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Gene Watson Turns Dallas Harms’ Song “Paper Rosie” into a Hit

Gene Watson Turns Dallas Harms' Song "Paper Rosie" into a Hit
Photo:Gene Watson/Facebook

You know, the story behind “Paper Rosie,” that fantastic top-three hit on the Billboard Hot Country Singles chart, is like a page out of the country music magic book. It all started with Gene Watson, the guy who could turn a song into pure emotion. But get this – the mastermind behind the lyrics was none other than his good buddy and fellow Canadian, Dallas Harms.

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>>READ ALSO: Gene Watson’s Top 10 Songs: Setting the Standard for Authentic, Traditional Country Music

Back in ’75, Harms laid down his version of “Paper Rosie” as the title track for an album. It made waves, even cruising into the top 25 on the Canadian charts (RPM Country Tracks). Now, Harms had his fair share of hits, especially the toe-tapper “Honky Tonkin’ (All Night Long)” in ’82, but “Paper Rosie” became a hallmark of his legacy. In ’89, the Canadian Country Music Hall of Fame welcomed Harms, and the whole country celebrated his talent, a celebration that took on a bittersweet note after his passing on Oct. 12, 2019.

Fast forward two years, and Gene Watson decided to put his spin on “Paper Rosie.” You won’t believe it – it soared to the top of the charts in the States and ruled the Canadian country charts.


Now, in the world of country music, it’s not unusual for a powerhouse like Watson to strike gold with someone else’s words. He’s made a habit of breathing new life into other folks’ tunes, from Lawton Williams’ “Farewell Party” to Jim Rushing’s “Nothing Sure Looked Good on You,” Larry Gatlin’s “Bitter They Are, Harder They Fall,” and Dallas Frazier’s “Fourteen Carat Mind.” And don’t forget “Don’t Look at Me (in That Tone of Voice)” by another Canadian maestro, Ray Griff.

But “Paper Rosie” wasn’t just another hit for Watson. It was his way of tipping his hat to a dear friend and musical genius.

>>READ ALSO: The Magic of Gene Watson’s Iconic Song “Farewell Party”

Now, here’s a heartwarming nugget for you. The day before Watson got his spot in the Grand Ole Opry cast on Feb. 7, 2020, he shared this sweet memory of Harms.

“I’ve got the guitar he wrote ‘Paper Rosie’ on,” Watson said, a grin in his voice. “It’s a Del Vecchio metal plate resonator guitar. He wanted to give it to me, but I said no way. Here’s the kicker: he didn’t want money for it. I handed him an American half-dollar I had in my pocket, and he gave me back four Canadian dimes in change. You know what he said? ‘Rosie sold her roses for a dime. I’m giving you this guitar for a dime.'”

>>Watch: Gene Watson sings “Paper Rosie” on Larry’s Country Diner

>>READ ALSO: Here Are Some Intriguing Facts About Gene Watson, “The Singer’s Singer”

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