Gene Watson is more than just a country music singer in east Texas; he is family. And Lamar County holds the iconic country music singer near and dear to its heart.
So, when Watson was invited by long-time friend and fellow country music star Vince Gill to become a Grand Ole Opry member on Jan. 17, locals couldn’t have been more excited.
“This has always been a dream of mine to be a Grand Ole Opry member and tonight it happened,” said Watson. “I’m still trying to comprehend it all. I sure was shocked when Vince Gill invited me this evening to be a member.”
What made the moment even more special was that it was on that same night 55-years earlier Watson stood on the stage at the Ryman Auditorium for the very first time.
“He’s one of the greatest country singers that’s walked the earth,” Gill said as he introduced Watson on stage to perform.
After Watson performed “Sometimes I Get Lucky and Forget” and “Nothing Sure Looked Good On You,” Gill asked, “Would you mind singing ‘Farewell Party’? The Opry told me if you would, you could be the next member of the Grand Ole Opry.”
A nearly speechless Gene replied, “I’m not sure I have anything left after that kind of surprise” and then gave an outstanding performance that kept the sold-out crowd on its feet.
“The Opry strives to showcase an array of musical styles in every show,” said 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.’”
For Paris residents, the induction comes as no surprise. Each year, thousands of fans have been coming from near and far to the Red River Valley Fair where Watson has graced the stage for decades.
“Before the show even starts, it’s standing room only,” said former KFYN 104.3FM The River personality Super David Millsap.
When describing what’s known as “Gene Watson night” at the fair, Millsap simply said, “It’s definitely the busiest night of the fair each year.”
Watson, who is an East Texas native, loves nothing more than coming home each year and that is evident in how he not only performs but interacts with each and every person who wants to say hello.
“East Texas is home to me, and coming back for the fair each year is like a reunion with friends and family,” said Gene. “It’s one of my favorite shows of the year.”