AX FACTS & STATS - Jeff Watson

By Dave Roberts

Welcome to "Ax Facts & Stats"; issue 19. This month I am extremely pleased and honored to bring you the especially talented Mr. Jeff Watson. Jeff's approach to song writing and guitar playing, which includes his signature "eight-fingered tapping" technique, is recognized, respected and appreciated by fans and peers throughout the guitarist community. Jeff may be most recognized as the renowned lead guitarist/song writer for the 80's power guitar driven super-group Night Ranger, but his solo efforts, session gigs, heartfelt lyric writing and numerous other credits provide evidence of what an astonishing musician JW truly is. Now let's meet the man behind the guitar.

My name is: Jeff Watson

Myself described in 5 words: Creative, Self Confident, Childlike, Loving, Aware.

My current job is: Guitarist for Night Ranger, Solo Artist, Studio Owner, Producer, Engineer, Film & TV Soundtrack Composer.

My hometown is: Born and raised in Fair Oaks (Sacramento) Ca. Now living in Mill Valley, Ca. since 1980 (since forming Night Ranger).

My current album or project is: Getting ready to start a new solo record, looking to finish and release the 4th Mother's Army record (with Joe Lynn Turner, Bob Daisley, and Aynsley Dunbar) continuing to write and place TV/Film cues.

Former band(s): The Jeff Watson Band (1970's Sacramento band with Eric Martin as vocalist).

My guitar influences growing up were: Johnny Winter, Ritchie Blackmore, Ronnie Montrose, Jeff Beck, Shuggie Otis, etc.

The guitars I use are: ONSTAGE: 1968 Gibson Les Paul Goldtop, 1969 Gibson Black Custom, Hamer Sunburst Duo-Tone (for acoustic songs, Goodbye, Let Him Run, High Enough, etc.). STUDIO: Gibson 1957 Gold Top Re-issue aged and antiqued (a monster guitar), 1991 Fender Purple Jeff Beck Strat (great studio instrument), Ovation Baritone Acoustic 6 string Blue Sunburst tuned standard but dropped down 5 steps with the low E tuned to a low B, Takamine Jumbo Acoustic string, 1970's Guild F-412 jumbo blonde 12 string, 1984 Guild JF-65 jumbo blonde 12 string, Takamine Nylon Classical, and about 50 other assorted guitars, banjos, and mandolins for assorted purposes.

The strings and tunings I use are: LIVE: GHS 10 1/2 - 48 Boomers, STUDIO: GHS 9-46 Custom Light Boomers, GHS Bright Bronze Acoustic, etc. *) My current rig setup consists of: LIVE; Boogie Tri-Axis / Rocktron Replifex / Boogie Stereo Tube 50/50 power amp, Shure top of the line UHF Wireless System, etc.

The greatest invention for guitars is: In my opinion, there are several. String winders, strap locks, precision machine heads, electronic tuners, wireless systems, humbucking pickups, anvil type road cases, POD type guitar processors.

My normal songwriting process: No set pattern. Sometimes a guitar idea / piano piece first, other times lyrics / poetry first, and other times a melody pulled out of the air or in my head.

My Favorite Night Ranger solo is: There are so many solos and albums over the years that it wouldn't be fair, without going back and reevaluating everything, to choose any one as my favorite, but as a guitarist and from a mechanical standpoint I guess that as a picked solo "Don't Tell Me You Love Me" would be a good representation of my personal style, approach, and technique, and for the 8 Finger tapping approach 'You Can Still Rock In America' is a good example. There are some solos, such as 'Sing Me Away' (Dawn Patrol CD) or for 8 Finger approach 'Love Is Standing Near' (Big Life CD) that have a more emotional approach, that I'm proud of, but since this if for Extreme Guitar I guess the flashier stuff is more what you're looking for.

My Favorite Night Ranger song is: Once again, it's hard to pick a favorite, as they all mean different things for different reasons, but I guess 'Don't Tell Me You Love Me' would have to be one of my favorites from all perspectives including songwriting, arrangement, band performance, and guitar execution.

