only, No.1 hit on the Billboard country music charts; 'Fourteen Carat Mind', which was co-written by Dallas Frazier and Larry Lee Favorite (1939 - Saturday 26 May 2001), was No.1 on the Billboard country music singles chart for one week in January 1982.
On Saturday 26 May 2001, Larry Lee Favorite, who was a native of Grand Rapids, Michigan, passed away at his home in Lebanon, Tennessee as the result of a heart attack.
Sheer determination though was responsible for Gene Watson even hearing the demo of 'Fourteen Carat Mind', which was written by Dallas Frazier and Larry Lee Favorite (1939 - Saturday 26 May 2001).
One night, while his Farewell Party Band members were asleep, Gene Watson was spending his time listening to demo tapes. In the bottom of a large box of demo tapes, Gene discovered that someone had sent him a song on a reel-to-reel tape.
Gene Watson wondered who in the world would have sent him a demo in such an antiquated format.
However, Gene Watson was determined to hear the track, so he dug out an old reel-to-reel machine and managed to thread the tape up. Upon hearing the opening sixteen bars of 'Fourteen Carat Mind', Gene Watson knew that he had a hit song on his hands and was determined to record it as soon as he could.
Gene Watson / MCA Records Publicity Photo, 1980s
It was also around this time, in the early 1980s, when Gene Watson’s entire appearance changed, from the slicked-back 'Elvis' look, to the longer-haired, facial haired presence of today.
It was such a radical change, that it became the focal point of nearly every interview and article printed about him at the time.
Gene Watson & his Farewell Party Band had been playing in Lake Norman, North Carolina, when the police arrived and impounded his tour bus. Someone had booked Gene in North Carolina and he had to cancel the gig because he was ill and was on medication.
Someone else informed this guy that Gene Watson was playing somewhere else the same night, so he filed a suit against Gene. A warrant was issued stating that, if Gene Watson came into the state of North Carolina, his bus would be seized and he would be taken to court.
The police officers allowed Gene Watson and his Farewell Party Band members to get a few changes of clothes, along with whatever instruments they could carry off the bus. Gene’s next gig was at the Lone Star Café in New York City, but he and the band had to fly there because the engine of the impounded tour bus froze.
With all the commotion going on as a result of the incident, which was thrown out of court, and the impounded bus engine freezing, Gene Watson forgot all his shaving gear, so he decided to quit shaving and stopped getting his hair cut. The next time Gene's fans went to buy his next album release, 'Old Loves Never Die' (MCA Records, 1981), they didn't even recognise who was on the cover.
Promotional photo from a 1982 photo shoot for Gene Watson's 'This Dream's on Me' (MCA Records, 1982); photos for the album were taken at Beds of Brass in Nashville
Gene Watson’s brand of 'beautiful country' produced three more hit singles on the Billboard country music singles chart in 1982, all of which were included on Gene Watson's 'This Dream's on Me' (MCA Records, 1982):
'Speak Softly (You're Speaking To My Heart)' (written by Steve Spurgin and J.D. Mendenhall) / this track was released on Friday 29 January 1982 / (No.9, 1982)
'This Dream's on Me' (written by Fred Koller) / this track was released on Friday 4 June 1982 / (No.8, 1982)
'What She Don't Know Won't Hurt Her' (written by Dave Lindsey and Ernie Rowell) (No.5, 1983)
On Friday 1 October 1982, Tony Booth became the leader of Gene Watson's Farewell Party Band.
Gene Watson / Promotional Photo for MCA Records
In 1983, Gene Watson’s reign at American country music radio continued with the following Billboard country music hit singles:
'You're Out Doing What I'm Here Doing Without' (written by Allen Frizzell and Bo Roberts) / this track was released on Friday 18 February 1983 / (No.2, 1983)
'Sometimes I Get Lucky', which was written by Ernie Rowell and Bobby Lee House (Friday 11 February 1949 - Thursday 25 November 2004) (No.9, 1983)
'Drinkin' My Way Back Home', which was written by Don Scaife, Ronny Scaife (1947 - Wednesday 3 November 2010) and Phil Thomas / this track was released on Monday 7 November 1983 / (No.10, 1984)
Gene Watson’s other Billboard country music hit singles in 1984 included the following tracks:
'Forever Again', which was written by Warren D. Robb and Dave Kirby (Sunday 10 July 1938 - Saturday 17 April 2004) (No.10, 1984)
'Little by Little', which was written by Danny Morrison (Sunday 22 April 1945 - Tuesday 14 February 2012) and Larry Keith (No.33, 1984)
On Saturday 26 February 1983, Gene Watson, Hoyt Axton (Friday 25 March 1938 - Tuesday 26 October 1999) and Irlene Mandrell were special guests on 'Hee Haw', an American television variety show, which featured country music and humour with fictional rural Kornfield Kounty as a backdrop; the show aired on CBS-TV between 1969 and 1971 before a twenty-year run in local television syndication.
