Johnny ‘Guitar’ Watson was one of the true masters of the funk. He had both the style and the chops. You may never have heard of him (but I hope that you have), but he was a favorite guitarist to everyone from Stevie Ray Vaughan to Frank Zappa; in fact, Watson played on several Zappa albums. Nobody played with Zappa unless he or she was an exceptional musician.
JGW also coined the phrase “gangster of love” back in ’58 for a song of the same name, a term Steve Miller later ran with for “The Joker.”
His recording career spanned 40 years, with 1976’s “A Real Mother For Ya” being his most successful cut. And no wonder: It’s as funky as you wanna be. Listen to the way Watson plucks his strings around the 2:30 mark on this track. You can hear the influence on Stevie Ray in cuts like Bowie’s “Let’s Dance,” for example.
Watson died in 1996 like a true gunslinger—-with his funky boots on, performing on stage—but like James Brown and George Clinton, he lives on in various hip-hop samples.
Because A Real Mother For Ya was Johnny’s biggest seller, there are lots of copies floating around. That’s good news for you: You can pick one up in the $2-$5 range and funk up the house on a budget. If you really want to collect, though, look for Johnny Guitar Watson singles from the 1950s and ’60s. Those will set you back up to a hundred bucks each. Happy hunting.
Categories: From the Stacks