Sign up for newsletter
 

Doc Watson dies at 89

Tuesday, May 29, 2012 – Doc Watson, an acoustic guitar giant in bluegrass, country and folk music, died today at 89 after falling at his home last week. Watson was particularly known for his flatpicking style of guitar in which he would hold the pick between two or three fingers to strike the strings. he also was instrumental in making the acoustic guitar a lead instrument in country and bluegrass.

"He is single-handedly responsible for the extraordinary increase in acoustic flat-picking and fingerpicking guitar performance," said Ralph Rinzler, the folklorist who discovered Watson in 1960. "His flat-picking style has no precedent in earlier country music history."

Watson, who was blind since he was a year old due to an eye infection, was born in Deep Gap, N.C. on March 3, 1923. He bought his first guitar after chopping dead chestnut trees on his family's property, selling the wood to a tannery to make money. Watson bought a $10 Stella guitar from Sears Roebuck. He played guitar on local street corners. By the time he was 30, he played with Jack Williams country swing band on electric guitar in Johnson City, Tenn. Watson also taught himself how to play fiddle tunes on his Les Paul electric guitar.

By 1960, Watson began playing acoustic guitar and banjo exclusively with the rise of the folk revival.

That same year, Rinzler found Watson at a fiddlers' convention in Union Grove, N.C. Watson sat in with old time musician Tom Ashley, making a mark on Rinzler. He then went to Watson's home and recorded him with family members, including his father-in-law, Gaither Carlton.

Watson toured as a solo performer and recorded his first disc, "Old Time Music at Clarence Ashley's" in 1961. Two years later, he received very positive reviews at the Newport Folk Festival. In 1964, he recorded his first solo album, the same year he began playing with his son Merle.

The Watsons later performed as a trio with T. Michael Coleman on bass, recording almost 15 albums between 1973 and 1985. Merle died in a tractor accident in 1985.

In 2000, Watson was inducted into the International Bluegrass Music Hall of Honor in Owensboro, Ky. In 1997, Watson received the National Medal of Arts from President Clinton.

Watson hosted the annual MerleFest concert held every April at Wilkes Community College in Wilkesboro, N.C., a tribute to his son. The festival drew tens of thousands of people and focused on bluegrass and country acts.

Watson won eight Grammy awards, starting in 1973 for Best Ethnic or Traditional Recording for "Then and Now' and ending in 2006 with Best Country Instrumental Performance with Bryan Sutton for Whiskey Before Breakfast from "Not Too Far From the Tree" by Sutton.

More news for Doc Watson

CD reviews for Doc Watson

Live at Club 47 CD review - Live at Club 47
When Doc Watson passed away in 2012 at the age of 89, his legacy as one of the most treasured and iconic figures of American country and folk music was embodied in nearly five decades worth of highly regarded recordings, both live and in the studio, and for many up and coming musicians, "pickin' with Doc" became one of the "must do" items on the career checklist. But when he took the stage on a February evening in 1963 at the legendary Club 47 in Cambridge, Mass. »»»
Editorial: Walking the talk – When names like Hank Williams, Johnny Cash, Waylon and the Hag are invoked, you're talking hard core country. These are the touchstones of country , the guys who made country music what it was and still is (or maybe can be). When these folks would sing about being down-and-out and the rough-and-tumble, they knew of what they were singing about. Fast forward a few years to the country singers of today. »»»
Concert Review: Stapleton shows his traditional roots – Chris Stapleton's All-American Road show feels like a singular mission to rid the genre of the bro country scourge that has plagued it for years. He came out with a blazing one-two punch of "Second One To Know" and "Without Your Love" and packed a stadium sized onslaught into a 9,000-seat arena. He never once veered from his... »»»
Concert Review: Jinks wins over fans, especially new ones – Cody Jinks asked the crowd a bit into his show how many had never seen him before. It seemed like Jinks has made a lot of musical inroads into the public's consciousness because roughly three quarters of the audience raised their hands to show that this was their first time. That probably made Jinks feel pretty darn good about how life has been... »»»
Follow Country Standard Time  Subscribe to Country News Digest  Follow Country Standard Time on twitter  Visit Country Standard Time on Facebook 

Elsewhere in the news

Currently at the CST blogs

Willis, Robison spin "Beautiful Lie" Eleven years ago, Kelly stepped away from music. She had just finished touring on 2007's exquisite "Translated From Love" and felt the angst of being a travelling musician with family at home. At that point, Willis and her husband, musician/producer Bruce Robison,... »»»
Chip Kinman celebrates brother, career on "Sounds Like Music" For a brief moment last summer, the news of Tony Kinman's death was, if not greatly exaggerated, then at least fortuitously premature. The roots rock icon, known for his work in The Dils, Rank and File, Blackbird and Cowboy Nation with his younger brother Chip, had been diagnosed with cancer in March 2018,... »»»
Shiflett learns "Hard Lessons" Until recently, Chris Shiflett took a somewhat obsessive/compulsive approach to his music career. For the past two decades, Shiflett has been the primary guitar foil for Dave Grohl in Foo Fighters; early in his tenure, Shiflett was so self-deprecatingly... »»»
Threads CD review - Threads
With "Threads," Sheryl Crow gets the all-star-guest treatment on what she says is her swang song, with each song featuring a favorite fellow artist. She seems a little too young for this kind of tribute. Nevertheless,  »»»
Let it Roll CD review - Let it Roll
Midland is more magicians than musicians. When the trio came out with their omnipresent 2017 single "Drinkin' Problem," they pulled off their first trick: a brand-new band to radio who sounded like old friends. Their sound and their look (matador »»»
While I'm Livin' CD review - While I'm Livin'
It's been 17 years since we've had a new album from Tanya Tucker, so it's a real pleasure to hear her clear throaty vocals deliver these songs with her characteristic raw emotion. Tucker knows how to get into a song and make it her own »»»
Gypsy CD review - Gypsy
Eilen Jewell's "Gypsy" opens with the ominous, mysterious "Beat the Drum," which is a swampy - and yes, gypsy - song of warning about some impending doom or other. It plays out like a softer type of vintage... »»»
Texas CD review - Texas
Rodney Crowell is a rare breed of a country songwriter. Yes, he knows how to write traditional country songs; it's just he's also a deep thinker, which requires extra effort on the part of the listener to appreciate them fully.  »»»
New Moon Over My Shoulder CD review - New Moon Over My Shoulder
Larry Sparks was still a teenager when Ralph Stanley chose him to replace his brother Carter Stanley as guitarist and lead singer in the Clinch Mountain Boys in the wake of Carter's passing in December 1966. »»»