Watsonian Institute – 1978 – Master Funk

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Posting and additional info’s by Nikos

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.

The Institute 4:08
Master Funk 4:40
The Funk if I Know 4:00
Lady Voo Doo 4:44
De John’s Delight 3:00
Coming Around 4:00
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. Master Funk is the only LP that was released under that name, and for all intents and purposes, this is very much a Johnny “Guitar” Watson 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 Master Funk. The main difference between this record and the hit albums that Watson 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, Master Funk 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 Watson sings on. Master Funk is generally decent, but it’s uneven, and it’s an album that simmers without really catching fire. This vinyl LP wasn’t among Watson‘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.

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Conversation for album: Watsonian Institute – 1978 – Master Funk

  • Trakbuv
    Posted at 02:40h, 09 October 2012 Reply

    Back when Mr Watson was riding high a crest of wave rippling from the success of a series of simply brilliant crossover LPs (‘Ain’t that a Bitch’ still holds a powerful place in my heart) born out from his more bluesy roots. To me this was just more of the same – except more chant driven and less lead vocals. Here in the UK, both “Master Funk” and the even more insistent “The Institute” were firm club favourites and irresistably so. Maybe not as strong as his own personal output of the time and lacking slightly from a vocal focal point this is nonetheless killer Watson mode, and my personal fave “Virginia’s Pretty Funky” wouldn’t have fitted so well on his own release. Never released on CD – criminal (wipes down glossy finish of LP cover).

  • GRZA
    Posted at 05:39h, 09 October 2012 Reply

    This site travels with me everywhere I go. From the EU to South America where I currently reside on a business trip…
    My only source of music being my laptop this is a great way to still enjoy good music abroad 🙂
    Muchas gracias.

  • zobba
    Posted at 13:52h, 09 October 2012 Reply


  • Zeman
    Posted at 00:18h, 10 October 2012 Reply

    Very impressive. I love the old stuff, can’t wait for the rest of the album.

  • rich
    Posted at 20:03h, 10 October 2012 Reply

    thanx for this album

  • whoknows
    Posted at 01:50h, 11 October 2012 Reply

    WOW! What an album! Thanks for sharing as always yall!!!

  • whoknows
    Posted at 01:51h, 11 October 2012 Reply

    Thanks for sharing as always! WOW what an album!

  • whoknows
    Posted at 01:51h, 11 October 2012 Reply

    Thanks for sharing! What an album!

  • Miles
    Posted at 10:28h, 11 October 2012 Reply

    Well Done!!! Thank You for your time putting this together!!

  • MotorCity
    Posted at 13:14h, 11 October 2012 Reply

    Classical no-one does it better.

  • Jeff
    Posted at 11:32h, 12 October 2012 Reply

    The happy sound of the 70’s that nice!

  • Gabon
    Posted at 12:30h, 14 October 2012 Reply

    Killer Funk. Thnx

  • Mike
    Posted at 12:32h, 14 October 2012 Reply

    oommmgggg!!!! looovvveee itt!!!! 🙂 <3

  • Maluco
    Posted at 08:40h, 15 October 2012 Reply

    keep posting all that good stuff

  • Tommie
    Posted at 08:48h, 15 October 2012 Reply

    Dope !

  • brotherpete
    Posted at 07:44h, 16 October 2012 Reply

    No RS links anymore? 🙁

  • MadMan
    Posted at 13:25h, 17 October 2012 Reply

    damn….this is a perfect example of funk.

  • Nikos
    Posted at 10:25h, 19 October 2012 Reply

    A must have. thnx

  • Ben Horn
    Posted at 13:47h, 20 October 2012 Reply

    1000 mercis pour cette découverte et toutes les autres. Un blog d’intérêt publique que celui-ci !

  • Vic
    Posted at 08:53h, 24 October 2012 Reply

    thanks muchly! good to see you doing your own thing. looking fwd to more…

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