Dutchess County Executive's Arts Awards 2022
Louis Watson Sr.
If there is any question why Louis Watson, Sr. of Poughkeepsie is receiving the 2022 Dutchess County Executive’s Arts Award Special Citation, then just listen to this vocalist’s description of his work in the arts, across seven decades.
“For over 70 years, the majority of which was in Dutchess County, the gospel singing groups I was a member of provided hope, encouragement, healing and inspiration to the young and not so young,” Louis said. “The arts are an intricate part of life. A community full of the arts is a community full of culture, creativity, hope and growth.”
Born in Ormond Beach, Florida, Louis Watson’s love of music and singing has been woven into the fabric of his existence since he was a child singing in church choirs.
When he was 14-years-old, he relocated to Rochester, New York. In 1955, Louis began singing with the Tidings of Joy a cappella gospel quartet. The group performed on various New York radio stations on Sunday mornings and opened for the internationally renowned Five Blind Boys and the Soul Stirrers.
In 1957, Louis returned to Florida. But while he was there, the Ku Klux Klan tried to intimidate him by burning a cross where he lived. He returned to New York, and in 1958 joined The Goldenaires quartet in Poughkeepsie. They performed for more than 20 years and appeared at the prestigious Apollo Theater in Harlem.
In 1960, Louis met and married Bertha Merritt. The couple was married for 58 years until Bertha’s death in 2018. Louis is the father of nine children, and also served as a father-figure to Kevin Denicker, Vilicia Cade and many foster children in the Greer School in Millbrook.
Asked about the Dutchess County Executive’s Arts Award Special Citation he has received, Louis said, “I am humbled and honored to be recognized by Dutchess County Executive Marcus Molinaro and the arts community at large. Thank you to those who nominated me and those who supported my nomination.”
Louis’s passion for performing can be traced to his family.
“My singing career was birthed by my mother, who would take me to church and encouraged me to sing in the choir,” he said. “We would always sing in the house and at local community events. It was a natural affinity. I have loved singing since I was 4-years-old. Perhaps being around my mother, who also loved singing, was my biggest influence. Ultimately, being talented to sing is a gift from God that I cherish.”
The arts are important to Louis because, “They bring joy to people. With so much negativity in the world, having the arts, no matter what type, helps make the world a better place.”
He continued, “The arts positively impact the lives of all cultures, ethnicities, ages and socioeconomic statuses. The arts help the local community flourish and grow by bringing in money through entertainment, thereby boosting the local economy and bringing people together.”
So on a scale of one-to-10, how would Louis rate his passion for the arts?
“I have been an artist, through singing, since I was a very young boy,” he said. “Singing has been an important part of my life and continues to be, even at the age of 85 years. My passion for singing is greater than 10—it runs through my veins and my very existence.”
And what advice would Louis give to an emerging artist, young or old?
“Follow your dreams and make them reality,” he said. “Let no one or nothing stop you. Hustle, grind and execute.”