Gene Watson Features: ‘Country Music Perfection’ (Country Music People: November 2007)

Gene Watson Features
Country Music People: 'Gene Watson: Country Music Perfection, The Artist Talks to Craig Baguley' (November 2007)

It is here where you have an opportunity to read ‘Gene Watson: Country Music Perfection, The Artist Talks to Craig Baguley’, an article written by Craig Baguley, which was published in the November 2007 issue of Country Music People.

Gene Watson
Country Music Perfection
The artist talks to Craig Baguley

In A Perfect World‘ is the title of the latest release from Gene Watson.  It’s an apt one, too, for when it comes to perfection in country music, Watson is a hard man to beat.

Gene Watson

In 40 years of recording, he has never been less than impressive, never less than the consummate country singer.  He delights with upbeat honky tonkers like ‘Hey, Barnum & Bailey‘ and ‘Should I Come Home (Or Should I Go Crazy)‘, but his forte is the country ballad, to which his warm Texas tone is a natural companion.  ‘Love In The Hot Afternoon‘, ‘Where Love Begins‘, ‘I Don’t Need A Thing At All‘, ‘Farewell Party‘ and ‘Nothing Sure Looked Good On You‘ ‘Nothing Sure Looked On You‘ are masterworks of the genre.

Born October 11, 1943 in Palestine, Texas to a blue-collar environment, he was discovered in the late 1960s singing in a Houston club by record distributor Russ Reeder and record store owner Roy Stone who recorded Gene for their Wide World imprint.  Localised success saw the release of his debut album on Wide World, but national recognition would wait until the mid 1970s after Reeder launched Gene on his newly formed Resco label.  ‘Bad Water’ was released at the beginning of 1975 and made a tentative impression on the charts.

It was the follow-up, however, that broke Gene Watson’s career wide open.  ‘Love In The Hot Afternoon‘, released first on Resco and picked up by Capitol Records was a smash.

Gene Watson: 1970s

The second Capitol release, ‘Where Love Begin’, written by Canadian Ray Griff (Monday 22 April 1940 – Wednesday 9 March 2016) (frequent provider of song to the artist), followed suit, and the winning streak continued with such classic Watson performances as ‘Paper Rosie‘, ‘I Don’t Need A Thing At All‘, ‘Cowboys Don’t Get Lucky All The Time‘, ‘Farewell Party‘ and ‘Nothing Sure Looked Good On You‘.

Hux Records

Hux Records UK has released two ‘2-on-1’ CDs covering Watson’s Capitol period: ‘Love In The Hot Afternoon/Paper Rosie‘ and ‘Because You Believed In Me/Beautiful Country‘.

On Tuesday 3 September 2002, Hux Records released Gene Watson’s ‘Love in the Hot Afternoon & Paper Rosie‘ (Hux Records, 2002) as HUX 036.

On Monday 26 September 2005, Hux Records released Gene Watson’s ‘Because You Believed in Me & Beautiful Country‘ (Hux Records, 2005) as HUX 072.

Gene Watson: 'Old Loves Never Die' (MCA Records, 1981)

In 1981, Gene signed with MCA and enjoyed the biggest hit of his career, the number one ‘Fourteen Carat Mind‘, written by Dallas Frazier and Larry Lee Favorite (Saturday 6 January 1940 – Saturday 26 May 2001).  Other successes during the MCA period include ‘Speak Softly (You’re Talking To My Heart)‘, ‘Sometimes I Get Lucky and Forget‘ and ‘Got No Reason Now For Goin’ Home‘.

Gene Watson: 'Memories To Burn' (Epic Records, 1985)

A short spell with Epic, where he achieved the Top 5, ‘Memories To Burn‘, saw Gene move to Warner Brothers in 1988 after signing with Lib Hatcher (the formidable force behind Randy Travis) for management.

Gene Watson: 'Back In The Fire' (Warner Bros. Records, 1988)

Although he gained yet another Top 5 hit with ‘Don’t Waste It On The Blues‘, it was not a happy period for Gene and a subsequent lawsuit found his career locked in a cul-de-sac.

Since that time, the singer has recorded for several labels including Broadland International, Step One, RMG and Intersound.  In 2000, Watson was diagnosed with cancer, but has thankfully recovered following chemotherapy.