On Saturday 14 January 1984, T.G. Sheppard performed 'Slow Burn' and 'I Loved 'Em Every One' on that week's edition of 'Hee Haw'. Guests also included Gene Watson and The Vic Willis Trio.
In 1984, when they were both guests on Ralph Emery's 'Nashville Now' television show, Johnny Russell (Tuesday 23 January 1940 - Tuesday 3 July 2001) pitched 'Got No Reason Now For Goin' Home' the song to Gene Watson. Johnny Russell was one of Gene Watson’s best friends in the music business and he said he wanted Gene to take a tape of the song back to Houston, learn it and come back to Nashville and record it.
Gene Watson told Johnny Russell that he would listen to it. Johnny Russell replied by saying that he could get anyone to listen to it and insisted that he wanted Gene to take the song, learn it and immediately record it.
Gene Watson did indeed record Johnny Russell's 'Got No Reason Now For Goin' Home' and included the track on 'Heartaches, Love & Stuff' (MCA Records, 1984).
On Thursday 20 September 1984, MCA Records released Gene Watson's 'Got No Reason Now For Goin' Home' as a single; the track reached No.7 on the Billboard country music singles chart in the early part of 1985.
In 1985, Gene Watson moved to Epic Records and returned to the Top 5 of the Billboard country music singles chart with the western swing-influenced 'Memories to Burn', which was written by Warren D. Robb and Dave Kirby (Sunday 10 July 1938 - Saturday 17 April 2004), which was also the title of Gene's first album for Epic Records.
Gene Watson's 'Memories to Burn' (Epic Records, 1984) also included 'Cold Summer Day in Georgia', which was written by Dennis Knutson and Arthur Leo 'Doodle' Owens (Friday 28 November 1930 - Monday 4 October 1999); the track featured Leona Williams on backing vocals, along with the exquisite guitar work of Dave Kirby (Sunday 10 July 1938 - Saturday 17 April 2004).
Leona Williams was married to Merle Haggard (Tuesday 6 April 1937 - Wednesday 6 April 2016) between 1978 and 1983).
Sadly, Dave Kirby passed away on Saturday 17 April 2004; he was sixty-three years old.
Dave Kirby, a native of Brady in Texas, where he was born on Sunday 10 July 1938, was a masterful songwriter and had the privilege of having twenty-four of his compositions recorded by Gene Watson.
Leona Williams recorded 'Memories to Burn', which was written by Warren D. Robb and Dave Kirby (Sunday 10 July 1938 - Saturday 17 April 2004), and included the track on 'Honorary Texan' (Heart of Texas Records, 2003).
Teea Goans recorded 'Memories to Burn', which was written by Warren D. Robb and Dave Kirby (Sunday 10 July 1938 - Saturday 17 April 2004), and included the track on 'Memories to Burn' (Crosswind Corporation, 2015).
Gene Watson performing 'Fourteen Carat Mind' at Wembley Arena in London, England in 1986
In 1986, Gene Watson & The Farewell Party Band made a number of concert appearances in Europe.
On Sunday 30 March 1986, Gene Watson & The Farewell Party Band made an appearance at Wembley Arena in London, England.
On Tuesday 1 April 1986, Gene Watson & The Farewell Party Band made an appearance at The Silk Cut Country Music Festival at King's Hall in Belfast, Northern Ireland; the compere was George Hamilton IV (Monday 19 July 1937 - Wednesday 17 September 2014).
Other artists who appeared at the event included Mark Gray, Bill Monroe (Wednesday 13 September 1911 - Monday 9 September 1996), Carroll Baker, Johnny Russell (Tuesday 23 January 1940 - Tuesday 3 July 2001), Connie Smith and George Jones (Saturday 12 September 1931 - Friday 26 April 2013).
