Description of Doc Watson's Music:
Recommended CDs by Doc Watson:
Songs from Home (Capitol/EMI, 2002) compare prices
From Gerdes Folk City (Sugar Hill, 2001) compare prices
Purchase/Download Doc Watson MP3s:
Columbus Stockade Blues (from Third Generation Blues with Richard Watson)
"Gonna Lay Down My Old Guitar" (from Black Mountain Rag with Merle Watson)
At the age of 24, Arthel married Rosa Lee Carlton, with whom he had two children. When he was about 30 years old, he got a gig playing lead electric guitar with Jack Williams' Country and Western Swing Band. The group didn't have a fiddler, so Arthel filled in the lead fiddle parts by picking them out on his electric guitar. He soon discovered the joy of moving the guitar - traditionally a rhythm instrument in country and folk music - into the position which had traditionally been filled by the fiddle - that of a lead instrument. He worked on this technique for a few years before making his debut as a solo artist.
It was during a radio show appearance that the announcer suggested Arthel is an awkward name for a lead performer and asked the audience for a better suggestion. Someone called out "Doc" and the name stuck.
Doc Watson became a mainstay on the folk circuit, bringing the traditional songs of Appalachia to a wider audience. He scored gigs at Gerde's Folk City - the legendary New York club around which the folk music "revival" seemed to rotate. He was a surprising force in the folk revival, endearing pop-minded revivalists to the music of the Blue Ridge Mountains and Appalachia, delivering folk fiddle tunes on guitar, and redefining not only the way Appalachian music was considered in hip circles, but also the way the guitar was played.
Soon after Doc made his first appearance at Gerde's, his son Merle started learning to play guitar. Over the next several years, Doc and Merle would make around 20 albums together, touring the US as a sort of folk duo with Merle playing backup to Doc's lead. In the mid-1980s, Merle was tragically killed one night in an accident with a tractor. Broken-hearted by the loss of his son, Doc claimed to have had a dream where Merle told him to press on with the music. So, to honor his son's memory, Doc started throwing an annual bluegrass and folk music festival near his home in northern North Carolina. Merlefest quickly became one of the most popular folk music festivals in the country.
Known primarily for his flatpicking and fingerpicking styles, Doc Watson is revered for his masterful guitar playing, and has inspired artists in country, folk, bluegrass, and old time music. Bob Dylan has counted him as a major influence on his early interest in American folk music. Throughout his career, Doc received seven Grammy awards (including the Lifetime Achievement Award), and was inducted into the International Bluegrass Music Hall of Fame in 2000. He died at the age of 89 on May 29, 2012, after taking a bad fall and responding poorly to surgery. One month after his final appearance at Merlefest 2012, Arthel Lane "Doc" Watson was surrounded by family and friends and mourned by the folk, country, and bluegrass music community.