Shanachie Records

His new CD on Shanachie Records, ‘In A Perfect World‘, including special guests Rhonda Vincent, Mark Chesnutt, Vince GillConnie Smith and Lee Ann Womack, stands heads and shoulders alongside the finest work of Gene’s career (it was rated the ‘Spotlight Album’ in October’s CMP).  It proves that, although fashions come and go, Gene Watson continues to do what he has always done: make great, great country music.

Craig Baguley:  I have to begin by saying what a terrific album this is.  How did you feel when you heard all these artists wanted to record with you?

Gene Watson: Extremely flattered.  I couldn’t believe it.  In fact, I’m still not sure I’ve come down off cloud nine yet.

Craig Baguley: Joe Nichols duets with you on the title track, ‘In A Perfect World‘.  He must be a fan of longstanding as he’s covered Gene Watson songs before.  I’m thinking of ‘Farewell Party‘ and ‘Should I Come Home‘.

Gene Watson: He’s a good friend of mine now.  We share management.  But Joe has always been a humungous fan of mine, and I didn’t know that until a few years back.  He’s such a fantastic singer.

Craig Baguley: Have you worked in concert with Joe?

Gene Watson: No.  We haven’t worked on the same show yet.  I don’t know how that happened, but it just has never turned out that way.  Hopefully, we’ll get to in the near future.  We’ve worked out on the Grand Ole Opry before together.  I really admire his work.  I think he’s one of the good ones.

Craig Baguley: There’s a few guys among the musicians you’ve worked with a lot in the past such as Hargus ‘Pig’ Robbins (Tuesday 18 January 1938 – Sunday 30 January 2022) and Sonny Garrish.

Gene Watson with acclaimed producer and musician Brent Rowan in 2007 (photo credit: Patricia Presley) / Brent Rowan produced Gene Watson's 'In A Perfect World' (Shanachie Records, 2007)

Gene Watson and acclaimed musician & producer Brent Rowan
(photo courtesy of Patricia Presley)

Sonny Garrish (steel guitarist) & Brent Rowan (producer) pictured during recording sessions for Gene Watson's 'In A Perfect World' (Shanachie Records, 2007)

Sonny Garrish (steel guitarist) and Brent Rowan (producer) pictured during recording sessions for Gene Watson’s ‘In A Perfect World‘ (Shanachie Records, 2007)

Gene Watson: Right.  In fact, Brent Rowan (producer) asked me about musicians on the album before we ever went in there.  He tried to get the players, you know, that I wanted.  Yeah, we duplicated some of the players that played on my albums in the past.  That was a thrill in itself.

Craig Baguley: You can always recognise that Hargus ‘Pig’ Robbins (Tuesday 18 January 1938 – Sunday 30 January 2022) piano style.

Gene Watson: Oh, yeah.  You know, back in the day that was a deal breaker for me.  I would not go in the studio without Hargus ‘Pig’ Robbins (Tuesday 18 January 1938 – Sunday 30 January 2022).  I’m known for that piano sound.  It was so good to be back in the studio with him and Garrish, you know, Bobby All (passed away on Thursday 19 March 2009) on guitar, just great players.

Craig Baguley: How long did it take to record the album?

Gene Watson: Well, it was fast.  In fact, it probably took longer to get the contract negotiated than to make the album!  I was only in the studio a total of, like, four times, I think.

Craig Baguley: Just like the good old days.

Gene Watson: Oh, yeah, man.  We done it live.  This was new for Brent.  He’s not used to recording this way.  He and I worked hand in hand on a lot of this stuff and anything that I had in mind, ideas that I came up with, he was ready to listen to.  Brent went out of his way to make this as comfortable for me as possible and, of course, I tried to make it comfortable for him too.  He opened up his mind and he wanted to do this the way that I have always recorded, so we cut everything live.  I’m just thrilled with the way it came off, and I think he is, too.

Craig Baguley: How did you choose the material?  There’s a good mix of classics and new songs.

Shanachie Records

Gene Watson: Well, that was easy.  Shanachie wanted to record eight original songs and three songs that I thought were classics by other people.  And that was the easy part because, boy, I’ve made a living singing other people’s classic songs throughout my career, and before I got established.

The Haggard song, ‘Today I Started Loving You Again’, I’ve been doing in my show for quite some time and a lot of people said I oughta record it.  Well, I made a bunch of promises.  If I ever got the chance I was going to record it, so this was the perfect chance.

