Blues Brief - African-American History Month, Day 3
Performers as varied as Etta James, Frank Zappa, and Dr. Dre counted him among their influence and collaborators. As a boy in Texas, his Grandfather gave him a guitar if he promised not to play “devil’s music” - which he did (yes he did promise and yes he did play that “devil’s music”). His Mother took him to live in California where he quickly became a working musician. While still a teen he saw a Western and found a new stage name. His charting (Billboard R&B top 100) spanned nearly 40 years, from his first in 1955. When musical tastes changed, he morphed with them, inventing a new “funk” persona while still playing that guitar and connecting back to his childhood influences “Gatemouth” Brown and T-Bone Walker and scored a top ten R&B hit at 42 years old. While still putting songs into the top 100, he collaborated with Zappa and played guitar on a remix of Dre’s Grammy-winning song.
From 1955’s "Those Lonely, Lonely Nights" to 1995’s "Hook Me Up" the original “Gangster of Love” (1957) and guitar on a remixed “Let me Ride” John Watson Jr. was born on this day in 1935. He died of a heart attack during a performance in 1996. That movie he saw as a young blues phenom? Of course it was ‘Johnny Guitar’…
Before all that talk about the “devil’s music, Watson learned music on the piano. Here’s a great performance on that first instrument - “Special Boogie”