Grateful Dead

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Joined: Jun 4 2007
RIP 'Doc Watson' gentleman & extraordinary musician

I first saw Doc at a Bluegrass Festival at Mole Lake, Wisconsen. Vassar Clements, John Hartford, Doc & Merle Watson, Lester Flatt Band, and many more, decades ago. But Doc's set seemed so special, Merle took his arm and led him to the chair in the middle of the stage. And then Doc & Merle led us all though a wonderful and intimate evening of music. Happy Trails, Doc. And thanks so much.
Doc Watson played the acoustic guitar with such pure precision that Bob Dylan once compared his picking to "water running."

The folk-music icon, 89, died Tuesday, after a fall last week at his home in Deep Gap, N.C., and subsequent colon surgery.

Blind from infancy, Watson grew up playing harmonica and a homemade banjo but learned guitar after his father bought him a $12 Stella acoustic when he was 13. Born Arthel Lane Watson, he picked up the nickname "Doc" at the suggestion of an audience member at a radio broadcast when he was in his teens.

Though Watson was instrumental in developing the canon for 1960s folk musicians with his recordings of traditional tunes like Deep River Blues and Shady Grove, he didn't play just the music of the Appalachian Mountains. Before folklorist and musician Ralph Rinzler first recorded him backing old-time banjo player Clarence "Tom" Ashley in 1960, he worked with a local dance band, playing honky-tonk, rockabilly, pop and square-dance tunes.

"His adaptations of fiddle tunes to the flattop guitar virtually reinvented the instrument's role in bluegrass," journalist John Milward wrote in liner notes for the 1999 compilation The Best of Doc Watson 1964-1968, which included Watson's versions of the Eddy Arnold country hit Tennessee Stud and Jimmie Rodgers' My Rough and Rowdy Ways.

A master of both finger-picking and flat-picking styles, Watson was, along with Merle Travis and Chet Atkins, one of the most influential acoustic guitarists of the '50s and '60s. He played the 1963 and 1964 Newport Folk Festivals and became popular on the folk circuit, especially in New York and California.

"He is single-handedly responsible for the extraordinary increase in acoustic flat-picking and finger-picking performance," Rinzler once wrote. "His flat-picking style has no precedent in early country music history."

His appearance on the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band's 1972 Will the Circle Be Unbroken triple-album set took him to a wider audience, including fans of country, bluegrass and blues.

"There may not be a serious, committed Baby Boomer alive who didn't at some point in his or her youth try to spend a few minutes at least trying to learn to pick a guitar like Doc Watson," President Bill Clinton said when presenting Watson his National Medal of the Arts in 1997. Watson also won seven Grammys over a 33-year period and received Grammy's lifetime achievement award in 2004.

For many years, Watson toured with his son, Merle Watson, who died in a 1985 tractor accident. Merle's memory is honored by MerleFest, an annual North Carolina roots-music festival that the elder Watson hosted. Held on the last weekend in April since 1988, MerleFest draws more than 75,000 annually to Wilkes Community College in Wilkesboro, N.C.

noonie's picture
Joined: Jul 31 2007
a big warm hug to all who are

a big warm hug to all who are mourning the loss of Texas

TigerLilly's picture
Joined: Jul 2 2007
oh how sad

Like marye I am also sorry for your loss. It's soo hard to lose a beloved pet.

marye's picture
Joined: May 26 2007
so sorry for your loss

congrats on 16 great years though...

Joined: Jan 11 2012
He reminded me of the dancing bear.

My lil' dog Texas passed away today. He was 16 years old, he remembered the old days. God bless and keep our animal friends. Let's cherish them in the present and the past. Thanks for letting me share my loss. Cheers fellow music lovers!

Gr8fulTed's picture
Joined: Jul 9 2007
Belated memorial: Chris Ethridge

Chris Ethridge died April 23, 2012, at 65, in Meridian, Mississippi from pancreatic cancer. Chris played bass guitar and was a member of The Flying Burrito Brothers, along w Gram Parsons, Byron Berline, Al Perkins, Sneaky Pete Kleinow and Chris Hilman. Hot Burrito #2 was one of his country rock compositions. I wore out my vinyl album "Last of the Red Hot Burritos", a live recording with "Don't Let Your Deal Go Down", "Six Days on the Road" and a good version of "Orange Blossom Special". His first band was the International Submarine Band, with Parsons and Hilman, evolving into the Burritos. Chris did a lot of studio work with many other musicians, like Ry Cooder, Leon Russell, Jackson Browne and Linda Ronstadt. He toured with Willie Nelson for a few years, too.

marye's picture
Joined: May 26 2007
sorry to hear this badger

and sorry for your loss

cosmicbadger's picture
Joined: Jun 13 2007
Chut Wutty

Spare a few thoughts please for the Cambodian environmental activist and very brave man, murdered this week by military police while he was documenting illegal logging. I worked with him a lot. His death is another sad blow to the protection of Cambodia's forests and to the fight against totalitarianism and kleptocracy.

Joined: Oct 3 2008
take the load off Fanny

Sad, sad news, a real rock pioneer and one of the first singing drummers, loved this guy and his music, so sad, RIP Levon, it's ok, you can put the load on me.

Anna rRxia's picture
Joined: Dec 25 2009
RIP Levon Helm

Loved this man and his music. Time to put on some music.

Ohh, the shape I'm in!


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