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Doc & Merle Watson

In the latter half of the 20th century there were three pre-eminently influential folk/country guitar players: Merle Travis, Chet Atkins, and Arthel "Doc" Watson, a flat-picking genius from Deep Gap, North Carolina. Unlike the other two, Watson was in middle age before gaining any attention. After 1960, though, when Watson was recorded with his family and friends in Folkways' Old Time Music at Clarence Ashley's, people remained in awe of this gentle blind man who sang and picked with a pure and emotional authenticity. The present generation, folkies and country pickers alike, including Ricky Skaggs, Vince Gill, the late Clarence White, Emmylou Harris, and literally hundreds of others, acknowledge their great debt to Watson. Watson provided a further service to folk/country by his encyclopedic knowledge of many American traditional songs. While Travis and Atkins started on acoustic guitars and moved to electric, before Watson's "discovery" during the folk revival in the early '60s, he played electric in a local all-purpose band that played current rock, swing, country, and of course folk music. He gained recognition gradually, first from the Clarence Ashley album, which led to a rave performance at the Newport Folk Festival in 1963. Folkways soon recorded an album of Watson, followed in 1964 by a series of albums by Vanguard, nearly one a year through the decade. No sooner had interest in folk music waned than Watson was back in great demand because of the three-disc Will the Circle Be Unbroken, a watershed album in 1972 that was created by the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band. It featured Watson, Travis, Roy Acuff, and a who's who of country greats. Merle, Watson's son and a talent in his own right, began appearing with his father regularly. The result was good enough for them to win two Grammys for traditional music, in 1973 and 1974. Father and son played beautiful music together for over 15 years, until Merle died tragically on the family farm in 1985. Following his son's death, Doc continued with his appearances, showcasing his beautiful voice, his great instrumental talent, and his mastery of traditional material. He was an American treasure.

Early in his childhood in Deep Gap, Watson was struck by an illness that restricted the blood flow to his eyes, resulting in his blindness at an early age. As a child, he was surrounded by music and was given a new harmonica every Christmas. When he was ten, his father gave him a homemade fretless banjo, which Doc played consistently for the next three years. Around the same time he picked up the banjo, Watson began attending the School for the Blind in Raleigh, North Carolina. At the age of 13, Doc began playing guitar after being introduced to the instrument by his cousin. Six months after receiving his guitar, Doc and his older brother Linney began busking on street corners, singing traditional numbers. By his late teens, Watson had learned how to fingerpick from his neighbor Olin Miller.

In 1941, Watson joined a band that had a regular radio program in Lenoir, North Carolina. It was at this show that he earned his nickname, once one of the announcers referred to the guitarist as "Doc" during the broadcast. For the next six years he played around North Carolina. In 1947, he married Rosa Lee Carlton, the daughter of fiddler Gaither W. Carlton. Though his father-in-law taught him a number of traditional songs, Doc didn't play any traditional material publicly during the '40s, preferring to concentrate on country instead; to pay the bills, he also worked as a piano tuner. Watson joined the supporting band of a local pianist and railroad worker named Jack Williams in 1953. With Williams, Doc played electric guitar and performed a variety of music, from country to rock and pop. After staying with Jack for eight years, Watson joined the Clarence Ashley String Band and traveled with the group to New York in order to appear at a Friends of Old-Time Music concert. His performance at the concert was a resounding success, and he was invited to perform at Gerde's Folk City in Greenwich Village.

The invitation to perform in New York was an indication that the folk boom of the early '60s was beginning to gain momentum, and Doc became one of the major benefactors of the revival. Young college students began to follow his music and he soon switched to acoustic guitar on the advice of Ralph Rinzler. During 1961, Watson made his recording debut on Clarence Ashley's Old Time Music at Clarence Ashley's, a performance which earned him considerable acclaim. Two years later, his solo spot at the Newport Folk Festival stole the show; that same year he released his first solo album, Doc Watson & Family. In 1964, Doc began giving concerts accompanied by his son Merle on second guitar. From that point on, Doc and Merle were constant collaborators and one of the most popular performers on the folk and traditional music circuit. Even when the folk boom of the '60s died down toward the end of the decade, Watson retained his audience, and when he was spotlighted on the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band's breakthrough 1972 album Will the Circle Be Unbroken, he earned another generation of new fans. In 1974, his album Then and Now won the Grammy for Best Ethnic or Traditional Recording; the following year, he and Merle took home the same award for their Two Days in November.