Rhonda Vincent and Gene Watson perform 'Together Again', which was written by Buck Owens (Monday 12 August 1929 - Saturday 25 March 2006), 'live' on 'An Evening With Eddie Stubbs' on Nashville's Country Legend, WSM 650AM, with Brent Rowan on guitar and Clinton Gregory on fiddle (photo credit: Patricia Presley)

Rhonda Vincent and Gene Watson perform ‘Together Again’, which was written by Buck Owens (Monday 12 August 1929 – Saturday 25 March 2006), ‘live’ on ‘An Evening With Eddie Stubbs’ on Nashville’s Country Legend, WSM 650AM, with Brent Rowan on guitar and Clinton Gregory on fiddle
(photo credit: Patricia Presley)

As far as the Buck Owens (Monday 12 August 1929 – Saturday 25 March 2006) thing (‘Together Again’) and the other Ray Price (Tuesday 12 January 1926 – Monday 16 December 2013) thing (‘Don’t You Ever Get Tired of Hurting Me’), I used to sing those songs all the time.  They were just favourites of mine and what I considered to be classics.  I just hope everybody likes the way we done ’em, you know.

Rhonda Vincent

Rhonda Vincent was so fantastic on ‘Together Again’.

Craig Baguley: How did you choose which artist would sing which song?

Gene Watson: I think it kinda fell into place, actually.  Connie is on ‘A Good Place To Turn Around’ which is sort of a gospel type song.  And of course she’s real religious oriented, anyway.  That was a given there.

As far as Vince Gill on ‘Let Me Be The First To Know’, the first time I ever heard that song Vince was doing the demo on it.  He sang the song so good, and I was just talkin’ about how great it would be if I could get Vince to come in there and sing with me.  Well, you know, Brent or somebody made it happen because the next thing I know Vince is eager to get in there.  And that’s the way it happened all the way through.  I know the one that Mark Chesnutt sang on, ‘This Side of The Door’, that was a song that he had recorded in the past and it got tangled up in red tape and never was released.  So he was eager to sing with me on that one.

Craig Baguley: Is there a radio single?

Gene Watson: I think there is.  ‘I Buried our Love’.  It’s kinda got a different groove to it.  I thought it was kind of a change up in pace that we had laid down on the album.

Craig Baguley: There does seem to be a comeback of more traditional country on United States radio.

Gene Watson: Well, I hope so.  You know, I’ve kinda stuck by my guns and I would certainly like to see it become more traditional.  I would really love to see the talent, the skill, the experience back in there that it used to have, instead of just marketing, you know, a hit.  I don’t think it will ever get back to the point where it was in the 70s, 80s, early90 90s, but, yeah, it looks like it might be coming on around.

Gene Watson

Craig Baguley: Can we turn back the clock?  You were born in Palestine, Texas to a blue collar family.  Was it a hard life?

Gene Watson: Oh, yeah, although I didn’t know it was that hard back then.  I didn’t know any better, you know, but I was raised in a poor family.  I mean, we were working class people and, by that, I mean if we didn’t work we didn’t eat.  I lived part of my life in a school bus. (laughs)  A lot of people nowadays in retirement have a big motor home.  Well, our motorhome was yellow! (laughs)  It was a converted schoolbus.  And we travelled from place to place working crops and so forth.  I’ve done just about everything in my life.  I mean, I’ve worked on a farm, I’ve worked in the fields, saw mills, I’ve worked on cars, I’ve just about done it all and I’ve learned to really appreciate life even though I was raised in a poor family.  My dad worked hard to provide for us.  I wouldn’t take nothing for it.

Craig Baguley: When you were growing up, was country music your passion from the start?

Gene Watson: Well, ‘course, I started singing in church.  That’s how I got started.  I think when I was a kid the closest thing to rock and roll was like when Carl Perkins (Saturday 9 April 1932 – Monday 19 January 1998) came out, you know, ‘Blue Suede Shoes’.  But even with that, I was a country boy and I listened to Webb Pierce (Monday 8 August 1921 – Sunday 24 February 1991), Lefty Frizzell (Saturday 31 March 1928 – Saturday 19 July 1975) and Hank Williams (Monday 17 September 1923 – Thursday 1 January 1953), and all these guys.  I mean, I was traditional country all the way.  I had a little blues in my bringing up beause my dad used to sing the old traditional black blues so I guess some of that kinda rubbed off on me.

Craig Baguley: Did your dad perform professionally?

Gene Watson:  No, he didn’t perform.  He just loved that kind of music and, you know, a couple or three guys would sit around, play and sing.

