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Johnny 'Guitar' Watson


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Johnny “Guitar” Watson (February 3, 1935 - May 17, 1996) was an American musician whose long career influenced the development of blues, soul music, rhythm & blues, funk, rock music, and rap music.

John Watson, Jr. was born February 3, 1935 in Houston, Texas. His father John Sr. was a pianist, and taught his son the instrument. But young Watson was immediately attracted to the sound of the guitar, in particular the electric guitar as practiced by the “axe men” of Texas: T-Bone Walker and Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown.

His grandfather, a preacher, was also musical. “My grandfather used to sing while he’d play guitar in church, man,” Watson reflected many years later. When Johnny was 11, his grandfather offered to give him a guitar if, and only if, the boy didn’t play any of the “devil’s music”—blues. Watson agreed, but “that was the first thing I did.” A musical prodigy, Watson played with Texas bluesmen Albert Collins and Johnny Copeland.

His parents separated in 1950, when he was 15. His mother moved to Los Angeles, and took Johnny with her.

In his new city, Watson won several local talent shows. This led to his employment, while still a teenager, with Jump blues style bands such as Chuck Higgins’s Mellotones and Amos Milburn. He worked as a vocalist, pianist, and guitarist.

He quickly made a name for himself in the African-American juke joints of the West Coast, where he was billed as “Young John Watson” until 1954. That year, he saw the Sterling Hayden film “Johnny Guitar,” and a new handle was born.


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  • davidgarciab

    the best guitar for my futher and me too,, greatest for ever johnny guitar watson

    5 Jan 2014 Reply
  • YudaBM

    Love him and the horns

    11 May 2013 Reply
  • Blue_Key

    him and screamin jay hawkins had the best image of any music artist in their primes. parliament funkadelic too.

    11 Jan 2012 Reply
  • Firstlittlejo

    Just saw a Chaka interview. She says all she listens to right now is Johnny and only in her car. I get it Chaka!

    9 Sep 2011 Reply
  • hjbardenhagen

    Please see also Johnny "Guitar" Watson. There is a Wikipedia page using this spelling, and most of his album covers do so as well.

    8 May 2011 Reply
  • playlouder11

    The best funk songs are about funk itself :)

    31 Jan 2011 Reply
  • Firstlittlejo

    A bad Brother from way back. Loved his music, got them all. Music lovers know the real Johnny, the stuff never played on radio.

    31 Jan 2011 Reply
  • healallkillnone

    baby makin music

    31 Oct 2010 Reply
  • japmadness

    does someone have his '67 LP "Bad" for me? please let me know.

    3 Sep 2010 Reply
  • deftplays

    Space Guitar has just been reissued! 500 copies worldwide, replica repress 7" of the '54 recording, on Federal records. check it out!

    28 Jun 2010 Reply
  • kittyhawk63

    Simply the best. He invented the phrase Bow wow wow yippi-yo-yippi-yay(Snoop Dog uses it). He is loved in Japan where he passed away while performing on stage. According to people his last words were "aint that a bitch"...

    18 Dec 2009 Reply
  • sophilovesjazz

    we miss ya, guitar!

    18 Oct 2009 Reply
  • teesdale

    Vote for Johnny "Guitar" Watson - what musicbrainz has. Although I think CBS got rid of everybody that fixes stuff...

    10 Oct 2009 Reply
  • musica-mia

    Wonderful !!!

    3 Jun 2009 Reply
  • smichaelgbg

    Please merge all the three JGW's :/

    2 May 2009 Reply
  • edwyncollins

    frank zappas favourite guitarist....

    7 Mar 2009 Reply
  • RealFunkadelic

    R.I.P "Guitar"!

    21 Dec 2008 Reply
  • WizardV

    best of the best !!!!

    21 Sep 2008 Reply
  • RealFunkadelic

    Just great! ..and maybe one of the most underestimated black musicians ever.

    14 Sep 2008 Reply
  • scharyar

    god bless johnny guitar. R.I.P.

    1 Aug 2008 Reply
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