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A couple of notes on Doc Watson

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As a general rule, I try to stay away from well known names in music or pop culture when someone passes away (right. That's why you did an obit on Levon Helm, stupid.). I mean, there are enough Jerry Ragovonys or Rob Grills out there that had an influence on the music industry who's death are not noted, but whose stories need to be told. In most cases, people are familiar enough with the music of famous folks who pass away that a refresher isn't needed. But.....

Doc Watson passed away Tuesday, and it got a lot of play. There was a small article in the World Wednsday, and a very nice rememberance in Thursday's paper. But here's the problem. Unlike many other artists, I seriously doubt that a lot of people have actually heard Doc play, either live or on record. Let's fix that.

I've told you many times before I'm an absolutely terrible guitarist, and have been so for 45 years. But I'm persistent. In the mid 70's, a "free university" popped up in Colorado Springs, and there I was, me and my guitar, trying to learn something at a song workshop, that something being Travis style picking, as popularised by old time guitar player Merle Travis. I didn't come out of the class any better than when I went in (although I had a lot of fun), but I got an appreciation for Watson, who the group leader used as a demonstration.


You probably know that Doc was presuaded to tour back in the early sixties by someone from the folklife department of The Smithsonian. He was reluctant, but went out and the audiences loved him. Eventually his son Merle joined him.....

.....and they toured together until Merle was killed in a farm accident in 1985. It upset Doc enough that he stopped touring for a couple of years, until he helped put together Merlefest (named jointly after his son and Merle Travis) in Wilksborough, N.C. as a benifit for Wilks Community College. It's the biggest "traditional music" festival in the country, drawing the best "old time" musicians, and crowds in excess of 80,000 a year during it's 4 day run of things like this:

BTW, they call it "Traditional plus" music, and I can see why. When this guy shows up, all somethingorother breaks out.

So that's it. You've read about Doc Watson all week long. I just thought you might like to hear what they're talking about.