Craig Baguley: But you did form a family band.

Gene Watson: WelI, me and my brother worked together for a little while when we were still at school, but that didn’t last too long.  A I grew up and got old enough I formed a band called Gene Watson & The Other Four and it was made up of my brother and cousins and we were all Watsons.  That didn’t last long – you know how relatives get along (laughs).

Gene Watson: That was a thing that I recorded, a good friend of mine, matter of fact he worked with Elvis Presley (Tuesday 8 January 1935 – Tuesday 16 August 1977) a lot, he owned his own label and everything, and I had a couple songs that I had written and released on a small, small independent label.  What he did, he released those things on Tonka.  It was a small-time thing, short-lived, but it was just one of those things that happened as you’re kinda putting your career together.  That was at the very beginning.

Craig Baguley: Have you listened to any of those early recordings since?

Gene Watson: Well, I try not to listen to ’em. (laughs) I try my best with every recording that I do to get a little bit smoother, a little bit cleaner and kinda update things, and yet keep it with the country tradition.  I’ve listened to a lot of that old stuff that I recorded and everything and, my goodness, boy, there’s a lot of things that I picked apart.  But I guess back then, taking it all into consideration, to me that was great back then.  That was was as good as it could get.

Craig Baguley: I guess Russ Reeder was your first break in the business when he recorded you for Wide World Records.

Gene Watson: Yes, Russ Reeder and his partner Roy Stone.  They formed a partnership and took me to Nashville.  That was my first Nashville recording date.  I went in the studio and we recorded four songs with (producer) Jack Clement (Sunday 5 April 1931 – Thursday 8 August 2013).

Craig Baguley: What was it like working with Jack Clement (Sunday 5 April 1931 – Thursday 8 August 2013)?

Gene Watson: Well, I pretty much had in mind what I wanted to record and when I went in there he talked mostly to the musicians.  I just got behind the microphone and started singing.  I didn’t know what they were doing but I knew how to sing.  He just more or less let me sing.  I remember, found out later, that Jack Clement (Sunday 5 April 1931 – Thursday 8 August 2013) told them, he said, ‘I can produce a hit on this boy’, but he said, ‘it’ll take the whole session’.  Oh, Roy Stone just had a fit, he said, ‘no, no, no, we’re gonna get four songs out of this session, you know’.  And we did.

Craig Baguley: What was the song?

Gene Watson: The song that he was talkin’ about was ‘Burning Memories’.  I remember it like it was yesterday.  When I found out about it, I thought, boy, Jack Clement (Sunday 5 April 1931 – Thursday 8 August 2013) could have had me going a whole lot sooner if he had cut a hit on that song.

Craig Baguley: But, of course, your career broke wide open when you signed with Capitol.

Capitol Records

Gene Watson: Yes, Roy Stone and Russ Reeder, they split up and Russ Reeder wound up with my contract.  That’s who I was with when I was discovered by Capitol Records and had my first single released on Capitol in 1975.

Craig Baguley:Love In The Hot Afternoon‘ was a smash, but wasn’t there a stigma against the song originally because of its suggestive lyric?

Gene Watson: Yes, that’s true.  Well, you know, back then it was kinda racey you know to be played on the radio.  A lot of people that recorded it before I did – it was recorded I think seven times before I recorded it – they would change it lyrically because of that.  And I decided to record it exactly the way it was written, and I did, and the rest is history.  It just took off and turned out to be the number four song in the United States for that year.

Craig Baguley: Where did it start, in Texas?

Gene Watson: Yeah.  In fact, that’s one thing that might have hurt the record nationally because it was originally released on Resco and it was a hit in the South, you know, in certain regional areas – it was already a hit before Capitol picked it up.  There was some downtime there and they re-scheduled it and re-labeled it, released it with a rush insert, but by that time we had already lost the markets where it had been a hit previously.

Craig Baguley: In any case, it certainly established you.

Gene Watson: Oh, yeah. It was a smash.

Gene Watson (photo credit: Dave Hastings)

Gene Watson
(photo credit: Dave Hastings)

Craig Baguley: You’ve had a very good relationship hit-wise with Canadian writers Ray Griff (Monday 22 April 1940 – Wednesday 9 March 2016) and Dallas Harms (Thursday 18 July 1935 – Saturday 12 October 2019).