On Saturday 5 April 1986, Gene Watson & The Farewell Party Band made an appearance at The Festhall in Frankfurt, Germany.
On Sunday 6 April 1986 and Monday 7 April 1986, Gene Watson & The Farewell Party Band made an appearance at The Hallen Stadium in Zurich, Switzerland.
Subsequent Gene Watson album releases for Epic Records included 'Starting New Memories' (Epic Records, 1986) and 'Honky Tonk Crazy' (Epic Records, 1987).
Although Gene Watson maintained a heavy touring schedule with his Farewell Party Band, none of his other record releases got as high as the Top 20 of the Billboard country music singles chart.
It was at this time when Epic Records devoted their energies and resources toward 'younger' artists and, as a result, Gene Watson didn’t seem to quite 'fit' the record label image any longer.
After a three-year absence from the Top 10 of the Billboard country music singles chart, Gene Watson’s disillusionment with his country music career grew and he seriously considered retirement.
It was during his heavy touring schedule with his Farewell Party Band that Gene Watson began playing dates with a new, young artist called Randy Travis. It was Randy Travis' manager, Lib Hatcher, who convinced Gene Watson to stay in the business.
Lib Hatcher began managing Gene Watson - Gene signed a personal management / booking contract with her - and secured a recording contract for him with Warner Brothers Records, the same label which had Randy Travis on its roster.
In order to secure the deal for Gene Watson with Warner Brothers Records, he and Lib recorded a four-song demo tape. Ironically, these recordings have, to date, not seen the light of day.
On Tuesday 23 January 2007, Gene Watson informed Sean Brady at The Gene Watson Fan Site that, in order to secure the deal for him with Warner Bros. Records in 1988, he and Lib Hatcher recorded a four-song demo tape.
Gene could, however, only remember the titles of three of these tracks; 'Reasons I Cheat' (written by Randy Travis), 'The Strength to Lose Control' and 'A Fallen Star'.
The track, 'Reasons I Cheat' (written by Randy Travis) was included on Randy Travis' debut album. 'Storms of Life' (Warner Bros. Records, 1986) was No.1 on the Billboard Top Country Albums Chart, for twelve weeks, in 1986; the album subsequently went on to sell four million copies.
Special thanks to Sarah Brosmer, Gene Watson's Day-to-Day Manager at Lytle Management in Nashville, for the acquisition of this information
Gene Watson’s debut album for Warner Brothers Records, 'Back in the Fire' (Warner Bros. Records, 1988), is unique in that it is the only Gene Watson release which features a song which Gene Watson had a hand in writing; the track in question was 'Somewhere over You' and it was co-written by Gene Watson, along with Jim Rushing and Dave Lindsey.
On Saturday 15 April 2006, The Gene Watson Fan Site received an email from songwriter Dave Lindsey in Nashville, with the information that 'Somewhere over You' was one of Dave Lindsey's favourite songs that he had written.
Dave Lindsey had co-written 'Somewhere Over You' with Jim Rushing.
When Dave Lindsey sent the song to Gene Watson, he loved the song, but he thought that the chorus could be simpler and asked if he could rewrite it. Dave Lindsey and Jim Rushing agreed that Gene could rewrite it, so that is how Gene Watson earned a song-writing credit on the track 'Somewhere over You'.
On Monday 17 October 1988, Gene Watson saw the release of the debut single from 'Back in the Fire' (Warner Bros. Records, 1988); 'Don't Waste it on the Blues' (written by Sandy Ramos and Jerry Vandiver) reached No.5 on the Billboard country music singles chart in 1988 - the Gene Watson name was back on the Billboard country music Top 10 singles chart after a three year absence.
Gene Watson’s revived career also introduced him to a new generation of country music fans. Two further singles from 'Back in the Fire' (Warner Bros. Records, 1988) charted:
'Back in the Fire' (written by Rory Bourke and Mike Reid) (No.20, 1989)
'The Jukebox Played Along' (written by Ken Bell and Charles Quillen) (No.24, 1989)
Subsequent releases on Warner Brothers Records failed to break the Billboard country music Top 40 singles chart.
• Biography - 1990s