Thursday, July 31, 2008

Really Jazzed

A few weeks ago, my friend Kirk Whalum, sent me a text message. (Check out his website – he’s a world-class sax player with more honors and accolades than I could list) He was booked to do a show at the Arena Theater in Houston on Friday the 25th of July and said he’d put aside a couple of tickets for me.

I was pretty whipped from the trip to Nashville, the concert and the family visit, etc. Heck, the travel alone can wear me out. If you do it often, you know what I mean.

But I got home in time and Friday afternoon Kirk sent another text. He said that he probably wouldn’t go on until 9:30 PM. So we modified the dinner plans, and worked our way to the theater at about 9:15.

The opening (of three) act was still on.

But as we took our seats and listened to Terisa Griffin, we knew this was going to be a special evening. Terisa and her band were in the middle of her set and the crowd was in the palm of her hand.

The Arena Theater is an old venue here in Houston. I played there a few times back in the late 80s. It’s been up and down, through closings and re-openings, under new management several times. This was the first time I’d been there in years. It’s unique because it’s an in-the-round setting and the stage revolves. One of the first things we heard Terisa say was something to the effect of “Wow, I look out there and see somebody and then I look again and they’re gone!”

During one of her last songs, she sat on a road case ( the band is visible front and back – you get to see all the workings of the drummer, the backs of amps, etc. It’s kinda cool).
While she was singing, she tipped over, hit the floor in all her glory and splendor, propped her elbow up on the case and just kept bringing it. The place went wild.

The next artist was Jonathan Butler. The third text I got from Kirk on Friday, after he informed me that he (the headliner) wouldn’t go on until late, was “on second thought, don’t miss Jonathan Butler!”

I didn’t know Jonathan’s music. Let me tell you right now, if you ever get a chance to see Kirk or Jonathan, you’ll be blown away. I told Kirk after the show that we expected to be entertained but never expected to be ministered to and so blessed by the evening and the music and the heart!

These guys love Jesus. In what was an absolutely no-holds-barred professional jazz show, the Name was being praised and glorified in every note. If you pay attention to the countenance of Jonathan Butler and Kirk Whalum, you’ll see Christ in them. And can they ever play!

Jonathan’s a world class singer and guitar player. Most of his set was praise music of a kind you won’t hear very often. Go and buy his CDs!!

And Kirk Whalum makes a sax speak like few others that have ever played. Both of these guys throw down and make music for the audience but it’s clear who they play for. The room could be full or not and the passion would still be there.

I saw Kirk on a promotional tour one night. He was playing at a Border’s Bookstore in Houston sponsored by the smooth jazz station here in town. He was promoting a new CD called “Roundtrip.” There were probably 40 people there and he played with the same passion and energy that was there at the Arena Theater on Friday night. That speaks.

It thrills me to see brothers in different genres of music taking a joyful stand and declaring their love and gratitude to a Merciful, Gracious Savior. The lyrics to one of Jonathan’s songs says “The greatest thing that ever happened to me was when Jesus came into my life.” Kirk told the crowd after his very first song, “Few people have had such a tremendous impact on my music and my life as Jonathan Butler.” Thank you, Kirk and Jonathan for your praise to the Master with every breath and with every note in every single place you go.

Whoever you are, whatever you do, wherever you go – work the field of souls. It takes all of us.


I was in Nashville last week to play a date at Christ Presbyterian church. In addition to getting to see these cool little Watson boys to the left, I got to reconnect with a lot of old friends and made a few new ones. They are running a summer concert series and I was honored to be asked to be a part of it. Tom Grassi is the worship pastor there and, I have to say, I felt very, very welcome.

I had lots of good conversations with Tom as the date drew near. Being in Nashville, Tom has access to tremendous players – many are members of their church and play there regularly. So, Tom offered to pull a band together for me. Given the circumstances and top-notch guys he could pull in, I told him to go for it!

Again, I was thankful for all of Tom’s work in preparing the charts, the band lineup, etc. for the concert. I showed up at the church at 3:30 in the afternoon and they were already running songs. I set up my stuff, took my place and folded into the mix with them. We got to work for an hour and a half. It’s hard to walk into an unfamiliar setting with strangers playing your music. Great bands take years to get to know each other. You can feel it and hear it.

The common bond, though, with brothers in Christ transcends a lot of the unfamiliar. And the music that directs us toward Him makes a difference, too. I felt like these new friends were familiar brothers.

It felt so good to have others on the stage with me. Most every night, I’m playing solo, unplugged. These guys were great players and it just made the night more electric for me and hopefully, for those in the audience.

Thanks, Tom.

Added to the just plain fun of playing along with these brothers on stage, was the fact that there were a couple of dozen old friends in the audience. People from record companies long past were there. Too many to name, but to get to stand around after the concert and see these friends, to know that time and distance hasn’t stifled the bond we have was a huge blessing. Some of them walked through some uncomfortable business experiences with me and now, years later, we can let what’s passed stay in the past. Love covers a multitude of sins and misunderstandings, as it’s said. So many of the issues that seemed so important and urgent don’t mean much right now. They are overshadowed by faithful friendship, love between brothers and sisters in Christ, and the wisdom that comes with passing years.

