“Fourteen Carat Mind”
Written by Dallas Frazier and Larry Lee
#1 (1 week)
January 9, 1982
Gene Watson had an extraordinary career, chock full of hits throughout the seventies and eighties. However, he only had one No. 1 hit on each chart. “Paper Rosie” topped the Radio & Records listing in 1977, and “Fourteen Carat Mind” topped the Billboard chart in 1982.
“Fourteen Carat Mind” is representative of everything that he did best in the recording studio. Released in the peak of the Urban Cowboy era, Watson remained stubbornly country, with the track being driven by honky tonk piano and top notch steel guitar.
The song about a gold digging woman breezes right by, as Watson recounts everything that he’s bought for her with his sawmill salary. He should be bitter, but he sounds like he’s getting a kick out of her sheer audacity, while also enjoying that she moved on to bankrupting someone else after all of his money was gone.
It’s possible that Watson was underappreciated because he changed labels so many times, despite his remarkable consistency: he released top ten records for Capitol, MCA, Epic, and Warner Bros. over the course of fourteen years.
Still, he’s maintained enough popularity that even some of his independent records on his own Fourteen Carat label sold well enough to chart in the 2010s, and he received critical acclaim for his collaborative album with Rhonda Vincent, Your Money and My Good Looks.
We won’t see him again in the eighties, but we will get to write about him down the road when we cover the seventies.
In the meantime, try to catch a show. He’s currently doing an 80 date tour in celebration of his 80th birthday.
There aren’t too many legends from this era left, folks. Enjoy them while you still can.
“Fourteen Carat Mind” gets an A.
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I have always loved the instrumental on this track. One of my favorite 80s country songs period. I don’t know alot of Genes songs, might have to take a deeper dive!
…”i paid 7 sawmill dollars for a bracelet just to satify your 14 carat mind.” the poetry of falling short expressed in truly country fashion combined with an easy to the ear melody by watson. no shit, sherlock.
notice to kevin: how about a little updating among the 100 greatest women in country music at some point? miss lambert way back there at position 90 might have caught up a little further since that first edition. which is, by the way, still a mighty fine piece of reference on the whole as i found out the other day once again. yet, as time goes by…
I updated it in 2018:
Miranda Lambert went up quite a few spots!
…my bad, thanks for pointing that out to me, kevin. i had been looking for your write up on sylvia in the original of the feature (for some reason i always seem to end up in the original) when i ended up there scrolling down to the nineties region and stumbled upon miranda lambert in the first place.
I heard someone say (think it was Bill Anderson) that Gene Watson is your favorite country singer’s favorite country singer. An excellent stylist with great taste in material, it’s a damn shame he only had a couple number ones.
Watson is the most eloquent of honky tonk singers. He has operatic range with wonderfully clear enunciation and diction for all his durm, strang, and twang.
You can suss out how serious a country fan a person is by moving beyond the Cash, Jones, and Haggard references and seeing if you land on some Gene Watson, Vern Gosdin, and Johnny Bush performances.
This song and “Love in the Hot Afternoon” were the only songs of his I had ever heard for years. He existed more as a legend than an active artist for me growing up. I honestly read more about him than anything else even though he was actively recording and touring at the time. He apparently did not run in Nashville circles.
It wasn’t until I purchased a 2002 Hux Records 2 on 1 cd package pairing Watson’s “Love in the Hot Afternoon” album with “Paper Rosie” that I finally understood what all the quiet admiration and exultation was about. Hearing Watson sing other material was an epiphany for me.
I had similar experiences when I heard Lefty Frizzell and Webb Pierce for the first time.
Gene Watson has an intoxicatingly rich and warm tone.
A deep dive into his music will feel like swimming in an oak barrel filled with the sweetest and smoothest bourbon.
I am still dazed by the opening verse to his song “If the Shoe Fits, Wear It:”
You brush off the truth as if it was salt on the table
You slip and you slide through a mouth of beautiful lies
There’s no way around the cold fact that you’ve been unfaithful
You’re really not fooling me girl so why bother to try.
None of this fawning should distract from what a great record “Fourteen Carat Mind” is.
So many hard country songs topped the charts yet in the early ’80’s.