Guitar Legend Doc Watson Passes Away
Not everyone gets to claim the title of being a living national treasure. Yet, Doc Watson was a true American artist who made significant contributions to the development of bluegrass and folk music. Sadly, our living national treasure passed away at the age of 89.
Arthel “Doc” Watson was born March 3, 1923, in Deep Gap, North Carolina. He lost his eyesight before his first birthday due to an eye infection. Despite his disability, Doc would became a master of both finger-picking and flat-picking style guitar playing. He also had a rich baritone voice and sang his songs with passion.
Doc Watson made a name for himself at the 1963 Newport Folk Festival and in fact, was enthusiastically received by the crowd that came to listen to him perform that day. He later would join forces with his son Merle, performing as a father son duo. Tragically, in 1985, Merle died in a tractor accident. Merlefest, a premier music festival is held each year in Merle’s honor.
Although he was well known for his acoustic guitar, Doc’s musical background actually started with a harmonica, a banjo, and later an electric guitar. He was a master at turning fiddle tunes into great guitar instrumentals. Watson is a multi-Grammy award winner, as well as the recipient of a lifetime achievement award and the National Medal of the Arts.
I will always have fond memories of listening to Doc Watsons’ recordings on the “Will The Circle Be Unbroken album (United Artists, UAS 9801)” or by watching the “Three Pickers”, a 2004 Grammy Nominated Best Traditional Folk album and live Television performance. Sadly, two of three pickers have both passed only two months apart. Another six strings have gone silent.
RIP Doc March 3, 1923 – May 29, 2012