Legendary country music singer Gene Watson will stop at Longview’s Great Texas Balloon Race as he celebrates the 40th anniversary of his hit single and signature song “Farewell Party.”

Watson will perform at 9:30 p.m. July 26 — opening night of the balloon race’s 42nd year.

Born in Palestine, raised in Paris and discovered in Houston nightclubs, Watson has been thrilling audiences for more than 50 years.

Watson’s success has included 75 charted titles, 23 Top 10 hits and six No. 1 records. He is in the Texas Country Music Hall of Fame and the Houston, Texas, Hall of Fame.

Music has been a part of Watson’s life since childhood, with his earliest memories set in the small country church his family attended.

“That’s my first childhood memory of being able to sing. It just came naturally,” he said. “That was the first time I stood before people to sing was at a church. I’ve been singing since I’ve been able to talk.”

Growing up, Watson said he always listened to the radio and easily learned the songs and the artists.

“I knew every song on the radio. If I heard the song twice I could sing it for you,” Watson said. “Music has been in my blood ever since I can remember as a small child.”

When he was discovered in Houston, he was working 8 to 5 in an auto body repair shop.

“Me and my band performed on weekends for tips and beer and never thought something major would come of it,” Watson said. “That’s when I was discovered. I never dreamed I would be an artist or performer or make my living on something I love to do like singing.”

Watson said a couple of friends who represented the label Wide World signed him for a song called “Bad Water,” and in 1974 Capitol Records picked him up for the song “Love in the Hot Afternoon.” It quickly reached No. 3 on Billboard magazine’s Hot Country Singles chart.

Considered one of the finest pure-country singers of his generation and known as “The Singer’s Singer,” Watson offers up one of the best traditional country shows in the business.

In 1982, after switching to the MCA label, he recorded the only No. 1 hit of his career, “Fourteen Carat Mind.”

In 2016, Watson released his 33rd studio album “Real Country Music,” which charted on Billboard’s Top Country Albums. That was followed in 2017 by “My Gospel Roots,” which showcased the kinds of music he grew up singing with his large family and mother and father, Ted and Thelma Watson. The album had three number one hits on the Christian voice trades.

This trip to Longview will not be his first — he played at the legendary Reo Palm Isle many times. He said he is looking forward to being associated with the balloon race and hopes to give the crowd a mix of his classics and some of his more recent tunes.

“I hope they were pleased with the show. It is not planned or written down. I never write down a show,” he said. “I play my shows straight from the cuff and it is designed for them. The audience is an extreme part of my show and I include the audience in it.”

Watson said he hopes his fans don’t scatter after the show because he will do a meet and greet, sign autographs and have merchandise such as CDs and T-shirts available for purchase.

“I want to invite everyone from the festival to come see us,” Watson said.