Gangster of Love

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"Gangster of Love"
Single by Johnny "Guitar" Watson
B-side"One Room Country Shack"
Released1957 (1957)
Format7-inch 45 rpm record
LabelKeen (no. 3-4005)
Songwriter(s)John Watson a.k.a. Johnny "Guitar" Watson
Johnny "Guitar" Watson singles chronology
"She Moves Me" / "Love Me Baby"
"Gangster of Love"
"Deana Baby" / "Honey"

"Gangster of Love" is a blues song recorded by Johnny "Guitar" Watson in 1957. When Watson re-recorded the song in 1978, it became a hit. Author David Ritz has identified it as "his most famous song"[1] and several artists have recorded interpretations.

Original song[edit]

Johnny "Guitar" Watson first recorded a demo version of "Gangster of Love" while he was with RPM Records in the mid-1950s.[2] In 1957, a version of the song, a mid-tempo blues shuffle featuring a stop-time arrangement, was released by Keen Records. The single did not appear in the record charts. However, with Johnny Otis producing, Watson re-recorded the song in 1963 for King Records (5774). The newer recording gained wider exposure,[2] but again did not reach the charts.[3]

1970s version[edit]

In 1978, during his "flamboyant funkster" phase, Watson's recorded an updated "Gangster of Love" for DJM Records. It became a hit, reaching number 32 during a stay of thirteen weeks on Billboard's Hot Soul Singles chart.[4] The song was a feature of his live shows, with some performances playing up the gangster theme with a simulated siren and a mock police bulletin. Most versions open with

Jesse James and Frank James, Billy the Kid all the rest
Supposed to be some bad cats, out in the West
But when they dug me, and my gangster ways
They hung up their guns, and made it to the grave
'Cause I'm a gangster of love

Cover versions[edit]

Early in his career, Johnny Winter recorded "Gangster of Love", which was released as a single in 1964 (Frolic 45-1016). The song appears on the 1965 Sam the Sham and the Pharaohs album Wooly Bully. The Steve Miller Band included a version on their 1968 Sailor album (though this is not to be confused with the band's song The Joker, which contains the lyric "some call me the Gangster of Love"). Miller also referenced the song in some of his other songs and it became part of his concert repertoire. In 1971, Billy Thorpe and the Aztecs recorded a 24:35 version for their album The Hoax Is Over.

In 2013, Tommy Z's second album, Sometimes, included his cover of "Gangster of Love".[5]


  1. ^ Ritz, David (1999). The Very Best of Johnny "Guitar" Watson (Compilation notes). Johnny "Guitar" Watson. Rhino Records. p. 5. R2 75702.
  2. ^ a b Dahl, Bill (1996). "Johnny "Guitar" Watson". In Erlewine, Michael. All Music Guide to the Blues. San Francisco: Miller Freeman Books. p. 271. ISBN 0-87930-424-3.
  3. ^ In 2006, Watson's 1963 version was used in an Axe Clix commercial.
  4. ^ Whitburn, Joel (1988). Top R&B Singles 1942–1988. Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin: Record Research. p. 436. ISBN 0-89820-068-7.
  5. ^ "Tommy Z's "Sometimes" Brings Home Some Real Guitar | American Blues Scene Magazine". Retrieved 2016-02-24.

External links[edit]