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Doc Watson (1923-2012)

RIP Doc Watson
We lost another one. Doc Watson, 89, died Tuesday in Winston-Salem, N.C., following abdominal surgery. Watson was born in Deep Gap, N.C., March 3, 1923, the sixth of nine children, who lived in a three-bedroom house.

Although Watson was famous for his guitar playing, he also was an accomplished banjo player, learning to play the five-string as a boy. When he was 11, his father gave him a homemade banjo with the skin of a cat used for the head, according to NPR.

GBB has been following the news of Watson's hospitalization after he fell at his home last week.

Watson was always one of those musicians whose albums I never owned, but that I keep meaning to buy. His influence on the 1960s folk revival and later generations of musicians is evident in the work of today's bands like Old Crow Medicine Show, whom Watson is credited with discovering, and the Avett Brothers.

Over the weekend, my wife wanted to listen to the Avett Brothers "Live, Vol. 2," on which they play "Wanted Man," a song they attribute to learning from one of Watson's albums. The Avetts tell the story of asking Watson's permission to play the song at MerleFest one year, to which he said, "It's not my song. I don't give a damn if you play it or not."

It seemed fitting at the time that this reference to Watson would crop up so organically when he was in critical condition. I had to pause and reflect on this great musician.

While his music was strong influence on other musicians, Watson's repertoire was rooted in the Southern Appalachian Mountains where he lived, with songs ranging from old-time fiddle tunes to traditional folk ballads, from blues to bluegrass, and from gospel to jazz.

Watson's guitar style grew from the need to mimic the fiddle, but became his unique stamp on the musical world. His great influence will be missed, but certainly not forgotten.


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