Sometimes a lot of sound hides inside quiet little boys. When they are comfortable — it all spills out, but when meeting new people it’s not always so clear.
Luke Watson is a quiet little boy, at least it seems on the surface. Yet, push him just a bit to talk about one of his loves, and he will excitedly open up a little at a time.
The well-mannered and respectful child twiddled his fingers nervously during an interview, glancing at his mom and dad when asked about his preferred release of that sound.
His dad smiled proudly, chuckling a bit while reassuring him to open up.
Luke, a Joe Harrison Carter Elementary student who is about to turn 10 years old, is your typical boy. He loves basketball, baseball, playing with farm toys and Legos.
However, he is also something rarely heard of these days, especially in such a young child.
He is a banjo picker.
He states his favorite song as Train 45, his favorite artist as Earl Scruggs and credits his “Nana” Teresa Anderson with instilling a love for the banjo and Bluegrass music in him from an early age.
He recalls his Nana asking him if he’d like to play the banjo while he was visiting her one-day several years ago. Luke says he replied, “I guess.”
Curious, he asked her about the music, and she turned on the radio for him, letting him listen. Soon she was telling him about her daddy playing bluegrass music when she was a little girl.
The six-year-old immediately fell in love with the music, telling his Nana, “I like how it sounds.”
The grandmother shared with his parents an idea of introducing Luke to a genre of music becoming a lost art in this day and age, yet still popular in our Bluegrass State.
After some consideration, the couple decided they would like for Luke to try it out and signed him up for lessons through Chase Collins, at Monroe County Middle School, where Luke’s mom, Lindsey teaches math.
He soon started his lessons, learning the basics and getting comfortable, practicing for about an hour and a half, every night. Through the years, as he mastered the art, he dropped that back to once a week.
When Collins accepted another job and left the middle school and not having as much time to dedicate to music lessons, Luke’s parents searched for a replacement for his lessons.
That search led them to Gary Pennington, who Luke’s father, Joshua Watson, spoke of with admiration.
“Gary keeps Luke interested. He always invites him along wherever he goes. He brags on him and helps to raise his confidence,” he said.
Pennington, who played in the local band, No Deposit in the ’70s, has passed on his love of music to many local children.
You can attend any local talent show and you will see him on stage directing and encouraging his students, some who have gone on to win honors throughout the country.
Pennington urges them to enter any competition they can find.
Luke has placed in competitions both near and far, from the recent Monroe County Fair Talent show (where he placed first in children’s variety and first in open variety) to the annual Bluegrass Music Kickoff, held in Marion County each year.
During the kick-off event, Luke had the honor of jamming on stage with Bluegrass musicians including Gary Davis (four-time national banjo champion and musician at Dixie Stampede), Jimmy Mattingly (fiddle player for Garth Brooks) and Danny Roberts (six-time mandolin player of the year and member of the Grascals).
He competed in the instrumental “banjo” contest and took home first place earning a spot performing during the dinner show, which concluded the weekend.
That performance, which the little boy dubbed as “really fun,” led to the release of Luke’s first CD, with Gary “Biscuit” Davis suggesting to Luke that he “get some songs together and make some money.”
From there the family spoke with Pennington, who brought them to his friend, Andy Smith, who put together the CD “Pick Banjos Not Fights.”
The title was inspired by the story of Reagan Carter, who took her own life due to bullying suffered by peers.
The CD was recently released and is now available for sale. Luke and his parents not only wanted to put out the CD for entertainment but to bring awareness, through music, to the problem of bullying in today’s society.
The CD contains ten songs performed by Luke, including bluegrass and gospel music. Five other songs were considered but Luke noted, “I didn’t know them very well so I didn’t put them on there.”
This leads one to believe a second CD could be in the works, as he continues to practice his talent.
Who knows where that talent may lead Luke one day — but for now, he is learning valuable life lessons through something he loves, which is encouraged by many adults in his life.
His plan? To become a professional basketball player and banjo picker.
As he continues to twiddle his fingers, a gesture some might write off as a nervous habit, he opens up a bit more, sharing a story of perseverance.
“The day after I got home (from the jam session), I broke my arm. I was riding my bike and my five-year-old cousin was standing there. I tried not to hit him and I wrecked.”
Luke’s mom, Lindsey, continued for him “He couldn’t practice or play for 6 weeks. His Nana was heartbroken.”
But Luke used that time to work on his basketball, something he could do one-handed.
However, he never stopped practicing the banjo, just not in the usual way — he twiddled his fingers and still does, picking the strings in his mind any time he is faced with adversity or a challenge.
If you really stop and notice, it is not so much a nervous habit, but a determination to never stop.
Luke wants other children to know, “never give up, work hard and you will achieve your dreams.”
If you would like to purchase a copy of the CD you can contact Joshua, Lindsey or his grandmother Teresa Anderson on Facebook.
Luke is the son of Joshua and Lindsey Watson and the grandson of Tim and Teresa Anderson and Waymon and Veronica Watson, all of Monroe County. He also has a brother, Jaxson.
Luke Watson, the nine year-old son of Joshua and Lindsey Watson of Tompkinsville is shown above in a representation of the cover of his recently released CD. Luke has become a well-known banjo player and has been featured in several large events and competed across the country. Below, he is shown at the recent “Hippie Tipi” event held outside of Burkesville, where he entertained the customers.
Luke Watson, a local nine year-old, is pictured while performing at the Monroe County Watermelon Festival this past September. Luke has recently released his first album called “Picking banjos not fights,” with the title in honor of Reagan Carter.