"Charlie Wayne" Watson: Native American Flutist
2005 Native American Music Awards Nominee
2005 JPF Award Winner.
2006 JPF Award Winner
My name is Charles Wayne Watson. "Charlie Wayne" is what my father called me. I am of Choctaw descent. In the past five years, I have produced and released seven Native American flute CDs. Each CD is over an hour long, with all original compositions. Recently, my first five CDs were added into the International Native American Flute Association's Archives at Kent State University. I was deeply honored by this kind gesture.
I have no musical training or music background whatsoever. I don't understand the concept of reading music. I don't understand playing "by ear." I play from my heart and pictures in my mind, pictures of the plains, the desert, Natives dancing, wildlife or Mountain streams etc. Scenes, that go unnoticed by most of our fast paced population.
Some say my compositions are visions or thoughts to relay to others, and that my flutes and I are the messengers chosen to deliver these messages to the hearts of those that are willing to recieve. I proclaim rather strongly, that my music is inspired by our Creator, and my appreciation for the gifts of Mother Earth.
I have found a part of me that I regret not finding until now. The spiritual aspect of my music overwhelms me at times. When performing live and I see someone's heart touched by the flute in such a way that tears come to their eyes, then I know I have done my job. Or I have, in some small way, been instrumental in bringing about a spiritual experience or message to those who know that they are on a journey of the spirit,
My music and transformation of spirit came about after a trip to Phoenix, Arizona about two years ago. I was invited to an art exhibit in Scottsdale, Arizona where I was the featured artist. I have been a painter and sculptor for almost 25 years. At this particular exhibit, was a Native American band called Brule'. They were very entertaining, and the talk of every artist in the art show. It was very hard for me to stay in my booth, simply because I couldn't stay away from this band whenever they were performing. The Flutist had my total attention, She was a beautiful Native girl with gorgeous long black hair. But, besides that, she could make the flute "cry." I have never been touched by any music as I was by Brule' and the haunting sound of that flute. My life has not been the same since that exhibit.
I was almost broke when I asked the leader of the band, Paul Laroche, if he would trade one of his CDs in exchange for one of my carvings. (A single hand carved wooden feather, made from the branch of a Chinese elm tree.) Paul told me that he had noticed my work earlier, and that he would be honored. As we made this trade, Paul said something to me in the Lakota language. I don't know what he said, but I am sure it was a blessing of some sort, as I have said, my life has not been the same since.
On the trip home after the exhibit, I stopped in Oklahoma to rest for the night. The next morning, I made several sales of my artwork to a few Native galleries in the area. At one of these Galleries, I bought a Native made cedar flute. This later turned out to be the beginning of many gifts from Creator. You see, the music of Brule' had touched my heart.
As I write this story of what I refer to as my "flute journey", I have chills from head to toe. This has been an extraordinary spiritual experience for me. I listened to Brule's CD over and over again, all the way back home to Georgia. Some of the songs made me cry and some of the songs brought such a feeling of peace and a presence that I can't explain, other than the magic and Spirit of the Native Flute. All of this music was so packed with emotion, like nothing I had ever heard or felt before.
About the closest thing I can relate it to, is one of my favorite songs, "Lonely Teardrops" by Jackie Wilson. Yeah! I'm a major Motown nut. Listen to this song if you have it, or download it and see if you don't pick up on all of the energy in it. I do. I grew up listening to The Allman Brothers, Marshall Tucker and Lynerd Skynerd, and all the rest of the great southern rock bands. But Motown always stole my heart. It's truly got soul. You can feel it, but, only if you are open to it. The same applies to my music.
After returning home to my log cabin on the banks of the Coosawatee River, in The Mountains of North Georgia, I was visiting a Native gallery nearby. The owner, Rick Kearney, an amazing acoustic guitarist, and close friend, who is also on my fourth CD, Kindred Spirits, told me that Mary Youngblood would be doing a small concert in his gallery that weekend. If you don't know who Mary Youngblood is, She is one of the most gifted Native flutists to be found anywhere. I was there, needless to say. Mary was wonderful, as was her music. I spoke with her briefly as she autographed two of her CDs for me. We listened to one of Mary's CDs on the way home. When I arrived home, inspired by Mary's performance, I picked up the cedar flute that I had bought in Oklahoma.