Gene Watson: Ray and I formed a friendship early on.  The first time I heard of Ray he was singing himself.  Only after I met him and he wanted to meet me did I find out that he was a tremendous songwriter.  We formed a partnership and a friendship that still lasts, you know.  We would go over to Ray‘s office and start listening to songs and we might listen to songs almost all night long.  I recorded several of Ray‘s songs and had some hits sprinkled through there.

I kinda ran into Dallas Harms (Thursday 18 July 1935 – Saturday 12 October 2019), you know.  The reason Dallas and I met was through Frank Jones (Sunday 4 March 1928 – Tuesday 3 February 2004), head of the country division of Capitol Records, Nashville.  He was Canadian and he was in Canada at a seminar and he brought this song, ‘Paper Rosie‘, back.  He said, ‘man, I got this song that I think could be a smash’.  And that’s how that began.

Craig Baguley: But ‘Paper Rosie‘ didn’t appeal to you at first, did it?

Gene Watson: No, it didn’t.  In fact, when I recorded it the first time I was not satisfied with it at all.  I didn’t even want it released.  I was up in the northern part of the United States when Frank Jones (Sunday 4 March 1928 – Tuesday 3 February 2004) called me and asked me would I do him a favour, go back in and give it one more shot.  So I did.  I went back in and everything seemed to fall together.  We changed a few things around and then I fell in love with the song.

Craig Baguley: You have several classic recordings to your name, but ‘Farewell Party‘ is probably the most ‘classic’ of all, after which you named your band.  It was already an old song.  What made you pick up on it?

Gene Watson: Well, I just really, really liked the song itself.  I liked the way you had to work the vocal.  It hasn’t always been recorded the way I recorded it.  Nobody else really wanted me to record that song.  We had 15 minutes left at the recording session.  I remember like it was yesterday.  I said, well, we don’t have 15 minutes to waste and I really want to record this song.  Harold Bradley (Saturday 2 January 1926 – Thursday 31 January 2019) was the leader on the recording session.  I got a guitar and went through the song and they copied down the chord charts.  We got on the headphones, rode it once to make sure the chords were right and then rolled the tape.  What you hear on the radio, that’s the first take.  We cut it in 15 minutes.

Craig Baguley: There’s terrific steel on that record.  Who was the steel player?

Gene Watson: Lloyd Green.

Craig Baguley: You’ve worked a lot with Lloyd, haven’t you?

Gene Watson: Yeah, Lloyd and I have been friends…In fact, I recorded a Christmas song and Lloyd played on it, ‘Pretty Paper’ (written by Willie Nelson).  Lloyd‘s great, a great player and always fun to get to work with.  He recorded on a lot of those early recordings of mine.

Craig Baguley: I’d have thought radio would reject ‘Farewell Party‘ because of its length.  It’s over four minutes long.

Gene Watson: Yeah, that is one thing that they didn’t like about it but I’ve been talking to a lot of DJs about it.  That turned into a positive because with all that radio work for the deejay there, it gave them time to go to the bathroom. (laughs)

Craig Baguley: My all-time favourite Gene Watson track is ‘I Don’t Need A Thing At All‘.

Gene Watson: It’s a Joe Allen song.

Craig Baguley: Did he pitch that to you at a session? (Joe Allen is a session bass guitarist in Nashville.)

Gene Watson: (laughs) When we would go to Nashville, we would visit with Joe, go out to his house where him and Dave Kirby (Sunday 10 July 1938 – Saturday 17 April 2004) and Warren D. Robb would do some of their writing.  His wife would cook and we just had the greatest time with Joe Allen and we used to listen to a lot of songs.  But it’s funny you picked that as your favourite ’cause that’s always been one of my favourites.  I think that’s a song that if you ever wanted to say the right word to a lady you could sing her that song and that would say it all, you know: ‘As long as I’ve got you, I don’t need a thing at all’.  Of course, Joe Allen wrote so many good songs for me, ‘Should I Come Home Or Should I Go Crazy‘.

Craig Baguley: You had a great run with Capitol but then you started to slow down a little on the charts at the label.

Gene Watson: Well, I went through a five year contract with ’em and they wanted to alter the contract in various intricate ways, you know.  Yeah, things didn’t work out real good.  They flew me to Hollywood and tried to negotiate a contract with me.  It didn’t work.  I don’t know who was right or wrong, hindsight 20-20, you know.  Given the chance, I would act all over again the way I did.  Be that as it may, we left there and went to MCA, and of course had some of our biggest hits over there, too.

