Photo of guitarist Johnny Guitar Watson

Johnny Guitar Watson died of a heart attack on May 17, 1996 while on stage in Japan. There could not be a more appropriate way to go for Johnny.

Watson was born on February 3, 1935. His father John Sr. was a pianist, and taught him to play. But young Watson was quickly hooked the guitar, in particular the electric guitar as practiced by the Texas “axe men”: T-Bone Walker and Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown.

His parents separated in 1950, when he was 15 and Johnny moved to Los Angeles with his mother. He became a regular at West Coast juke joints with flashy blues playing and clothes. “Gangster of Love” was his first hit, but he later became known for his slow funk-based groove such as “Superman Lover” and “A Real Mother for Ya”.

He stepped back from the spotlight in the 80s, following what he described as time he spent “caught up with the wrong people doing the wrong things”. The shooting death of Larry Williams affected him. When he came back in the nineties, it was to more success than he had known. The 1994 album “Bow Wow” was nominated for a Grammy award. He was also extensively sampled by Ice Cube, Eazy-E, Snoop, Dr Dre and Mary J. Blige amongst many others.

Watson and Ben Schwag worked together towards the end of his life on live material that will be released after restoration and re-mixing.

Johnny Guitar Watson live in concert.

If you want Ben to check your mix and maybe make some suggestions, just contact Ben Schwag.

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