Robert Cox Jr.
GREENSBURG - Good Fryday ended on a deserted stretch of highway just north of Flagstaff, Ariz.
Decatur County native Gabe Watson, who was an integral member of Good Fryday, lead singer, guitarist, songwriter, remembers the accident well.
The Indiana-based band, according to Watson, was returning from its first big break - a show at the Whisky-A-Go-Go in Los Angeles, performing with Nancy Sinatra and Eric Burden.
ÒOn our return trip to,Ó Watson explained, Òwe decided to take a detour to see the Grand Canyon. Just before 11 a.m., everyone in the Ford Econoline cargo van we were traveling in Ð including the driver Ð had fallen asleep.Ó
The next partÕs a bit hazy.
ÒI remember waking up,Ó Watson said, Òin a Ôwashing machineÕ-type motion and thought we were rolling down the side of a mountain. Thankfully, we weren't and were on flat land.Ó
The van flipped three times before rolling to an upended stop.
Watson and his six fellow passengers, however, were relatively unscathed; all seven occupants walked away from the shattered vehicle on their own power.
Good FrydayÕs equipment Ð including the van and trailer Ð werenÕt so fortunate.
ÒThere was some discrepancy,Ó Watson said, Òabout how the accident occurred, which led to irreconcilable differences.Ó
Like their equipment, Good Fryday, proved unsalvageable, and the group parted ways several weeks after the incident, Watson said.
They would later reform as The Burning Couches.
The Couches permanently parted ways in 2004, and, in October of that year, Watson, based in Indianapolis, hit the road for L.A. He went in pursuit of a rock-and-roll fantasy dating all the way back to fifth grade Ð all the way back to ÒTurkey Day.Ó
In L.A., he hooked up with British bassist Tristan Hendy, and in January 2005, the two formed Native June, with Watson singing lead, writing songs and playing guitar.
In May that same year, fate brought Watson full circle when Native JuneÕs first-ever show was held at the Whiskey-A-Go-Go, site of Good FrydayÕs first big break and last performance.
Watson wasnÕt looking back, though, and Native June set its sights on HollywoodÕs historic Sunset Strip.
In fact, the bandÕs presence along Sunset Strip, Watson explained, led to a significant fanbase and to regular appearances at such well-known locales as House of Blues, Key Club, Whisky a Go-Go, the Viper Room, Troubadour and The Roxy.
The band also began drawing interest from music-industry insiders, and, in late 2006, Watson and Native June released their first album, ÒWhiskey and Walnuts.Ó
The next few years, Watson said, saw the group maintaining a furious performance schedule, and they made continuous rounds of greater Los Angeles, Long Beach, Santa Barbara and San Diego.
They also continued writing and recording new music, Watson said, and, in the spring of 2009, gained even greater exposure when they won a long, competitive Battle of the Bands contest on the Santa Monica pier.
In October, Watson explained, Native June got its big break when they were signed by Plant LA Records. That signing led to interest by Grammy-winning record producer, Tony Maserati.
Maserati would go on to produce Native JuneÕs second album, ÒOcean to Sunset,Ó which was formally released in September 2011.
A nine-day midwestern tour in support of ÒOcean to SunsetÓ followed, Watson said, with the band kicking things off in Greensburg.
At present, Watson explained, the band is planning a European tour for summer 2012.
Native JuneÕs rise to its current success level hasnÕt been without setbacks.
In fact, according to Watson, the band faced a major challenge in late 2009 when two of its members left.
Watson, however, had been down that road during his time playing such locales as Mo & JohnnyÕs in Indianapolis, BogartÕs in Cincinnati, and The Bluebird, The Cellar Lounge, and KilroyÕs in Bloomington.
ÒIt's always hard when someone leaves a band,Ó he said, Òbut IÕve always managed to pick up the pieces, find new musicians and rebuild.Ó
In early 2011, Native JuneÕs cycle of finding rebuilding finally ended. Watson and Hendy rounded out the groupÕs lineup with French guitarist Martial Chaput and drummer Jake Desouza.
Of the seven years heÕs spent chasing his dream in earnest, Watson said, ÒLife on the road can be a grueling experience. You're always away from family and friends, and it's a lot of work, with hectic hours and constantly checking in and out of hotels. Most of my timeÕs spent in a cramped van, bus or plane. It's a hustle.Ó
He clarified, however, that, despite the hardships, heÕs living his Òlifelong dream.Ó The adversity and difficulties along the way, he said, are Òall part of paying your dues in the music business.Ó
When asked to name a famous musician Ð living or dead Ð heÕd like to meet and have dinner with, Watson responded, ÒMick Jagger and Keith Richards; IÕd ask them how theyÕve kept The Rolling Stones together for almost 50 years and how theyÕre still alive.Ó
The Decatur County native also expressed interest in meeting Dave Grohl, Billy Corgan and John Mellencamp.
He also said that, if he could duplicate the artistic and commercial success and staying power of any single artist, it would be Tom Petty, because, ÒHe really brings people together, and I think that's the most powerful thing about music.Ó
Regarding the most important piece of advice he could give aspiring musicians, Watson said, ÒKeep showing up. A lot of artists who gain great success aren't necessarily the best singer or the best musician, but they show up relentlessly until doors open up. ÔShowing upÕ and being present is the most important step to acquire success in anything you do in life.Ó
Contact: Robert Cox at 812-663-3111 x7011.