Guitar Man

As reported in Barry Miles’ Zappa: A Biography, one of the great influences of the young Frank Zappa was Johnny “Guitar” Watson.

He looked forward to lunchtime, because just down the street from the school was a coffee-shop where he would eat a bowl of chili (his favourite meal) with crackers and a bottle of Royal Crown Cola while listening to the jukebox. Opal and Chester who owned the place agreed to ask the jukebox supplier to include some of Frank’s favourite records, and so, as he told Nigel Leigh for a BBC TV documentary, ‘I had the ability to eat good chili and listen to “Three Hours Past Midnight” by Johnny “Guitar” Watson for most of my junior and senior years.

Watson’s solo on the record was absorbed deep into Zappa’s consciousness and several of his phrases occurred in Frank’s later work. ‘One of the things I admired about him was his tone, this wiry, kind of nasty, aggressive and penetrating tone, and another was the fact that the thing that he would play would often come out as rhythmic outbursts over the constant beat of the accompaniment…It seemed to me that was the correct way to approach it, because it was like talking or singing over a background. There was a speech influence to the rhythm.’ Watson often plays ahead of the beat and takes great risks to resolve a break. He has a hard, unforgiving tone. It is easy to see his influence on Zappa’s guitar style.

It is indeed. Have a listen.

It’s downright uncanny.

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