At 76, Gene Watson Becomes Newest Member of the Grand Ole Opry

Famous for “Fourteen Carat Mind,” “Farewell Party”

The Grand Ole Opry’s glacial delay in picking Gene Watson as a member was surely one of the greatest cultural oversights of our time. But it will be remedied on Friday (Feb. 7) when the caramel-voiced singer officially joins the cast of the legendary stage show and radio broadcast.

Critics have long considered Watson one of country music’s supreme vocal stylists, rivaling the dramatic story-telling and mood-setting power of such singulars as George Jones, Vern Gosdin, Earl Thomas Conley and Willie Nelson.

Now 76, Watson first played the Opry 55 years ago when he was just gaining national attention via his sultry 1975 single, “Love in the Hot Afternoon.” In an earlier interview with, Watson recalled taking a gamble on the song. “It had already been recorded by several artists, one of them being Jim Ed Brown, if I’m not mistaken. (It was in Brown’s 1972 album, Evening.) But they had kind of smoothed down the lyrics in it because it was pretty spicy for those days.

“Then I got hold of the song: the original demo. We were flying to Nashville, and I told my manager-producer, ’You know, I want to cut this song, but I want to cut it the way it was written.’ I said, ’Let’s just go for it, and if it gets played, OK, and if it don’t, we haven’t lost that much.’ So I went in there and backed my ears, and we came up with the unique fiddle turnaround in it and, of course, Commercial Hurshel (Wiginton, a background singer) on that bass line in there — ’file gumbo.’ It just turned out to be a good record.”

Embedded from