10 Songs, 28 Minutes

EDITORS’ NOTES

Because Johnny “Guitar” Watson reached his greatest success when he became an icon of the funk movement in the '70s, few of his fans know he had a thriving career in the '50s. In his earlier incarnation, Watson recorded a wealth of remarkable R&B and blues sides. Many of those cuts are collected on Gangster of Love, named for Watson’s signature song (first recorded in 1957 and frequently reformatted in the following decades). But that’s not the only gem here. Like his contemporary Earl King, Watson provided a link between the raw R&B of New Orleans and the swinging, urbanized blues of Los Angeles. Like his predecessors, Watson could take a slow dance like “Cuttin’ In” or “In the Evenin’” and spike it with so much salt and vinegar that in the end it felt more like an attack than a seduction. The combination of those opposing tactics—charm and menace—would form the heart of Watson’s persona for the rest of his career. Even if his funk career had never existed, these early sides would be enough to confirm him as one of the most colorful personalities of the postwar R&B era.

EDITORS’ NOTES

Because Johnny “Guitar” Watson reached his greatest success when he became an icon of the funk movement in the '70s, few of his fans know he had a thriving career in the '50s. In his earlier incarnation, Watson recorded a wealth of remarkable R&B and blues sides. Many of those cuts are collected on Gangster of Love, named for Watson’s signature song (first recorded in 1957 and frequently reformatted in the following decades). But that’s not the only gem here. Like his contemporary Earl King, Watson provided a link between the raw R&B of New Orleans and the swinging, urbanized blues of Los Angeles. Like his predecessors, Watson could take a slow dance like “Cuttin’ In” or “In the Evenin’” and spike it with so much salt and vinegar that in the end it felt more like an attack than a seduction. The combination of those opposing tactics—charm and menace—would form the heart of Watson’s persona for the rest of his career. Even if his funk career had never existed, these early sides would be enough to confirm him as one of the most colorful personalities of the postwar R&B era.

TITLE TIME

More By Johnny "Guitar" Watson

You May Also Like