Real Country: Dinner with Dale Watson
Dale Watson is unknown by many people who listen to country
music. And to others, he is one of the very few remaining country
artists that actually embody the soul of the music and where it
comes from. David DeVoe had the chance to sit down for a spaghetti
dinner with Dale and his band, The Lonestars, in a noisy
little restaurant and get a few stories out of them.
Hybrid Magazine:I listened to the spot on the radio today,
and you made a comment that pretty much sums up how I feel about
your music, as opposed to what most people consider country music.
I think you and I are the type of people that don't consider Shania
Twain country music. What's your take on the Nashville Country-politan
Dale Watson: I think it's pretty well known that I don't
think that [music] belongs on a country station. The fact is they've
taken that market over. That's why, when I play, over the past couple
of years, I tell people to not even call me a country music act.
Cause I don't fit in that mold anymore. They've absolutely succeeded
in stealing the moniker - it doesn't apply to the music I do anymore.
The guys in the band, when people come up and say "What kind
of music do you do?", the first thing we all say is - because
we're musicians growing up when country was country - we say country.
But I say, no no, just say original. Because when you say country,
they immediately think Tim McGraw, Shania Twain, all that
shit. I don't even want them thinking that. Then when you say Johnny
Cash-type, you can explain a little more, explain in a little
more detail. But I just say original anymore, and let them sort
it out because it makes me feel better about playing the music I'm
playing. Because it's totally disowned me, as far as country music
goes, and I don't want to be associated with it.
HM: It's interesting, the alt-country market, the rock country
market, embraces honky tonk and real country more than the real
DW: Because it's got roots. That's why. Anything roots oriented
is country. Like Americana music, you know what I mean? Just as
much as blues and bluegrass and gospel, the common ground is roots.
It's where it comes from, and it's not a manufactured sound. That's
why I think it fits so well into the Americana format.
HM: There are a lot of questions I want to ask, but I'm
trying to think of good places to go in the short time we've got
Can you tell a story about Johnny Cash? Because, obviously, he's
been a big influence.
DW: Oh yeah. I first met Johnny Cash when I was doing a tribute
That's not a fair way to say it. I was a featured artist
in a program that was a tribute for Johnny Cash, Buck Owens,
Harlen Howard, Roger Miller, and Hank Cochran.
It was for them five, and Rosemary Clooney was putting it on,
because the money funded head injury victims. And Ray Charles was
on this show
Hal Ketchum, Trisha Yearwood, Marty
who else was on it? Well, they were all doing songs
that were written by these famous people. I was called in to do a
Roger Miller medley. And so I was backstage
I first went on,
and all five of them - well, only four, because Roger Miller had passed
on - All four of them were sitting there and we had to do our songs
for these people. I did "Dang Me' and "Chugalug" as
I used to do "Dang Me", but never did "Chugalug",
so when I went to change for the medley, I couldn't remember the first
line. So instinctively, I don't know why I did this, I stayed on the
chord of my guitar and went "Hmmmmmmm". I don't know why
I did that. Didn't think about it, but it gave me enough time to remember
the line. I felt bad about it afterward, but just let it go. And then
when the show was over, Johnny and Buck Owens , Harlen Howard and
Hank Cochran were backstage, and I thought, I'm going to go get my
camera. So I had to walk by the crowd of people that were gathered
around Johnny, and he goes " 'Scuse me. 'Scuse me." And
he grabs my shoulder as I'm walking by. He says, "Here's that boy. June,
here's that boy." I was in awe, you know. He says, "I just
wanted to tell you thank you. You made my and June's night. Roger
Miller was our best friend, and we felt like he was here tonight because
Roger used to do that on stage, what you did, to let me know, and
kinda say hi." And June came over and hugged me. So ever since
that, whenever he'd come to Austin or whatever, I'd go see his shows..
And he would always remember. He was always welcoming
my story. That's my most favorite story about meeting a legend.
HM: With him, you know, that's the real deal. He was always
a real person. I met him once and just had the chance to say Hi
But I know he was like that
You mentioned Marty Stuart. Do you
have any connection with him? Because before I knew about you, I felt
like Marty and Dwight Yoakam were some of the only ones making
country music. At least songs that were being heard.
DW: Yeah, I can agree with that. I think Dwight more than
Marty. I know Marty, and he's got quite the collection of country
music stuff. He's definitely got the pedigree; he's seen it all, when
it was real. But he's also right there in the middle of it when it
Travis Tritt and all. So I give him his cudos
where I think he deserves them, but
HM: Yeah, there are a few black marks here and there.
DW: I mean, I'm not dissing him, I don't really hold him in
as high of regard as I do Ricky Skaggs. Ricky Skaggs has been
doing his thing from the get go, you know? That's one of the most
under-rated guys, that ever come out. And you can tell it's him when
he sings, he's got his own style and his own thing and he's carrying
on a tradition. There's not a lot of people you can say that about.
Dwight Yoakam is one of them, too. You know, you can't say that about
Randy Travis anymore, because he changed his deal. Even before
he went gospel, his first album was great, and then the rest of them
were total Nashville mix. I'm just calling it like I see it. I'm not
saying that that is the way it is, I'm just pretty vocal about what
HM: Have you ever played the Opry?
