Johnny “Guitar” Watson

15 03 2010

Johnny “Guitar” Watson

(February 3, 1935 – May 17, 1996)

His seminal blues album Gangster of Love was recorded in 1953 or ’54, and first released on Keen Records (his labelmates included Sam Cooke) in 1957. It was not especially heralded at the time—the title song in particular was deemed too fast, too raw, and too witty, especially compared to the likes of the then-kingpins of blues Muddy Waters and Howlin’ Wolf. Watson’s ferocious “Space Guitar” of 1954 pioneered guitar feedback and reverb. Watson would later influence a subsequent generation of guitarists. Frank Zappa, for example, would cite Watson as one of his all-time favorite guitarists.
He toured and recorded with his friend Larry Williams, as well as Little Richard, Don & Dewey, The Olympics , Johnny Otis and, in the mid 1970’s with David Axelrod. He also played with Sam Cooke, Herb Alpert and George Duke. But as the popularity of blues declined and the era of soul music ascended in the 1960s, Watson, in his inimitable style, transformed himself from the southern blues singer with pompadour into the urban soul singer with pimp hat. He went all out – the gold teeth, broad-brimmed hats, fly suits, designer sunglasses, and ostentatious jewellery made him one of the most colorful figures in the West Coast funk circle.
He modified his music accordingly. His LPs Ain’t That a Bitch (from which the successful singles Superman Lover and I Need It were taken) and Real Mother For Ya were landmark recordings of ’70s funk. “Telephone Bill” (on Love Jones 1980) featured complex, rapid-fire lyrics that foreshadowed rap music. His subsequent LPs employed and popularized the modern “computer sound”
In his exhaustively researched book Dream Boogie: The Triumph of Sam Cooke (2005), Peter Guralnick claims that Watson was an actual pimp, as well as a performer. Watson himself, however, reportedly felt “ambivalent” about prostituting women, even though it “paid better” than music.

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Johnny Guitar Watson’s Superman Lover!!!!

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