May , 1992
By Lisa L. Rollins
B. B. Watson
“Bad Boy" Makes Good
If it weren't for the element of human error, Texas native Haskell Watson probably wouldn't have a couple of hit singles to his credit.
But he does, sort of.
Well, they're not actually in Haskell's name, but they were recorded by Haskell. Furthermore, Haskell's stage name, at least from here on out, is B.B. Watson. And he's got Light At the End Of The Tunnel, his debut disc for BNA Entertainment, to prove it.
"My real name is Haskell," began the country singer in a recent interview, carefully spelling out each letter in his first name for accuracy. "But I guess it got hard to get used to."
Maybe so. But either way, the B. B. moniker, which was given to him by Nashville studio musician Bruce Bouton, has served him well. And it's a nickname he earned from all indications.
"We were in the studio laying down the tracks ... and all the best musicians in Nashville were playin' on my album," said the 38-year-old Watson, sounding awestruck still. "I sang the first song and I nailed it on the first tract, and (steel player) Bruce Bouton says, 'Oooh, bad boy!'"
"The next song, I went in and I nailed it again, and Bouton says, 'Oooh, bad boy strikes again.' We were in there recording for two weeks, so they nicknamed me B.B."
Upon completion of the recording process, a sound engineer preparing copies of Watson's tape for distribution to the industry's major record labels put "B. B. Watson," not Haskell, on the cassettes. In turn, one made it's way to Joe Galante, president of RCA Records/Nashville, the sister country label of the newly formed BNA.
Galante liked what he heard, so he sent B. B. a letter via the latter's attorney.
"I went in to talk to Joe Galante," remembered Watson, "and I said, 'Joe, you know my name's not B.B.' And he said, 'Yeah, I know. I just heard that, but if it hadn't been for B. B. I would have never listened to the tape.' And I said, 'Like I said, let's change my name to B. B.,' You know, I was gonna do whatever it takes to get a record deal."
As the first artist to be signed to the BNA roster, Watson's debut album has done him proud, as they say, since its July release. The first single and the LP's title track, "Light At The End Of The Tunnel," hit No.16 with a bullet on the charts of Radio & Record, while the follow-up track, "Lover Not A Fighter," pushed its way to No. 34 with a bullet.
Although "Lover Not A Fighter" faired well with Metroplex radio and garnered a nice chunk of national video airplay, the Houston-based artist had a little trouble in his own back yard.
"Houston just won't play me, which is really a bummer 'cause "Lover Not A Fighter" did real good in Dallas," he said. "And ... in Los Angeles, California, last week it was the most requested (country) song. But, you know, if it'll sell in Dallas, it'll sell anywhere. But then again," he added, "if the disc jockeys don't play it, you can't expect anybody else in another area to hear it."
"'Light At The End Of The Tunnel' was No. 20 in the nation (on The Gavin Report charts) be fore Houston added me (to radio playlists). Can you believe that?," asked Watson, sounding baffled by the hometown support that, in his opinion, has been less than hearty thus far.
"I just don't understand it all ... But what can you say? If they don't play your records, you can't get no higher on the carts. All I can do is hope they like the next one."
Now touring in support of said disc, Watson and his six-man band, the Crawdads, performed twice in the Metroplex last month, but minus one player.
"Mark Chesnutt ( a fellow Texan and country artist) just stole my fiddle player," lamented Watson, good-naturedly. "But I've still got lots of bass, drums, guitar, and me."
He's also got a new single, "Say Goodbye," that was officially released to radio April 6. And he describes the tune, which he co-wrote, as "an uptempo kind of ballad."
Born in Tyler and reared in La Porte, the still-single Watson said he's wanted a career in country music since he was at least "7 or 8" and toting a Silverton guitar from Sears, Roebuck, and Co.
"My uncle played bass for B.J. Thomas. At the time, I liked the Beatles, but my uncle wouldn't let me go see them," Watson remembered. ""He said, "I'm going to be playing the same place they play next month. You can come see me.
"Well, I did, and there was B.J. Thomas. He just stood there, opened his mouth and conquered the audience... and the girls were freaking out, and I knew that's what I wanted to do."
And he did. First by way of the Gulf Coast Cowboys, his debut country-western band, which he initiated at age 18. And more recently as the opening act for his longtime idol, Merle Haggard.
"We're fixin' to do a show with Merle Haggard," enthused Watson. "And, aw man, he's my hero. Wait 'til he sees this," he added, regarding the Haggard/Randy Travis-penned tune, "Good Intentions," which Watson recorded and performs. "It's gonna be a kick!"
As for the inner workings of the country music industry, Watson's just about got it figured out. Well, he's tryin', anyway.
"I was talkin' to (country singer-guitarist) Steve Wariner the other night," remarked Watson, "and he was suckin' on a lozenge. Why does everybody do that? I don't do that."