Johnny Guitar Watson – live in Hamburg – 1976 – FIP/Radio France International – Gordon Skene Sound Collection –
Johnny Guitar Watson to inject a little Funk into the weekend. From a live concert broadcast from Hamburg, Germany and picked up by FIP, the eclectic channel from Radio France in Paris in 1976.
John Watson Jr. (February 3, 1935 – May 17, 1996), known professionally as Johnny “Guitar” Watson, was an American blues, soul, and funk musician and singer-songwriter. A flamboyant showman and electric guitarist in the style of T-Bone Walker, Watson recorded throughout the 1950s and 1960s with some success. His creative reinvention in the 1970s with funk overtones, saw Watson have hits with “Ain’t That a Bitch” and “Superman Lover”. His successful recording career spanned forty years, with his highest chart appearance being the 1977 song “A Real Mother For Ya”.
Watson, a recognized master of the Fender Stratocaster guitar, has been compared to Jimi Hendrix and allegedly became irritated when asked about this comparison, supposedly stating: “I used to play the guitar standing on my hands. I had a 150-foot cord and I could get on top of the auditorium – those things Jimi Hendrix was doing, I started that shit.”
Frank Zappa stated that “Watson’s 1956 song ‘Three Hours Past Midnight’ inspired me to become a guitarist”. Watson contributed to Zappa’s albums One Size Fits All (1975), Them or Us (1984), Thing-Fish (1984) and Frank Zappa Meets the Mothers of Prevention (1985). Zappa also named “Three Hours Past Midnight” his favorite record in a 1979 interview.
Steve Miller not only did a cover of “Gangster of Love” on his 1968 album Sailor (substituting “Is your name “Stevie ‘Guitar’ Miller?” for the same line with Watson’s name), he made a reference to it in his 1969 song “Space Cowboy” (“And you know that I’m a gangster of love”) as well as in his 1973 hit song “The Joker” (“Some call me the gangster of love”). Miller had also borrowed the sobriquet for his own “The Gangster Is Back”, on his 1971 album Rock Love.
Jimmie Vaughan, brother of Stevie Ray Vaughan, is quoted as saying: “When my brother Stevie and I were growing up in Dallas, we idolized very few guitarists. We were highly selective and highly critical. Johnny ‘Guitar’ Watson was at the top of the list, along with Freddie, Albert and B.B. King. Watson influenced Jimi Hendrix, Sly Stone, Etta James, and Stevie Ray Vaughan.
Bobby Womack said: “Music-wise, he (Watson) was the most dangerous gunslinger out there, even when others made a lot of noise in the charts ～ I’m thinking of Sly Stone or George Clinton”.
Etta James stated, in an interview at the 2006 Rochester International Jazz Festival: “Johnny ‘Guitar’ Watson… Just one of my favorite singers of all time. I first met him when we were both on the road with Johnny Otis in the ’50s, when I was a teenager. We traveled the country in a car together so I would hear him sing every night. His singing style was the one I took on when I was 17 – people used to call me the female Johnny ‘Guitar’ Watson and him the male Etta James… He knew what the blues was all about…”.
James is also quoted as saying: “I got everything from Johnny… He was my main model… My whole ballad style comes from my imitating Johnny’s style… He was the baddest and the best… Johnny Guitar Watson was not just a guitarist: the man was a master musician. He could call out charts; he could write a beautiful melody or a nasty groove at the drop of a hat; he could lay on the harmonies and he could come up with a whole sound. Pearl Jam recorded a song entitled “Johnny Guitar”, about Watson, for their 2009 album Backspacer.
Watson’s 1976 song “Superman Lover” features on the soundtrack of the video game Grand Theft Auto V.
For the next two hours, relax and get funky.