Remembering Doc Watson, an American Original

Doc Watson was born in the Blue Ridge Mountain town of Deep Gap, North Carolina, 89 years ago. When he was a year old, he went blind of an untreated eye infection. When he was 11, his father made him a banjo from the skin of a dead cat.  “He brought it to me and put it in my hands, and said, ‘Son, I want you to learn to play this thing real well. One of these days we’ll get you a better one,’ he said. ‘Might help you get through the world,’ ” Watson recalled.

Doc Watson

His parents did everything they could to see that their son had tools to make his way in the world.  His father paid a week’s wages at the sawmill where he worked for a phonograph and 50 records.  Watson earned the money for his first mail order guitar by cutting trees on his father’s farm.  He played on street corners and with dance bands until he was “discovered” by a Smithsonian folklorist who was looking for another musician in the ’60’s.

Statue of Watson in Boone, NC, where he used to play for tips to support his family

Since then, Doc Watson has given his own unique take on bluegrass and mountain music to the entire world.  He died today, after surgery a week ago.  There will never be another musician like him.

Here is a great rendition of “Shady Grove,” one of my all time favorite bluegrass pieces, by Doc Watson, David Grisman, and David Holt.

5 thoughts on “Remembering Doc Watson, an American Original

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s