Beverly “Guitar” Watkins has died at the age of 80. Born in Atlanta, Georgia, Watkins began her career in 1959, when she joined Piano Red’s band, and started touring America.
After Piano Red’s group disbanded in 1965, Watkins worked with numerous notable musicians including BB King, Ray Charles, and James Brown over her decades-long career – however found it hard to break into mainstream success. In the 1980s, she worked cleaning houses and offices to make ends meet when the gigs wouldn’t pay enough. In a 2017 interview with Living Blues in 2017, Watkins also spoke about about how men would react to her playing: “I’d been on shows, back then, I was young and men would come up and say, ‘Hmm, I ain’t never seen no woman play like you,’” she said. “And I had a lot of them say, ‘Where did you learn to play like that?’ and I’d say, ‘Jesus.’”
It’s clear Watkins was undeterred by these challenges, being consistently noted for her fiery stage presence and passionate, aggressive guitar playing throughout her career. Her first solo album, Back in Business, was released in 1999.
Watch Watkins perform below:
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