Watsonian Institute – 1978 – Master Funk
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Released during the height of his laid-back space funk era, Johnny drops a batch of mostly instrumental numbers with himself providing guitar, fender rhodes, synths, clavinet & organ in that style we all know and love. This is the 1st of two albums that Johnny Guitar cut under the “Watsonian Institute” moniker for DJM Records in 78′ & 79′. Sadly, As times rapidly changed, So did his style on later albums after leaving the label on his solo projects.
A1 The Institute 4:08
A2 Master Funk 4:40
A3 The Funk if I Know 4:00
A4 Lady Voo Doo 4:44
B1 De John’s Delight 3:00
B2 Coming Around 4:00
B3 Virginia’s Pretty Funky 4:55
John Watson, Jr. 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 practiced by the “axe men” of Texas: 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”–blues. Watson agreed, but “that was the first thing I did.” A musical prodigy, Watson played with Texas bluesmen Albert Collins and Johnny Copeland. His parents separated in 1950, when he was 15. His mother moved to Los Angeles, and took Johnny 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 was billed as “Young John Watson” until 1954. That year, he saw the Sterling Hayden film “Johnny Guitar”, and a new stage name was born. He affected a swaggering, yet humorous personality, indulging a taste for flashy clothes and wild showmanship on stage. His “attacking” style of playing, without a plectrum, resulted in him often needing to change the strings on his guitar once or twice a show, because he “stressified on them” so much, as he put it.
In 1978, Johnny “Guitar” Watson‘s backup band decided to record a project as the Watsonian Institute. is the only LP that was released under that name, and for all intents and purposes, this is very much a album. In addition to doing all of the producing and arranging, the late singer/guitarist wrote most of the material and contributed his share of lead vocals. So not surprisingly, his stamp is all over . The main difference between this record and the hit albums that had been recording under his own name in the 1970s is the fact that this release has a stronger jazz influence. While 1976’s Ain’t That a Bitch, 1977’s A Real Mother for Ya, and 1977’s Funk Beyond the Call of Duty are funk/soul albums first and foremost, is an album in which funk, soul, and soul-jazz live under the same roof. Instrumentals like “Dr. John’s Delight” and “Coming Around” are in the soul-jazz vein, and the jazz influence is also present on some of the tunes that sings on. is generally decent, but it’s uneven, and it’s an album that simmers without really catching fire. This vinyl LP wasn’t among ‘s big sellers of the 1970s and is far from essential, although it’s a fairly interesting listen if you’re among his truly hardcore fans.