Musician Johnny "Guitar" Watson collapsed and died on stage at a blues club outside Tokyo, ending a five-decade career that made him one of the most influential guitarists of rhythm and blues.
Watson, 61, suffered a heart attack Friday at the Yokohama Blues Cafe, 18 miles south of Tokyo, said Junichi Sawaya of the Yokohama police. He was pronounced dead at a nearby hospital, Sawaya said.Watson was just about to begin playing when he collapsed, Al Bell of Bellmark Records, Watson's label, said in Los Angeles.
Watson's often sexually oriented recordings included "The Gangster of Love," which became his nickname; "Those Lonely, Lonely Nights" and "Mercy, Mercy, Mercy."
The guitarist's comeback album "Bow Wow" in 1993, his first album in 13 years, earned a Grammy nomination for contemporary blues album.
Some of popular music's best-known guitarists - including Jimi Hendrix and Eric Clapton - said they were influenced by Watson's playing. The late Frank Zappa said hearing Watson's 1957 recording "Three Hours Past Midnight" launched his interest in playing guitar.
Watson's guitar riffs have been used in songs by rap musicians Snoop Doggy Dogg and Ice Cube.
"He had his unique style," Bell said. "He didn't overplay. But what he played was great. He knew simplicity had power."
The Texas-born Watson said he himself was influenced by "T-Bone" Walker and Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown.
He moved to Los Angeles as a teenager and began his musical career in small jazz and blues clubs, and later toured with such artists as Sam Cooke, Herb Alpert and George Duke.
Survivors include his mother, Wilma, his wife, Susan, and son DeJohn and daughter Virginia.