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Catching Up With ... Gene Watson

Back After A Battle

Gene Watson has survived enough fads to know not to follow them. "Oh, man, I've come through everything - the pop-country thing, the rhinestone cowboys, the Outlaw movement," declares Gene, who first hit the charts in 1975 and has enjoyed 21 Top 10s.

"But I never altered my style. I just sing good country music and try to give fans their money's worth."

That simple formula is one Gene still puts to work on his latest CD, From The Heart. He recorded the album while surviving a battle with colon cancer.

"I was diagnosed in October 2000, and I had surgery and about six months of therapy," he explains, then adds with a laugh, "For a while, I was on the best diet in the world - all the red meat I wanted, cheesecake, good stuff like that. The doctors didn't want my blood count to go down."

And Gene kept the faith that he wasn't going down, either. "I was a little depressed at first," he admits. "But I figured I would come out of it OK. All my follow-up tests have been good, and I'm starting to get my strength back."

Gene feels vigorous enough to play about 10 shows a month, including occasional Grand Ole Opry appearances.

"I was surprised when the Opry started calling, because I'm not a member," notes Gene. "But I'd love to be. I had the opportunity once in the early '80s, but I was so busy I didn't think I could give them what they deserved."

During that hectic time, the honky-tonk-inspired traditionalist was churning out such hits as the chart-topping "Fourteen Carat Mind" and the Top 10 hit "This Dream's On Me." He prospered, although he never became a fixture on the Nashville scene. Instead, Gene preferred to live in his native Texas.

"People told me that wouldn't work - I'd never make it," recalls Gene, who still lives near Houston. "But when I'm not recording or performing, I want to get away from the music business."

At the same time, he knows the business has been good to him. "I have a lot to be thankful for," he says. "I always wanted to have a good, consistent career - and I think I've achieved that."

--Bob Paxman