My Career highlight is: I am still amazed and humbled at how fortunate I am to have been able to do what I love and touch so many people and have it support me financially.

My most embarrassing moment on stage: Carrying a naked stripper onstage over to Kelly's drum riser on the last show of a tour as he was singing Sister Christian, only to have her take a flashlight, climb to the top of our stage ramps, and use it to masturbate with in front of the crowd while, due to rain, all the parents of the younger fans were allowed to wait inside the hall and witness the perversion. We were immediately banned from playing again in Tyler Texas.

Other than my guitar, the one piece of my gear that I cannot live without is: My sense of humor.

The first song I mastered on guitar was: I'm not sure Mastered is the right word, but I remember teaching myself 'Georgie Girl' at around 7 years old.

My first guitar was: A Stella 4 string baritone ukulele when I was 5, then a Stella small bodied 6 string at 6, then a Yamaha 12 String to a Gibson Auditorium acoustic / electric soon thereafter.

If I am only sure of one thing in life, it's... Nothing is certain. Pursuing ones dreams and creating ones own opportunities is one of our greatest fundamental freedoms. Sadly, in my opinion, too many potentially talented people, (whether it be artistically, scientifically, medically, or otherwise) appear, from a young age, to be mentally beaten into submission and self confined to a seemingly pre conceived role in life by parents, peers, media, and societal standards, and never take the chance to express or follow their inner voice.

My Greatest fear is: That we will so destroy the delicate balance of nature and the environment that the legacy we leave our grandchildren and future generations will be one of misery, disease, starvation, and despair.

The one ritual I always perform prior to going onstage is: Warm up slowly for 10 to 20 minutes prior to show time.

Favorite quote: "Life is what happens while you're busy making plans"

The exact moment I knew I would pursue a career in music was: 11:33 AM, April 20th, 1973.

The one thing most fans don't know about me is: I'm only 22 years old.

The best advice I could give beginning guitarists is: Get good enough mechanically to express all your musical ideas. Write songs and poetry to free your inner voices. Stop imitating other players as soon as you have a basic grasp of the instrument so that you can develop your own identity and personality as a player. Surround yourself with people equal to or more talented than you are in order to keep raising the level of your musicianship. Unless you make your living at it, avoid playing cover tunes and try to perform only original music and establish yourself as a fresh talent.

The CD(s) I'm listening to right now is: I'm generally in the middle of so many different musical pursuits that I end up listening, re-editing and re-evaluating my own stuff all the time.

My 3 all-time favorite albums are: Deep Purple 'Machine Head', Kansas 'Song For America' and the first Montrose album are still dear to me.

I'm a sucker for: Animals, great Indian food, Australia, (and one beautiful amazing Australian girl that cooks great Indian cuisine), back scratches, hand massages, (right before a show) good books, crossword puzzles, Sierra mountain lakes, comedy, and intelligent discussion.

Who was one of your favorite artists that you jammed with onstage? REO, Cheap Trick, Sammy, Journey, Boston, Heart, Steve Morse, etc., The list is longer than my memory.

My best gig was: Bill Graham's 'Day On The Green' with Journey, Eddie Money, Triumph, in front of 60,000 people at Oakland Coliseum in 1984.

If I could meet any ONE person living or Dead, he/she would be: Bill Clinton.

My favorite junk food is: Jimboy's Tacos (Sacramento area).

My biggest pet peeve is: Drivers who hold up traffic in the left lane and people who don't turn off their cellphones in restaurants and other intimate places.

The word or catch phrase I say way too much is: "Say it?"

The hardest part of my job: Traveling.

The first thing I do when I come home from touring is: Laundry. Yeah right!

Favorite boy band: I hate them.

My Favorite Website is: e-bay

Previous day job(s): Gas station attendant, busboy, roofer, carpenter, singing waiter, music store assistant manager.

Right after this interview I'm going to: Take an Aussie to bed...

I couldn't imagine being on the road without: My brothers Jack, Brad, Kelly, and Fitz. Plus our incredibly talented and capable tour manager John Oshima.

If I wasn't doing the musician thing, I could really see myself working as: A water ski instructor in Surfers Paradise Australia.

