Things We Can Learn From Johnny Guitar Watson

One of the forgotten heroes: Johnny “Guitar” Watson.

Johnny Guitar Watson was born Feb 3rd, 1935
He passed away: May 17th 1996


Things he is best known for:

  1. A pioneer and innovator of blues, R’nB and funk guitar
  2. Finger picked everything, mainly using his thumb to pick the strings, which gave him a snappy sound.
  3. Just like BB King: he rarely played chords live. His performance style consisted more of playing lead lines and phrases.
  4. Like Clarence Gatemouth Brown, Watson liked using capos to have the open-string advantage in whatever key he wanted to play in. (This comes in handy when you have to tie your shoes on stage, as showcased in one of the below videos) 🙂
  5. Liked playing with a bright, stinging guitar sound.
  6. He influenced a wide range of players, from Jimi Hendrix to Frank Zappa and Stevie Ray Vaughan.
  7. Great live showmanship with the occasional flamboyant guitar antics.
  8. Some not so useful but nevertheless fun info: he seemed to have a preference for wearing his guitar strapped over the opposite shoulder.

Johnny Guitar Watson died as he had lived: in performance on stage. During a live show at the Ocean Blvd Blues Cafe in Yokohama, Japan, Watson collapsed on stage with his hand to his chest. He was pronounced death of a heart attack at 9:16pm on May 17th 1996.

Here’s a couple of fun videos to watch that showcase his flamboyant style and showmanship really well.

Johnny Guitar Watson is playing cop sirens with a drum stick.



Johnny finds time to tie his shoe here during his solo.



Johnny was a true performer and entertainer at heart. Here he mingles with the audience and has fun playing behind his back.



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