Chris Watson
Chris Watson
As much as we talk about all the great musical talent here in Madison, all the guitarists and the singers and the songwriters, there are a handful of guys who form the backbone rhythm section for many of the popular local rock bands.

Danny Cook and Tim Halcomb are the ubiquitous bass boys. And on the drums, nine out of 10 times you’ll find Kerry Mefford or Chris Watson sitting at the back, holding it all together.

Chris’s path to the drums plays out like a lot of other local musicians. A musical family (his dad and brother had a band). Early interest (he started when he was 5 years old). Years of practice (lessons every Saturday morning at Madison Music). And great mentors (Chuck Barnes was a huge influence).

His first junior high garage band included Jake Stuart, Scott Pyles and Tony Pike. He graduated to playing bars and hog roasts as he got older in a band called Viscous Blend, with Mark Cicenas, Dave Dwyer and Brian McKay. And finally, he played with a super popular band called 5 East in the late ‘90s.

“Those were the golden years of the Louisville bar scene,” Chris said. “Butchertown Pub, Phoenix Hill Tavern ... I even played the Toy Tiger before it folded. We played in Cincy, Indy and as far away as Columbus, Ohio. It was five years of constant playing, and it was really fun. But I also had a day job that whole time. It could be brutal.

“After the 5 East days I started back playing with Dave Dwyer quite a bit, recording his original stuff. I played the open mic nights at the old JoeyGs, and that led to playing with the Blues Devils for a couple years. Then Jimmy Davis started picking me up.

“I still play with Jimmy and Danny Cook a lot these days. I play with Junkbox, which is Jimmy and Bill Lancton. I’m the drummer for the Doctor’s Band. I play with Leah Pruett. And I’m part of the Jordan Wilson Coalition.

“But as busy as I’ve been, I’ve still been holding back some until my last kid gets out of high school, which is right around the corner. Once they’re all out of the house I’m going to really fill up my time with playing. I won’t have to say no anymore.

“There is so much opportunity to play in Madison these days, with all the different styles and sounds. I want to help develop the talent that’s here now. I envision more coffeehouse combos and jazz trios happening.

“The phrase describing Madison as ‘Music City Indiana’ is brilliant. We’re just seeing the tip of the iceberg of what this town can become, and it’s my hope and intention to be a part of the growth that is to come.”

Charlie Rohlfing is a retired advertising man and partner in The Red Bicycle Hall music venue. Look for his distinctive fedora bobbing above the crowd, anywhere live local music is happening.