Melvin Ragin, the longtime Motown Records studio guitarist who was better known as Wah Wah Watson, has died. Rolling Stone reports that Ragin died yesterday at a hospital in Santa Monica. No cause of death has been revealed yet. Ragin was 67.
Ragin was born in Richmond, Virginia. He eventually moved to Detroit and, as a teenager, joined the Funk Brothers, the legendary Motown in-house band. Ragin famously mastered the wah wah pedal, and his scratchy, shimmery sound is all over the work of producer Norman Whitfield, who pioneered Motown’s psychedelic soul sound in the late ’60s.
Ragin is probably best-known for his work on the Temptations’ “Papa Was A Rolling Stone.” He also played on Marvin Gaye’s Let’s Get It On and I Want You, the Jackson 5’s ABC, Michael Jackson’s Off The Wall, Gloria Gaynor’s “I Will Survive,” and Rose Royce’s “Car Wash.” Well into the ’90s and ’00s, Ragin was playing on records from artists like Maxwell, Alicia Keys, and Janet Jackson. He also released the solo album Elementary in 1976.