Sunday, just past, I was in Cleburne, TX with Field Street Baptist Church. Dr. John Hall and his staff were waiting when I pulled up to the church – it was a 4 hour drive from my home in Houston. I like the windshield time so driving doesn’t bother me.

We went right to work on soundcheck and started the concert at 6 PM.

Most churches are doing away with Sunday night services and events so this felt like a very special occasion and a very special place. People were excited and were so responsive.

OK, I know I could go into all kinds of details about every night. Some of the details would be interesting – others would bore you to death. So what’s the point? The point is this: I’m still just overwhelmed and more thankful than I can tell you that I still have a platform, still have opportunities, and still have a literal voice to use to sing about my Lord. When I walk out into a room full of people, whether the room is a thousand or a hundred, I still think to myself how blessed I am that people come out to hear this music. Sure, some of them want to hear stuff from 25 years ago and some nights, I play it! But really, the night is about communicating the Amazing Grace and Mercy. I know, for example, a good number in the crowd in Cleburne, TX had never heard most of the songs I played that night. Many were sweet, faithful seniors – some probably didn’t like the volume or the guitar or the jeans or whatever – but this was their church home and they were there! And afterwards, I got just as many handshakes, smiles and kind words from them as from the new teenage fans that were there.

It was just sweet.

This weekend, I’m off to Kansas City, MO to the suburb of Leawood. If you’re around, come by and see me at The Church of the Resurrection. I’m there Saturday night at 5PM for their worship service, then Sunday morning, afternoon and then, a concert at 7 PM Sunday night.

Blessings. Thanks for your prayers.


Friday, July 11, 2008


I’ve always flinched a little at that. The implication and sometimes, the downright, outright verbiage is “If you’re not growing, you’re dying.”

The questions that always come to my mind when someone goes on and on about growing is this - when is it done? Or, is it ever done? Is there a rest period? When we’re done growing, do we die? Who is really responsible for my growth? God or me? Both?

Understand these are not necessarily questions to which I have good answers and, at best, the answers seem to change every once in a while.

For the last six or seven months, I’ve been reading from a book my son and his wife gave me at Christmas last season by Frederick Buechner and it’s called “Secrets in the Dark.” I highly recommend it to you. It’s like eating dessert before breakfast for me. A rich, almost guilty pleasure. It’s been kicking off the most regular quiet time I’ve had in a long time and I enjoy it so much that, sometimes, I think as I’m reading, “I don’t think devotion is supposed to be this tasty.”

A lifetime of self-imposed guilt over stupid things I’ve done, or more often, things I’ve not done, shows its fruit and tries to steal any treasured things it can find, even in the midst of devotion and an effort to, uh, grow.

But I’ve enjoyed it so much, I wanted to share a bit from the last thing I read. It gave a few examples of things that challenged me to stretch and grow (sigh) some more and to continue to pursue that illusive, or at least, easily distracted, more Godly man I want to be.

Speaking to a group of students about their new headmaster he wrote:

First of all he’s a good listener as he is a talker, and good listeners don’t grow on trees. As far as I can tell, most people I know hardly listen at all when I try to tell them something, but seem instead just to be waiting till it’s time for them to start talking again, and that always makes me feel terribly lonely, as if the only one of us who gives a hoot about who I am and what I think is me.

The second reason I value him as a friend is that when he talks to you, you get the feeling that he’s not trying to impress you, or to sound like the kind of person he thinks you want him to be, or tell you the kind of thing he thinks you want him to say.

The third reason is that he’s kind. I don’t mean kind just on the surface with a lot of less than kind things going on behind the scenes, or kind for the sake of being popular and getting your vote. . .


In every line, even when the text of this wonderful book is not directly quoting scripture or pointing me toward a Bible story, I see God in it. I see Godliness in it.

And He is in it all. In everything I do today, in everyone I encounter, I pray that He will remind me of His love for all mankind, of His delight in me as He sees me in the light of Christ and His forgiveness.

That is good soil to grow in.

Wayne Watson
July 2008

PS - And this has nothing to do with anything written above. But just be aware. I went to see the new Disney movie "Wall-E" last night thinking that next time I'm in Nashville maybe I'll take Sam (5) and Gabe (3) (Neal and Lindsay's boys) to see it. After all, it's rated "G". Right.

Well just know that it's a very direct statement about the planet and about what slobs us humans are, or are becoming. I don't know where you stand on the whole "green" thing. I think it's important to be responsible and care for the earth we inhabit but this movie is directed at children to indoctrinate them to a specific political agenda and a very specific way of thinking. Basically, that we are lazy, irresponsible brats. Well, of course, some are.

I can count on one hand the number of movies I've walked out of before the film ended. Add one more.

