If you couldn’t tell from the cover of Two For the Price of One, listen to the music inside for confirmation: these two guys obviously had a great time recording together. Fun, frisky, funny, funky, fabulous: this album has it all.
Johnny “Guitar” Watson enjoyed a popular run in the late 1970s funk scene, but this album, recorded with Larry Williams in 1967, remains one of the best things he ever did. The pure joy of these guys making music is infectious. This is music that smiles and tickles, good vibes pouring out of every song. Really, there’s not a clunker in the whole bunch. The CD version of Two For the Price of One contains eight bonus tracks that were not on the original album. The first six songs are red-hot instrumentals, culled from Watson’s Okeh label album, The Fantastic Piano and Guitar of Johnny Watson. The final two tracks, which include vocals from Watson, were originally on the album In a Fats Bag: the Johnny Guitar Watson Trio Plays Fats Waller. More icing on an already delicious cake.
Early in his career, Larry Williams enjoyed hits in the 1950s with songs like “Short Fat Fannie,” “Slow Down,” “Dizzy Miss Lizzie” and “Bony Maronie.” He was a very influential figure, even inspiring the likes of some Liverpool lads called The Beatles. His career, however, soon went downhill and he spend some time in prison in the early 60s. He was still “on the skids” (says the CD booklet) by the time Two For the Price of One was made. After the short-lived success of his pairing with Watson, Larry Williams skidded further downhill, spending more time in prison, battling a drug problem, and threatening to shoot his friend Little Richard over a drug deal. He died of gunshot wounds, possibly self-inflicted, at his home in January, 1980. He was only 44.
As for Johnny Guitar Watson, he enjoyed a much longer career, recording albums from 1951 until 1994, spiking in the late 1970s and early 80s with a series of very popular funk albums. You can hear some of that music and more on an excellent 2-CD compilation from Shout Factory called The Funk Anthology. Johnny Guitar Watson died in 1996, at the age of 61, while performing at a concert in Tokyo, Japan.