Gene Watson: 'Between This Time & The Next Time' (MCA Records, 1981)

Craig Baguley: Indeed you did, starting off with another Ray Griff (Monday 22 April 1940 – Wednesday 9 March 2016) number ‘Between This Time And The Next Time‘.

Gene Watson: 'Old Loves Never Die' (MCA Records, 1981)

Gene Watson: Yeah.  And of course that’s where we had ‘Fourteen Carat Mind‘, a number one Billboard song.  

Craig Baguley: That was the biggest hit of your career.  How did you that song?

Gene Watson: Well, I screened all of the songs when I was getting ready to do an album.  I mean, I listened to every song that people would send me.  Boy, I had a large box on the bus and we had finished a job and all the guys had gone to their bunks and gone to bed.  I was trying to listen to all these tapes, trying to get this album together, and right at the bottom there was this one tape left, and it was a reel-to-reel.  I thought, oh, man, if I don’t listen to it that’ll be the hit.  So I had literally to get out the old reel-to-reel tape recorder and get all the dust off it, wound up the tape and, sure enough, there was ‘Fourteen Carat Mind‘.

Gene Watson: 'Memories To Burn' (Epic Records, 1985)

Craig Baguley: After MCA you moved to Epic where you hit big with ‘Memories To Burn‘, but your time with the label was quite short.

Gene Watson: Well, (laughs) I tell ya, you know, I enjoyed being with Epic Records.  Everything I cut for Epic pretty much I used my band on.  But things had kinda come to a halt.  You know, there’s all kinds of politics goes on in the music business and I didn’t like what was goin’ on, so I left Epic and talked to Lib Hatcher about a deal.  We formed a relationship, her as my manager, and of course that was the primary reason for me being on Warner Brothers.

Craig Baguley: Yes, but it’s no secret that you and Lib Hatcher had problems.

Gene Watson: You know, I had been promised this, this, this, this, you know, in the agreement, along with Randy Travis, you know, but Lib was strictly calling the shots.  And I had known Lib for a lot of years.  But anyway, the further we got into it, I was supposed to work so many shows a year with Randy.  Well, things kinda went awry and Lib had to make some changes.  It was kinda devastating to me.  As a result of that I asked her for a release from my contract.  She did give me a release but along with it there was a lawsuit.  Well, this brings back a lot of memories.  Of course, while you’ve got a lawsuit hangin’ on you, nobody’s gonna sign you, you know.  ‘Course when I left Lib, well, Warner Brothers didn’t want me anymore, so I was kinda you might say left out in the cold.

Jack McFadden (1927 – Tuesday 16 June 1998) took me in, the manager of Buck Owens (Monday 12 August 1929 – Saturday 25 March 2006) and he also managed Billy Ray Cyrus.  Jack was a great guy.  Just real, real easy to work for.  Of course, he owned his own management agency and everything.  At that time, like I say, I was under a lawsuit and I didn’t have the freedom to do what I wanted to so I pretty much had to do what I could, you know, with limitations.  I really thought Jack was a great friend by taking me in and helping me out.

Gene Watson: 'In Other Words' (Canada: Mercury-Polygram Records, 1992 / United States: Broadland International Records, 1992)

But then after the lawsuit expired, only then was when I formed a deal with Gary Buck (Thursday 21 March 1940 – Tuesday 14 October 2003) (Canadian producer who died in 2003), and Gary, bless his soul, he was a good friend of mine.  We got to talkin’ and decided to put an album together entitled ‘In Other Words‘ (Canada: Mercury-Polygram Records / United States: Broadland International Records, 1992).  We worked real close on that and put out what I thought was a good album.  It was originally released on Mercury-Polygram of Canada, and then later on released on Broadland International in the United States.

Step One Records

Craig Baguley: I was really pleased when you joined Step One Records in 1993 because I love Ray Pennington‘s productions.

Ray Pennington (Friday 22 December 1933 - Wednesday 7 October 2020)

Gene Watson: That was a kinship with Ray Pennington (Friday 22 December 1933 – Wednesday 7 October 2020), and I had known Ray for a lot of years and although I had never worked with him directly I knew his credentials, I knew how good he was as a production man, and as a singer and songwriter.

We went back to basics, which is the way I like to record, that’s live with the band.  All of the recordings that I’ve recorded for Step One, I went in there and performed the vocals at the same time as the musicians were playing.

Boy, there was just a certain magic in there.  Ray‘s got a knack for getting a good sound.