For what it's worth.

Monday, July 7, 2008

O What Hundred??

A couple of weeks ago, I took a flight to Washington, DC - flying in on a Wednesday evening so I could be ready to hit the ground running the next day. I’d been looking forward to these concerts for a long, long time.

The Thursday night concert was set for Fort Eustis, VA and I’ve been in contact with an assistant chaplain there on and off for several weeks as the date approached. Sgt. Mike Duncan is a great guy and does a tremendous work there on the base, as do all the Chaplains and assistants. They meet a critical need.

I told Sgt. Duncan, a couple of weeks before I went there, that I’d be glad to do some extra stuff if it would be of any benefit to them and the soldiers on the base.

So, Mike set up a lunch event on the Navel Amphibious Base at Snug Harbor near Norfolk, VA. We were scheduled to leave from my hotel on the Fort Eustis base at 08:00 . . . 8 AM.

I had chosen to fly into DC the night before because, I thought, by 10 PM (22:00???) all the DC traffic would be cleared out. I was heading south on I-95 toward Virginia.

I thought the traffic in Houston was bad.

I found myself stopped two or three times on the interstate between DC and my destination for twenty or thirty minutes each time. Now, I have to tell ya, at this hour, after the day I’d had and the travel (which in case you’re wondering, is getting more and more weird) . . . well, I’ll just put it this way; when the traffic came to a standstill in the middle of the night, I wasn’t exactly singing for joy in the middle of it all!

If you missed that, you probably haven’t heard the new record! What are you waiting for??

I got to the base at 2:30 AM, found my hotel (on the base) and went to check in. The nice lady behind the counter was a little puzzled by my presence at that hour.

“You military?” she asked.

I was feeling a little salty but held my tongue. But I thought, “Lady, look at me. Do I look military? I mean the hair alone . . .”


“Are you DOD?” she asked. Department of Defense? Again, I mean, really. I laughed inside and tried to picture myself in some undercover DOD assignment.

Sgt. Duncan and his boss, Chaplin D’Emma came to pick me up promptly at 08:00 and we drove to the NAB (letters are big in the military) in our VAN.

Without going into all the classified details, I’ll just tell you the two days with Sgt. Duncan and the other men and women that minister to our soldiers and sailors were fascinating.

I asked questions like a little kid.

I noticed that they wear the American flag patch on the upper part of their right sleeve. But the stars are on the right, as you look at it. Normally, the stars would be on the left, correct? So, I asked on of the Colonels about it and he tells me that if you’re moving forward into battle, this is how the flag looks. The wind would be blowing the flag back and the stars would be out front. “Very, very cool,” I thought. Then he went on to tell me, “The U.S. Army is always moving forward. We don’t retreat.”
Someone standing nearby said, “Sometimes we reorganize to a different location, but we don’t retreat!”

Yes sir. And thank you sir. I mean that.

All weekend long, I felt overwhelmed that these men and women are setting aside what most of us would call normal lives to stand in the gap to defend our normal lives – whatever that might be.

And the faces.

Some of them are so young – some are right out of high school. The looks on their faces were a mixture of confidence, arrogance, terror, “what the heck am I doing here?”, immortality, invincible, “try me!”

And the men and women that are there - some have been there a good part of their lives - to train these soldiers are just amazing.

General James Chambers, a two star general in command of the base at Fort Lee, VA, was the host for dinner on Friday night. We went to his home on the base and met his wife and had a great time of fellowship around the table. Come to find out they are huge Christian music fans. Again, I was speechless – well, sort of. We talked about songs and artists they liked and, I have to say, I left there on cloud nine.

Spiritual things are sensitive on military bases. There are so many different things that have to be considered and I won’t go into it here. But I will say, General Chambers came to the microphone after the concert at Fort Lee ended and made this very clear to the soldiers and others in attendance.

“We are here to train you. Your body, your mind and your spirit. What you have heard here tonight is part of your spiritual training. You have the right, in this country, to choose to believe or not. I want you to have good, solid information before you make a choice that could effect the rest of your lives and beyond.”


I have to say, I would go anywhere in the world to sing and speak to these men and women – to try and uplift them with the truth of Christ and the knowledge that God loves them.

Pray for these soldiers. Pray for those that are responsible for their training and their welfare. Again, I was overwhelmed with the dedication and devotion the officers have for the men and women in their charge.

And one last thing. I heard the General say this to his audience at Fort Lee. He told them that the nation is behind them, the nation supports them. Certainly not everyone supports the war, but most people are for them. He told them that when soldiers returned from Viet Nam, there was a more hostile kind of welcome. Some demonstrations exhibited such animosity toward service personnel, it was shameful. He told them to realize how fortunate they were to have strangers come up to them in public places and shake their hands – say “thank you.” I’ve seen groups of soldiers in uniform walk through airports and witnessed a burst of applause from the traveling public.

Let’s keep that up.

Pray and be thankful.