Longtime country music favourite Gene Watson is to become the next member of the genre’s venerable institution, the Grand Ole Opry. The surprise news was presented to Watson on stage on Friday (17) at the Opry, in its regular winter location at its former permanent home at the Ryman Auditorium, by another country standard-bearer, Vince Gill.
Opry member Gill interrupted Watson’s performance to say “I’ll make you a deal — if you’ll do ‘Farewell Party,’ we’ll invite you to be the next member of the Grand Ole Opry.” It was a reference to the veteran’s 1979 hit and signature song, which reached No. 5 on the US country charts.
Born on 11 October 1943 in Palestine, Texas, Watson started working professionally at the age of 13, and first performed at the Grand Ole Opry in 1965, when he was 21 years old. His initial recordings were that year, for the Tonka label, and he first hit the country bestsellers in 1975. His second chart entry, ‘Love In The Afternoon,’ was a No. 3 hit that year.
Watson amassed 48 country chart appearances between then and 1997, including no fewer than 20 top ten hits. The biggest of these was ‘Fourteen Carat Mind,’ which reached No. 1 in early 1982. Other favourites included 1977’s ‘Paper Rosie,’ 1983’s ‘You’re Out Doing What I’m Here Doing Without’ and his last top tenner, ‘Don’t Waste It On The Blues,’ early in 1989.
He recorded for Capitol in the second half of the 1970s (including 1979’s Should I Come Home album, pictured above) and then for MCA in the first half of the 1980s. He charted 19 albums in total between 1975 and 1991. Watson will join other stars who have recently been given Opry membership such as Luke Combs, Kelsea Ballerini, Mark Wills, Chris Janson and Dustin Lynch.