Sunday, August 21, 2011

UPDATED 8/23 with Video:Q&A: Guitar great Junior Watson talks blues and more before his apperance at Damon Fowler's Sugar Shack Monday


Junior Watson performance

My interview with Watson and his good pal, noted producer/guitarist Scott Cable.

Watch live streaming video from sugarshackmonday at

Damon Fowler Group with special guests Junior Watson, Doug Demming and Scott Cable.

Watch live streaming video from sugarshackmonday at

Junior Watson performing May, 2011. Photo by Bobbi Goodman

This week's super special edition of Damon Fowler's Sugar Shack Mondays at Aces Live in Bradenton features West Coast guitar master Junior Watson.

The Orange County resident has played with everybody from Big Mama Thornton and Jimmy Rogers to Charlie Musselwhite and Kim Wilson. Watson also spent a decade each with the Mighty Flyers and then Canned Heat before embarking on a solo career.

Watson will be singing and playing myriad guitar styles Monday with backing from the rhythm section of local standout/national touring act Doug Demming and the Jewel Tones. Blind Pig recording artist Damon Fowler will also be present. So, yeah, expect a monster evening of music: This is a don't-you-dare-miss-it event for blues enthusiast.

Watson arrived in the Bradenton area around noon today and I just got off the phone with him. Here's the Q&A with the the 60-year-old guitar hero.

Tatangelo: You seem to have an encyclopedic knowledge of the blues, jazz, swing and jump. What prompted you to start learning these many styles of roots music?

Watson: What made me wanna seek it out at first was playing with  Rod Piazza (The Mighty Flyers). We were only doing Little Walter stuff and I thought how am I going to solo over these shuffles? Then found (jazz greats) Tiny Grimes and Bill Jennings and that opened up a whole other ball of worms. It was a lot of cramming real quick and buying old records.

You always look like you’re having a good time when you play, especially when you’ll do something like put the guitar under your leg to play a lick. How important is it to have a sense of humor on stage?

My mom, a singer, said it best, "Most people hear with their eyes." And it really is true. When you’re having a good time it's infectious to the audience. I have so much joy in me when I play and I just want to share it.

You’ve played and recorded with the best blues harp players in the businesses from Charlie Musselwhite and Rod Piazza to Kim Wilson. What do you think it is about your style makes you such a great fit for a harmonica player?

The difference between the average blues guitar player and me is I learned to rhythm before lead. I learned the chord first. That really teaches you how to compliment others and solo.

You’ve played with legends such as Big Mama Thornton and Jimmy Rogers. Have you ever been star struck?

Absolutely. Almost every time. Especially as a kid. When I recorded with Jimmy Roger it was the most relaxed. Sessions used to be scary for me. You're trying to do your best but in most studios there's not much atmosphere. But with Jimmy Rogers he was drinking and telling stories. He was so calm it put everybody at ease. By the end of the session he had a pretty good buzz and said you’re playing “Slick Chick” and we did and he said, "That’s great. Better than the original."

What was it like working with R&B great Nappy Brown and our mutual friend, producer Scott Cable, on Brown’s excellent, final 2007 album “Long Time Coming?” 

It was fantastic just being there watching him. Nappy Brown was the one of the greatest singers ever.

You spent a decade each with the Mighty Flyers and Canned Heat. At what point did you feel comfortable stepping out and being a frontman?

Oh s--t. I did it out of necessity to get gigs. And I was tired of working with harmonica players (laughs). I think I've heard every lick they play.

You’ve only put out two solo albums: 1994’s “Long Overdue” and 2002’s “If I Had a Genie.” Both were well received. Do you have plans for a new release in near future?

I have 28 songs recorded and several are originals. I plan on getting the first one out pretty quick (on a label). The second two after that I'm putting out myself. Dick Dale has this great thing on YouTube where he goes, "F--k a record company. My record company is the trunk of my car. Come see me after the gig."

On your website, the bio reads “Junior Watson has reached cult status.” Are you comfortable with that term?

That’s the way the real blues always has been: an underground situation. One of the reasons I like the blues is because it's not mainstream, it's not on the radio. You had to go out of your way to find it.

You’ve already played with some of the best in the biz. If you could jam with one player that you've never performed with before, who would it be?

God, that’s tough. That might be the toughest question I've ever been asked. I like to work with all of them! It's always a pleasure working with new guys because you always learn something.

See you at Aces Live Monday or watch online. Both options free!

Damon Fowler's Sugar Shack Mondays
Showcasing the best in touring talent
8:30 p.m. Mon., August 22 with very special guest:
Junior Watson
No cover

Click to watch the performances, as well as my between sets interview with Watson, his collaborator/pal Scott Cable and Fowler.
8:30 p.m. Monday, August 22

Watch live streaming video from sugarshackmonday at

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