Craig Baguley: He produced you again in 2001 when you joined RMG.

Gene Watson: 'From The Heart' (RMG Records, 2001)

Gene Watson: That was after the cancer.  In fact, I had just finished up chemotherapy when we struck up the RMG deal.  When I went back in the studio I thought I was up and ready and rarin’ to go.  I was ready and rarin’ to go but really I wasn’t back in full strength and that album was extremely hard for me to record.  I was weak from the chemotheraphy.  But Ray worked with me, and it seemed like he could spot when I was getting tired even before I could.  I would keep on working and working, wanting to do this, this, this and really my capabilities weren’t what I thought they should be.  But I thought overall we came out with a good album there, ‘From The Heart‘ (RMG Records, 2001).

Craig Baguley: Well, if you didn’t feel 100%, you fooled a people!

Gene Watson: Well, I think I would know it before anybody else.  Where normally I would go in there and record three, four songs in one session, it wasn’t that easy.  It took a lot of power, and a lot of power I didn’t really have.  I appreciate you saying that but it was a tough album to record.

Gene Watson: 'Gene Watson...Sings' (Intersound Records, 2003)

Craig Baguley: You’ve sung country all your life, except one time a few years ago when you recorded the standard ‘What A Difference A Day Makes’.

Gene Watson: It’s like I say, I’ve got that blues in me, too, and I just always loved that song.  We were talkin’ about it, and couldn’t nobody believe that I wanted to record that song.  But actually me and my band worked it up and we started doing it on stage before I ever recorded it.  Boy, when we saw how people just loved my rendition of it, you know, I thought I’ve got to record the song.  When I got the chance on the ‘Gene Watson…Sings‘ (Intersound Records, 2003) album (on  Intersound), I stuck it in there.

Craig Baguley: You’re coming over to tour Ireland but it’s not the first time, is it?

Gene Watson: In fact, this will be the third trip I believe in four years.  Oh, my god, the Farewell Party Band, they’re just jumpin’ up and down, they can’t wait to get back over there.  We love it, the people are so nice.  We can’t express our love for them, for the Irish people, enough.  Everybody’s so gracious to us.

Craig Baguley: We’d love to see you in the UK.

Gene Watson: Well, you know, we’re trying our best to get things set up where we can cover the whole region.  Ireland, England, Scotland, Wales.  I don’t know when it’ll be but we’ll certainly look forward to that before long.

Craig Baguley: We can’t wait, and good luck with such a great album.

Gene Watson: I dearly hope that everybody enjoys the new album because it was such a pleasure for me to record it.

‘In A Perfect World’
Shanachie Records 6206 (2007)

Track Listing

1 ‘Don’t You Ever Get Tired (of Hurting Me)’, which was written by Hank Cochran (Friday 2 August 1935 – Thursday 15 July 2010)

2 ‘Let Me Be The First To Go’, which was written by Harlan Howard (Thursday 8 September 1927 – Sunday 3 March 2002)

3 ‘What Was I Thinking’ (written by Skip Ewing and James Dean Hicks)

4 ‘Today I Started Loving You Again’, which was written by Merle Haggard (Tuesday 6 April 1937 – Wednesday 6 April 2016) and Bonnie Owens (Tuesday 1 October 1929 – Monday 24 April 2006)

5 ‘In A Perfect World’, which was written by Harley Allen (Monday 23 January 1956 – Wednesday 30 March 2011) and Tim Menzies

6 ‘She’s Already Gone’ (written by Tim Menzies)

7 ‘I Buried Our Love’ (written by Tim Menzies and Tony Haselden)

8 ‘Together Again’, which was written by Buck Owens (Monday 12 August 1929 – Saturday 25 March 2006)

9 ‘This Side of The Door’ (written by Tim Menzies and Shawn Camp)

10 ‘A Good Place To Turn Around’ (written by J. Matthews, Rebecca Lynn Howard and Jon Mabe)

11 ‘Like I Wasn’t Even There’ (written by Wes Hightower, Tim Menzies and Monty Criswell)

Country Music People: 'Gene Watson: Country Music Perfection, The Artist Talks to Craig Baguley' (November 2007)

This article, ‘Gene Watson: Country Music Perfection, The Artist Talks to Craig Baguley’, which was written by Craig Baguley, and published in the November 2007 issue of Country Music People, was republished within Gene Watson’s Fan Site with the prior permission of Country Music People.

Craig Baguley
Country Music People
November 2007