Duane Watson, an upcoming performer at Gabby’s Country Cabaret, is one of those guys who’s career in country music sounds comparable to the lives of icons Johnny Cash or Waylon Jennings.
With an on-again-off-again career for five decades, the gruff and bearded country-western artist said he’s only now finding out what both he and music are capable of.
“It’s like therapy – I’m just getting back into it,” Watson explained.
Now 61 years of age and living in Mission, Watson recalled that his transient childhood spent in remote northern towns liked Fort St. Johns and Watson Lake, Yukon started it all for him musically.
“There was no power, no running water, nothing. We used to say ‘running water? Run and get it!’,” Watson laughed. “So I started playing music for something to do when I was seven or eight.”
Watson said he started bouncing around the coffee houses in town when he was 11 years old, laughing that he most likely butchered classics like “Harvest” and “Heart of Gold” by Neil Young.
Then there was the Rumsy Hotel, which he described as being about as big as a cigar box. Watson started playing outside the bar until getting invited in to play.
Watson laughed as he recalled being paid in drinks before the owner realized it would be cheaper just to give him the cash.
From then on, it was non-stop touring through B.C. and the prairies with with a three-peice-band and a set-list of classic cover tunes from giants like Hank Williams.
“I was living the rock and roll life and all the money I was making went up my nose,” Watson said. A particular low point for the musician was a stint in jail after an altercation turned violent.
Watson said he soon got himself clean and hasn’t touched drugs or alcohol since 2000, the same year he met “love of his life,” Karen McKenzie.
It was at that same point he put away the guitar and left the music business all together.
Watson said it was the death of Eagles front-man Glenn Frey in 2016 that rekindled something musically inside of him.
For the first time in his life, Watson found himself penning original tunes – all taken from and inspired by his own life.
“I don’t know what that says about me, but I can only write about things that have happened to me or that I know,” he explained.
Twangy tunes like “Son of a War Vet” dive into his family’s past while others like “Billy Miner” explore the western history of places he’s lived.
Watson has since assembled a four-peice-group with bass player John Saunders, drummer Steve Lindsay, and guitarist Willie B. Sober. He’s recorded seventeen original works, wrote more than forty songs, and even earned himself an Artist of the Year Award through a New Zealand radio station, Galaxy FM.
“Never give up. I’m doing something original now and living my dream,” Watson said, “and I’ve never had so much fun. It’s incredible…I’m on cloud nine…wow…what a life!”
When it came to his impending performance in Langley, Watson said he laughed when was initially given a 45 minute set, insisting he could easily do double that time since many of his songs run long.
Duane Watson got his wish and will be playing late into the night starting at 8 p.m., Thursday, Sept 26, at Gabby’s Country Cabaret, 20297 Fraser Hwy.
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