Singer Gene Watson recalls route from cars to country

Thu Feb 23, 2012 4:12pm EST
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By Vernell Hackett

NASHVILLE, Tenn (Reuters) - Early on, Gene Watson pursued his dream of working on cars, toiling as a mechanic, then relaxing with his weekend hobby playing country music in Houston honkytonks and beer joints.

The hobby became a 50-year career for Watson, 68, who has gone on to record a string of hits including "Love in the Hot Afternoon," "Paper Rosie," "Sometimes I Get Lucky and Forget," and his signature song, "Farewell Party."

The native of Palestine, Texas, grew up poor, his father a laborer who always managed to put food on the table, though for a time the family lived in a school bus.

"Singing was a part of everyday life for me and the rest of my family," Watson said in an interview. "It was something I loved, but I never dreamed of becoming a recording artist."

An opportunity presented itself when the Wilburn Brothers duo caught his act and invited him to perform, and Watson never looked back.

He moved to Nashville and quickly established his signature sound. He recently celebrated 50 years as a recording artist with an album, "Best of the Best: 25 Greatest Hits."

Watson said the album was the hardest thing he has ever recorded.

"I thought it wouldn't take any preparation because I had been playing these songs for years," the singer explained. "I can remember recording the originals. I just thought I could breeze through it. But I was wrong."   Continued...