DW: Oh yeah, quite a few times. About eight or nine times.
HM: How is that as an experience?
DW: I love it. I mean, that's what I always dreamed of, growing
up. The thing is, part of that dream is that when you play the Grand
Ole Opry, is that it means you've made a dent in country music, and
that they've accepted you. That isn't what it means now. That's what
it used to mean. But I'm still just as honored to play the Grand Ole
Opry, because I know its roots. What was cool about it then was, if
you played the Grand Ole Opry, then everybody knew - hey, this guys
made it. He's done something for country music. But nowadays, that
isn't what it is. The only difference is: Then, when you played, everyone
knew it. Now, only you know it. Know what I mean? Cause you ask anybody
that listens to mainstream radio some of their favorite artists that
played the Grand Ole Opry in the past month, and they wouldn't tell
you one person's been on it.
HM: Yeah, that is the cornerstone of country music, and there
are people that don't even know what it is.
DW: They think it's a TV show. You know, it comes one very
now and then.
HM: I guess this kind of leads into
other than the guys
we've already talked about, like Ricky Skaggs
Are there any
other people out there making music that you kind of look up to?
DW: Well, Ray Price is still making good music. Or
are you talking about new people?
HM: Well, anyone making music currently. They don't have to
be new people.
DW: Oh. Well, I like Dwight's music still, even though it's
changed a lot. It's still great. There's a lot of great singers that
come along, but I've got to say, as far as inspirations and things
that I have the most respect for are ones I looked up to in the past,
and one's I still look up to now. I still go to a George Jones
show if I'm off. I've got to say, Billy Joe Shaver is a guy
that is a singer-songwriter who is still out there doing it
just because they're out there doing what they did and what they always
have done. I don't consider him a vocalist, but I consider him a singer-songwriter
that is somebody I look up to. I can't say that I look up to, other
HM: What about outside of country music? What about rock or
DW: Ummm. No, that's not something I do. I kind of stay where
I am. I listen to old records. And actually, I get CDs from these
friends of mine
Jackson Taylor Band. There's lots of
bands in Austin popping up. And I listen to them every now and then
on my stereo. Brenda Lee (?) is a girl that has been coming
on real strong in Austin, and I think she's got a great voice. One
of the most country voices I've heard in years. Not contrived, not
Nashville sounding and contrived. You know? You hear these folks doing
their best Loretta Lynn impersonation, and they fall short.
But there are real people out there. I can't say that I look up to
anybody, just the legends that I keep looking up to. Because I think
they are still teaching us new things. Like Willie. Willie
is a great example. I look up to Willie huge.
HM: What about Waylon [Jennings]? The Texas
guys, like Bob Wills?
DW: That's what is kind of sad about Texas. What's going on
right now. You know, Texas had the most unique sounds and singers
that ever came out of
I don't want to say anywhere, but it
That have ever come along. Lefty Frizell, Roy Orbison,
Waylon, Bob Wills, George Jones. They've got so much to be proud of,
that heritage is vocalists - Vocalists and stylists, people that made
such a mark that they were imitated along the way. Buck Owens, he's
from Texas. Now, it's so sad that the only thing we know from Texas
is these singer-songwriters that have songs that are weak. Their songs
are weak and the vocals are extremely weak. When you put them side
by side, there sure isn't any comparison as far as quality. And of
course that's me looking at it. You know, we have Ray Price. You know
when you've got that quality of song, there's a certain level that
you know, there's a bar that's been raised in Texas,
and now it's been lowered quite a bit. You've got these people now
that are singing barefoot on stage that can't hold a pitch.
HM: I think that's fairly universal. That's not just Texas.
There's been a huge explosion, and I think the last 3 or 4 major movements
in rock music have been based on singers that can't sing.
DW: You know, just because you can't hit pitch , doesn't mean
you are a great songwriter. And for some reason that's been accepted.
Obviously, if someone can't sing they must be a great songwriter.
Don: You can forget Bob Dylan and those guys. They
can be forgiven.
HM: Yeah, just because one guy can do it, doesn't make it
DW: That's my point. Yeah, Bob Dylan and Kris Kristofferson,
they had hits by other people.
HM: What's the story behind the guitar covered in coins?
DW: Drunk night in a hotel after a two month tour of Europe. Back
then, before the Euro-dollar, every time you'd cross a country line,
you'd have to change your money. And they wouldn't take the coins.
So after a two month tour, we'd hit four continents in two months,
and I had about five pounds worth of change. Bought a beer in a
hotel one night and thought, hmmm. I went down to the store and
got some super glue and thought, this is a good way to remember
where I've been. O I started gluing it on.
HM: So that Tele's about five pounds heavier than when it
DW: You'd think it is, but it's not. It probably only added
a pound to it. I kept some of those coins, though. Even though they
are worthless now because of the Eurodollar. Just in case some fell
off. Sometimes fans come up and ask if they can have a coin off of
it. I say sure.
HM: If you can get one off!
DW: They're easy to come off.
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