My favorite movie ever: I have many. Sound of Music, Arthur, Overboard, Trading Places, Die Hard, all Monty Python...

My mission in life: To be satisfied with my accomplishments, and to be compassionately contributory to my community in whatever capacity that does the most good.

My guilty pleasure: Steak & Shake double cheeseburger with everything (except pickles) and a chocolate malt.

My first band was: The Jeff Watson Band

My next major step is: Taking my TV/Film scoring business to a higher lever of success.

The greatest contribution guitars have brought into my life is The ability to accompany my inner ideas and the feeling of accomplishment and satisfaction that comes from hours and hours and years and years of practice.

The coolest toy I had growing up was: A Playmobile car simulator.

Check out my Website at:

The one musician I would love to work with that I have not yet had the chance would be: : No single person comes to mind. I've been so lucky to work with the likes of Steve Morse, Allan Holdsworth, Steve Smith, Sammy Hagar, Ronnie Montrose, Carmine Appice, Steve Walsh, Joe Lynn Turner, Aynsley Dunbar, Bob Daisley, Neal Schon, Tony MacAlpine, my brothers in Night Ranger, etc., that I guess I feel pretty happy with the cards I've drawn. James Taylor would be a nice opportunity as I've always been a big fan, but I figure if it's meant to happen, and I make the right calls, I can work with anyone. (as long as they want to work with me).

If I could have three wishes, they would be: 1. For everyone to understand the power of intelligence informed voting. We don't need recalls or term limits. One who is doing a poor job can be voted out, and term limits more often than not stifle the ability of dedicated representatives who are getting a great feel and understanding of their job and creating good policy. The concept of term limits is just big money's way of creating special interest policy by placing people in office that are bought and paid for to represent the needs of the companies that put them in office over the needs of the constituents they were elected to represent.

2. For everyone to be more compassionate towards those around them. To offer a smile and take the time to be kind instead of angry, sympathetic to those who have less, and be more understanding in this fast paced world. For everyone to take more responsibility for their actions and effects on the environment and the world around them.

3. That everyone could have the chance to be recognized for their ideas and contributions without judgment That everyone could have the chance to sit on a mountain by a lake without electricity, phones, or roads long enough to slow down and read a good book, take a hike, paddle a canoe, and become aware that we humans have created this insane daily regiment and pace of life so dependent on this instant communication, cell phone, 24/7 technological lifestyle, that it leaves no time for our souls to relax, absorb, and appreciate the incredible beauty nature afforded all of us.

When it's all said and done, I want the world to remember me for: Being a decent human being that happens to play guitar and write songs.

Points of Interest: (Bio & photos Courtesy of

Jeff Watson is climbing yet another peak in his career--composing, performing and producing music for film and television including his score to the 2002 critically acclaimed feature-length Tom Brokaw-narrated documentary Vertical Frontier, about the first rock climbers to ascend the granite walls of Yosemite. Jeff also wrote songs for (and appeared in) several episodes of the hit CBS Don Johnson TV series 'Nash Bridges', as well as his Night Ranger tunes appearing in several movies including Boogie Nights, The Secret Of My Success, Pretty In Pink, 16 Candles and Teachers and more. A reformed Night Ranger with its original line-up is back touring. JW originated the '8 Finger Technique', a fret board tapping style he has used to astound casual fans and professional musicians alike! Jeff is a highly sought after session player, adding guitar tracks to the albums of Chris Isaak, Tony MacAlpine, Steve Morse, and many more. JW also has an incredible knack for writing powerful heartfelt lyrics and gorgeous arrangements. One listen to songs like 'Goodbye','Let Him Run', 'Sunday Morning', and 'Around The Sun' and any listener can feel the pure emotion Jeff can evoke in his songs. For more facts and interesting bio stuff at is the web home of articles and interviews written by Dave Roberts. All Dave Roberts interviews & articles are available for use or reprint ONLY by Permission. Permission can be obtained by contacting All materials are Copyright Dave Roberts and Oceanbreeze Ent., All Rights Reserved.

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