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I don’t consider time’s passing until someone I care about does. My friend Billy Watson passed away on Monday, April 13, 2015. It has taken me a few weeks to confirm his passing. His family held a small private service, as he requested, on May 2nd in El Campo, Texas. It bothered me that Billy left us and no one seemed to know about it. So, I sat down to write about Billy.
The year was 1970, the gig was over and it was 2:00 a.m. The band packed their stuff and drove to Hollywood to help Billy test his recording equipment and hear what they sounded like on tape. Billy’s “studio” was in a small house just off the Sunset strip. The room was filled with mattresses stacked against every wall for sound reinforcement. The band set up their equipment. There were no expectations, it was just another night off the Sunset strip, jamming, and Billy Watson was becoming a recording engineer. He let the tape roll. At the end of the night, the mattresses came down and Billy’s studio became a crash pad.
The next morning, Billy Watson edited and mixed those tracks from last night’s tape. He was practicing and developing his editing skills.
Billy’s tinkering with his tape machine would affect many lives.
He took a practice tape that most people would have erased or tossed into cardboard box in the closet and he created an international hit, “Viva Tirado.” The record was number 1 in Los Angeles for thirteen weeks.
“Viva Tirado” was also the recording that would create El Chicano and launch their recording career. Without Billy’s work, we would just have silence and El Chicano would not exist. I am sure they are thankful for Billy’s dream.
A multitalented musician, Billy also played bass on our production of “Land of 1000 Dances” by Cannibal and the Head Hunters and he played bass for the Premiers. He was always there when he was needed.
Without Billy Watson’s work, this music would have never been heard. While his creation has been heard worldwide, few have heard his name. It is common for managers, promoters and record company execs to gain fame and take bows for work they didn’t create. Many others have taken the credit for this recording and the success it launched. The release of a six-and-a-half-minute instrumental recording with no lyrics was unheard of and would never have been considered by most. Billy had vision.
Billy was an artist and was not concerned with the business of it all. For him, it was all about the music and the sound. That night and into the next morning, Billy Watson, in the midst of developing his early recording production skills, created an international hit record – a classic recording – that is what producers do.
I want Billy Watson to be remembered for his genius.
Billy was a good friend and a superb recording engineer. Billy was friendly, jolly and shy, not one to take bows. I just want everyone to know that my friend Billy Watson recently passed away in his usual quiet, shy manner.
Please close your eyes, float back to 1970 with me to a poorly lit, smoky room filled with mattresses. Listen to Billy’s creation and share his late night dream. Press the link below.
Excerpts from Dog Town Stories ©2018 Chuydecabrabooks
Upcoming book by Max Uballez