- Paris Flash
- Real Estate
City manager John Godwin (left) is shown after Monday night’s council meeting with David Millsap, a longtime friend and fan of country music star Gene Watson. (eParisExtra photo by Charles Richards)
By CHARLES RICHARDS
The two-block thoroughfare of the Red River Valley Fairgrounds will be renamed “Gene Watson Boulevard” in honor of the home-grown country music singing star, the Paris City Council agreed unanimously Monday night.
City manager John Godwin presented a resolution on behalf of “a number of local citizens”who suggested the honor for Watson, 68, a frequent visitor and popular participant at the annual fair.”We’ll have this done for when he comes here in September and make some kind of deal of it,” Godwin said.
“I think this would be a nice gesture,” said mayor pro-tem Dr. Richard Grossnickle, who was presiding over the meeting in the absence of mayor AJ Hashmi. The mayor was out of the city and missed his first meeting since joining the council 13 months ago.
The city manager said after the meeting he will ask David Millsap, a local fan and longtime family friend of Watson, to participate in the official ceremony on Sept. 25, when Watson is scheduled to sing at the fair. Millsap led the move to honor Watson with a street named after him.
The street that runs through the fairgrounds is the northern-most extremity of Northeast Sixth Street.
“No addresses exist on this specific segment of the road, so there will be no inconvenience or requirements for change except two city street signs, which will be manufactured and hung in-house,” Godwin said. The rest of Northeast Sixth Street will remain as is.
Although born in Palestine, Texas, Watson grew up in and around Paris. He and all six of his siblings sang, as did his parents, Watson recalled in an interview.
“Ican remember singing as far back as I can remember talking. Singing was something that was not out of the ordinary for me. It wasn’t unique. My whoe family were singers,”he said.
“I sang in church with my sister. My younger brother, Jessie, and me would sing at little school functions and local things. When I was 15 and he was about 12, there was a guy who came to Paris who was supposed to be a big producer and talent scout and all this,” Watson said.
“He thought that Jessie and I had a lot of potential, so he put a show together at the coliseum. That was the big debut for The Watson Brothers. By the time the show was over with, he left town with the proceeds.”
The Watson family shifted from shack to shack as his itinerant father took logging and crop-picking jobs.
Home eventually became a converted school bus. He dropped out of school in the ninth grade to work alongside his parents in the field.
“Seems like my career just kind of happened accidentally. It was purely unintentional. Music was just a sideline. I was going to be playing and singing no matter what line of work I was going to do. I never did really have any high expectations out of the music business,” he told an interviewer.
Watson quit drinking in 1980 and quit smoking in 1990. He underwent surgery and survived colon cancer in 2000-01. Through it all, he continued to record one critically applauded collection after another. In 2002, he was inducted into the Texas Music Hall of Fame.
Among his hits are “Paper Rosie,” “Farewell Party,” and “Nothing Sure Looked Good on You.”
In 1981, after moving to MCA Records, his recording of “Fourteen Carat Mind” gave Watson his first U.S. country No. 1 song.
“It’s unbelievable to me that it’s been 50 years,”Watson says. “For most of those years, it seemed like ti took everything I could do to keep working as steady as I needed to. Now that I’m older it seems like everything comes to me without trying,” he said.
“Every time I step out on that stage and see that audience, it’s a new beginning. Even though I’ve sung these songs millions of times, I look at each one like it’s brand new to me. Every night, I try to deliver that song the best that I can.”
send comments about this article to