Noble “Thin Man” Watts was an American blues and R&B saxophonist, celebrated for his vibrant energy and showmanship. Born in DeLand, Florida, Watts became a standout figure in the world of blues and R&B, shaping the distinctive sound of East Coast blues with his powerful, honking saxophone style.
Watts’ early musical upbringing was steeped in the influences of gospel and blues. His father was a tuba player and his mother a pianist, laying the foundation for his deep-seated love for music. He attended the Florida A&M University, where he performed with the school’s renowned marching band, alongside Cannonball and Nat Adderley. This experience honed his skills and fostered his show-stopping performance style, which would become a hallmark of his career.
Post his college education, Watts toured with celebrated bluesman, Paul “Hucklebuck” Williams, in the early 1950s. However, it was his association with the Baton label in the late 1950s that catapulted him to fame. He recorded several chart-topping hits, including his most famous track, “Hard Times (The Slop).” This single showcased his virtuosic saxophone playing and lively, danceable style, bringing him nationwide recognition.
In the mid-1960s, Watts stepped back from recording to focus on live performances, electrifying audiences with his engaging stage presence and dynamic playing style. He became renowned for his lively performances, often playing his saxophone while standing on his head, a feat that never failed to delight his audiences.
Watts re-emerged in the late 1980s, recording a series of albums for the Alligator and Ichiban labels. These recordings, which showcased his characteristic blend of blues, jazz, and R&B, revitalized his career and introduced him to a new generation of listeners.
Apart from his stellar contributions to the music scene, Watts’ life and music also played a significant role in highlighting the rich musical culture of Florida. His life was celebrated in the Florida Music Tours, and the Thin Man Jazz Fest is an ongoing namesake event.
Noble “Thin Man” Watts was more than just an incredible saxophonist – he was a consummate showman and a driving force in the world of blues and R&B. His ability to captivate audiences with his energetic performances and his honking saxophone style left an indelible mark on the music industry. Even today, his influence can be heard in the works of numerous saxophonists, making him an enduring figure in the annals of American music history.
Page last updated 7/9/2023.