I began to play..., and then I put the flute back down almost instantly, as the hairs on the back of my neck were standing on end. A Friend was in the loft of the cabin and working on the computer, when she yelled out, "that was nice." I was speechless. Then after no response from me, She looked over the balcony and noticed that the "Oklahoma Flute" had been moved from its original spot on the coffee table. "No way!" She said, as I nodded yes. "Do it again!" she said. I managed to get enough words out of my mouth to say, "In a minute, let me calm down first."
I was spellbound. After a while, once more I played. It was if I had played this wonderful instrument since birth. As the days and weeks followed, I began to play better and better. My friends couldn't believe their ears, and neither could I.
One of my friends invited me to an open mic night at a local café. I went to "check out" the place. I even liked the name, The Harvest Café. I found it very nice and I loved the mellow Atmosphere. In spite of my terror, I was urged by my friends to perform. Shaking and trembling, I made my very long walk to the stage, about fifteen feet away. I felt like it must have taken me about an hour or so to get there. So there we were, my flute, that intimidating microphone, and me..., alone. I hadn't realized just yet that I wasn't so alone.
As I began to play, that peace that I mentioned earlier fell upon me. The owner of the café sensed the mood and Spirit that was pouring out of the flute and dimmed the lights in the whole place. I became even more at ease, I was diggin' this..., Until the stage lights were turned on. I finished and the audience applauded. But, they wanted to hear more. I asked myself if I had more. The Spirit said I did, so I played again, this time completely from the heart and without fear. I was proud. I was grateful. I had been blessed with a gift and I knew it.
I played several more pieces, each one more powerful than the one before, and with greater response from the audience. As I finished and floated away from the stage, the owner approached me and asked if I would consider performing the following Friday, I must have looked reluctant, when he suggested that he would be happy to pay me to perform. I still play the Harvest Café occasionally, and reflect upon all of the stepping-stones that Creator has placed before me, which has enabled my spirit and music to get to where it is today.
The time came when I wanted to hear what I sounded like. So, I went to a local recording studio, I was petrified with fear, and there were TWO microphones this time. After that session, although I couldn't afford it, I bought a small four-track recorder and began to record myself with pretty good results. However, I was very limited to what I could do with the four-track.
Just before the tragedy of 9-11, an old friend of mine had heard my music and asked what it would take to record and share this gift with others. He wanted to be part of this blessing from Spirit. I explained to him what equipment I needed and we made a deal.
My friend wrote me a check and I formed Desert Winds Productions. I compose, perform and record my flutes, drums, and effects as well as mix, master, duplicate, print, and even shrink-wrap my CDs. This has been very long Journey, but also a labor of love. I have bad knees and hips from my old Biker days. From drinking and drugging and crashing and burning. (As of the 19th of May 2007, I have been clean and sober for 23 years, by the Grace of God.)
Most of the tracks that you will hear on my first three CDs were done while on crutches and in serious pain, because I couldn't afford surgery. So I limp a little, sometimes a lot. Big deal, in the 70s they said I wouldn't walk, after a serious motorcycle accident. So now, my flutes sometimes "cry" and Sometimes, so do I, but that only means that I feel. These are tears of joy and gratitude.
Now, where did all this come from? Shortly after returning from the trip to Arizona, I prayed earnestly and sincerely to our Creator for the ability to play that Oklahoma flute. I prayed this prayer only once. Coincidence? I don't think so. It is my deepest desire that you, the listener, will see and feel through my music, that which I feel and see. It is a wonderful journey of the spirit and imagination.
Many Blessings To You All,
"Charlie Wayne" Watson
UPDATE - I finally got the surgery that I needed! NO MORE CANES! My theory, reach for the moon and if you fail, grab a star or two on your way down.