“I don’t want to live in the past and I don’t mind young kids making a living in country music. We all want that – but I sure wish they’d get more music out on today’s radio that has some meaning to it. Some depth. What some people just refer to as “real”. Real life has love and it has heartache. There’s a lot of human emotion not being told today and I think that’s what we’re missing.”
These were the words of country music traditionalist Gene Watson around the release of his 2016 album Real.Country.Music. He amassed twelve Top 5 songs including his signature song “Farewell Party,” and twenty-three Top 10’s during the apex of his commercial career starting in 1975. But like so many of the oldtimers, you won’t hear Gene Watson on the radio anymore … unless you turn on 650 WSM on an Opry night, where for decades Gene Watson has been one of the regulars that wasn’t a full-blown member. But that won’t be the case anymore.
On the Friday night Opry (1-17), Gene Watson received a long-overdue invitation to finally join the Grand Ole Opry as the next official member. The 76-year-old from Palestine, TX was surprised by Vince Gill, who is one of the Opry’s favorite couriers of formal invitations.
After performing a song, Vince invited Gene Watson out on stage unexpectedly. “I’ve got a little bit of a cold and not feeling too good, and they’ve got me down for two more songs, but I’d love to give you one of those songs. I’ll make you a deal. I’m a wheeler-dealer guy. If you do ‘Farewell Party,’ we’ll invite you to become the next member of the Grand Ole Opry.”
Of course, Gene Watson accepted.
After catching his breath and receiving a standing ovation, Gene said, “In 2019, we celebrated the 40th anniversary of the release of this song. And after 40 years it’s still the most requested song. And then you pull this on me, I’m not sure I’ve got anything left.”
The induction of Gene Watson is a win for country traditionalists. The last three inductees have all been newer radio artists, including Luke Combs (June, 2019), Kelsea Ballerini (March, 2019), and Dustin Lynch (August, 2018).
“The Opry strives to showcase an array of musical styles in every show,” says Dan Rogers, Vice President and Executive Producer, Grand Ole Opry. “When Gene Watson steps onto the Opry stage, fans know they are going to hear one of the most respected traditional country singers of all time. For years, we’ve watched him wow audiences in the crowd and fellow artists backstage. He’s been committed to the Opry for decades, and we look forward to him becoming an official member of the family. Plus, when all is said and done, you just can’t beat that last note of ‘Farewell Party.’”
Gene Watson waited for his turn at the Grand Ole Opry for a long time. And now he’s finally received it.
— Grand Ole Opry (@opry) January 18, 2020