Melvin Ragin AKA “Wah Wah Watson” is not only one of the greats of the funk guitar but could easily be considered the man that showed the world what guitar effects could truly add to funk and soul music. His trademark guitar licks graced some of the funkiest Herbie Hancock and Barry White. He played on Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On” album and contributed to the Temptations and The Four Tops as a member of the great studio band, the Funk Brothers throughout Motown’s transition from Detroit to L.A.
There is so much uncredited studio work including much of the Barry White sessions but once you’ve heard how he uses the wah wah pedal, he becomes one of a kind and instantly recognizable. As always, Nick DeVan and I have chosen some deep cuts. Here is the Setlist plus Album Info:
- Herbie Hancock- “Hang Up Your Hang-Ups” (Excerpt-Flood 1976)
- Etta James- “Out On the Street Again” (Come A Little Closer 1974)
- Quincy Jones- “Paranoid” (Mellow Madness 1973)
- Rose Royce- “Zig Zag” (Car Wash Soundtrack 1976)
- Creative Source- “Migration” (Migration 1974)
- Marvin Gaye- “Song #3” (Let’s Get It On Deluxe Edition 1973)
- Herbie Hancock- “Steppin’ In It” (Man-Child 1975)
- The Temptations- “You’ve Got My Soul On Fire” (Album-1990 Year-1973)
- Rose Royce- “Yo Yo” (Car Wash Soundtrack 1976)
- Freddie King- “Boogie Bump” (Larger than Life 1975)
- Quincy Jones- “Cry Baby” (Mellow Madness 1973)
- Eddie Kendricks- “The Thin Man” (Boogie Down 1974)
- Bobbi Humphrey- “Fun House” (Satin Doll 1974)
- Pointer Sisters- “Chainey Do” (Steppin’ 1975)
For the first installment, we neglected to include any of the Barry White. Please check out our previous podcast on The Man Mr. White and after listening to this, see if you can spot the sound of the Wah Wah. We can only speculate but it’s pretty clear to our attenuated ears.
We have some pretty incredible tracks featured here including his contribution to the stellar Car Wash soundtrack which I acquired on vinyl recently. I could not believe some of the groovin’ instrumentals on there. Everyone knows the title track, but that doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface. Creative Source is a group I know little about but they are on the Sussex label which put out all the classic Bill Withers recordings. On Quincy Jones’ album Mellow Madness, Mr. Watson is quite apparent and wrote the aptly titled “Cry Baby.” A careful ear will notice the harmonica of one Stevie Wonder jammin’ on the Herbie tune from the classic Wah Wah/Herbie collaboration that is the album “Man-Child” (and the sequel “Secrets”). And speaking of the great Mr. Hancock, we have him featured here on a recently released outtake from the Marvin Let’s Get It On sessions. “Song #3” is a jam and nothing else featuring either Wilton Felder or James Jamerson on Bass and Paul Humphrey on drums. Little is known about it’s origin but damn is it a beautiful tapestry of soul.
Some blues greats turning in some rare funkiness on the Etta James and Freddie King tracks. The 70s had a tendency to do that to folks and we’re not complaining. The great Eddie Kendricks from the Temptations who released some of the best solo stuff from any of the Motown arsenal of groups used Wah Wah a good bit. I highly recommend checking those records out to any fan looking for something that matches the power of some of the great Stevie Wonder and Marvin Gaye albums so well-known. Closing out, we got our boys the Mizell Brothers who produced this Bobbi Humphrey gem written in part by Melvin Ragin. Plus we had to throw in the vocal madness of the Pointer Sisters who revolutionized jazz and soul vocals at a savant level. This is a nice lead in to the podcast I have planned for Paul Jackson, the bass player so ridiculously raw on this track.
Always stay tuned for more of the GED Soul Revue and let us educate you (while we educate ourselves).. Keep it fresh