Today we lost not only one of the best musicians (and nicest people by all accounts) but also one of the most influencial players and singer of his generation. Doc Watson has died at the age of 89 following a fall which resulted in abdominal surgery, he had been in a critical condition for several days.
Doc was a legendary performer who blended his traditional Appalachian musical roots with bluegrass, country, gospel and blues to create a unique style, an expansive repertoire, and was renouwned for his lightening fast emotive picking and honey toned voice.He won eight Grammy Awards including a lifetime achievement prize in 2004.
He was a powerful singer and a tremendously influential picker who perfected the art art of playing mountain fiddle tunes on the flattop guitar and took that art to the world stage.
Blinded by an eye infection before his first birthday, he learned to play the banjo at the age of five before picking up a guitar in his early teens.
He got his musical start in 1953 playing lead guitar in a country-and-western swing band and became a full-time professional musician in the 1960s.
Watson's mastery of flatpicking helped make the guitar a lead instrument in the 1950s and 1960s, when it was often considered a backup for the mandolin, fiddle or banjo.
For much of his career he toured and recorded with his son, Merle Watson, who died in a tractor accident in 1985. He set up an annual fundraising musical event, Merlefest, in his memory, which now has grown into one of the biggest and best events on the world musical calendar.
Doc played at events across the US headlining folk festivals across the US, regularly filling The Carnegie Hall in New York and recorded some 60 albums, with his most popular songs including Tom Dooley, Shady Grove, Rising Sun Blues, Deep River Blues as well as the Tennessee Stud featured below.
The tributes are flooding in from those who knew him and those who have him to thank from afar in same measure. This was on face book today and how I learned the sad news, from our friend Charlie Roth, and does for me sums up the important place he will maintain at the heart of American accoustic music and in the heart of his contemporary Musicians.
"I was still in high school when I first discoverd Doc..there was an album that really hit me about the time I started my first band in 1979. the cover of it had Doc and Merle looking through a window with rain on the glass pane. i tried real hard to play Tennessee Stud like he did. I also learned two or three others. I could emulate his voice better than the guitar stuff he was a fantastic picker. His singing voice was like honey. His passing is a great loss to America" .
Farewell Doc Watson!
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