Johnny Guitar Watson

Birth Name John Watson Jr.
Born February 3, 1935
Died May 17, 1996 (aged 61)
Genres Blues, funk blues, soul, funk
Instruments Vocals, guitar, piano, keyboards, bass guitar, drums
Associated acts Chuck Higgins, Floyd Dixon, Larry Williams, The Mighty Hannibal, Etta James, Frank Zappa

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”.

Video Playlist
1/3 videos
A Real Mother for Ya
A Real Mother for Ya
Ain't That a Bitch
Ain't That a Bitch
Gangster of Love
Gangster of Love

Watson was born 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 played by 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”. His parents separated in 1950 when he was 15. His mother moved to Los Angeles and took Watson 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 first recorded for Federal Records in 1952. He was billed as Young John Watson until 1954. That year, he saw the Joan Crawford film Johnny Guitar, and a new stage name was born.

Top 3 Johnny Guitar Watson Recordings




How To Play Guitar Like Johnny Guitar Watson

Johnny Guitar Watson Songs

This special songbook, a sensational collection of all his best hits contains 32 songs with notes, lyrics and guitar chords. It was created in close cooperation with Johnny’s daughter, Virginia Watson and provides a unique insight into the life and work of Johnny Guitar Watson, with a multitude of photographs and texts.