Doc and Merle continued to perform and record successfully during the early '80s, giving numerous successful concerts each year and earning many awards, including another Grammy in 1979 (Best Country Instrumental Performance for "Big Sandy"/"Leather Britches"). In 1985, Merle tragically died in a tractor accident on his home farm. Following his son's death, Doc stopped performing for a short time, yet he made a comeback supported by guitarist Jack Lawrence and bassist T. Michael Coleman, who had played with Watson since 1974. Throughout the '80s and '90s, Doc continued to perform and record to enthusiastic audiences. During that time he won two more Grammys -- Best Traditional Folk Recording for both 1986's Riding the Midnight Train and 1990's On Praying Ground -- as well as a North Carolina Award in Fine Arts. Home Sweet Home followed in 1998 and Third Generation Blues in 1999. Doc Watson continued with occasional performing and recording into the 21st century; he died in May 2012 following surgery at a hospital in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, at 89 years of age. ~ David Vinopal, Rovi
full bio

Selected Discography


Track List: Remembering Merle

1. Frosty Morn

2. Omie Wise

3. Frankie & Johnny

4. Honey Babe Blues

5. St. James Infirmary

6. Honey Please Don't Go

7. Nancy Rowland/Salt Creek

8. Miss The Mississippi & You

9. Nine Pound Hammer

10. Summertime

11. New River Train

12. Black Mountain Rag

13. Southern Lady

14. Mama Don't Allow

15. Blue Suede Shoes

16. Wayfaring Stranger

17. Thoughts Of Never


Track List: Sittin' Here Pickin' The Blues

1. Freight Train Blues

2. Hobo Bill's Last Ride

3. Mississippi Heavy Water Blues

4. Did You Hear John Hurt?

5. John Henry / Worried Blues

6. I'm A Stranger Here

7. Talking To Casey

8. Blue Ridge Mountain Blues

9. Any Old Time

10. Sittin' Here Pickin' The Blues

11. Stormy Weather

12. How Long Blues

13. Honey Baby Blues

14. St. Louis Blues

15. Carroll County Blues

16. California Blues

17. Going To Chicago Blues

18. Jailhouse Blues

19. Windy And Warm

20. Deep River Blues


Track List: Home Sweet Home

1. John Henry

2. Girl In The Blue Velvet Band

3. Lonesome Banjo

4. Listening To The Rain

5. Russian Grass

6. Worried Blues

7. Train That Carried My Girl From Town

8. Old Joe Clark

9. Down The Road

10. Big Spike Hammer

11. Reuben's Train

12. Little Maggie

13. I Wonder How The Old Folks Are At Home

14. Home Sweet Home


Track List: Down South

1. Solid Gone

2. Bright Sunny South

3. Slidin' Delta

4. Coal Miner's Blues

5. Hesitation Blues

6. What A Friend We Have In Jesus

7. Fifteen Cents

8. Twin Sisters

9. The Hobo

10. Cotton Eyed Joe

11. Hello Stranger

12. Down South


Track List: Elementary Doctor Watson

1. Going Down The Road Feeling Bad

2. The Last Thing On My Mind

3. Freight Train Boogie

4. More Pretty Girls Than One

5. I Couldn't Believe It Was True

6. Summertime

7. Worried Blues

8. Interstate Rag

9. Three Times Seven

10. Treasures Untold


Track List: Ballads From Deep Gap

1. Roll In My Sweet Baby's Arms

2. My Rough And Rowdy Ways

3. The Wreck Of Old Number 9

4. Gambler's Yodel

5. The Cuckoo

6. Stack O'Lee

7. Willie Moore

8. Travellin' Man

9. The Tragic Romance

10. Texas Gales

11. The Lawson Family Murder

12. Alabama Bound


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Without Doc Watson, there is no hip hop...
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The Ultimate Entertainers I have very happy ears. The Watson's yeehaa ! :0))
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Don't read this. You will be kissed on the nearest possible Friday by the love of your life. Tomorrow will be the best day of your life. Now you've started this don't stop this is so freaky. But if you read this and ignore then you will have very bad luck. Put this on 15 songs in 144 minutes. When your done push the space bar and your crushes name will appear in big letters on the screen this is so freaky it actually works.
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You will be kissed by the love of your life tomorrow will be the best day of your life put this on 15 songs in 144 minutes if you ignore this you will have bad luck then when you are done press the space bar and the name of your crush will appear
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You will be kissed by the love of your life tomorrow will be the best day of your life put this on 15 songs in 144 minutes if you ignore this you will have bad luck then when you are done press the space bar and the name of your crush will appear
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dougcandtheb l a c k l i s t e d
Sounds fantastic! Check out! Doug C and Blacklisted ~ Roots, Country, Hillbilly, Folk kinda music with enough energy to light the sky! http://www.p a n d o r a . c o m / d o u g - c - b l a c k l i s t e d / h i l l b i l l y - s t o m p
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lucindaphoto 1
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Got a minute ? There's a church that was built and they need monetary donations to help cover expenses , the church is Saint Patrick church - 1046 E. 34 th street Los Angeles California 90011 - (323) 232- 8756 ( 323) 234- 5963 - Pastor Rev. Timothy Dyer - Jesus is God :)
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luv doc and his son merle, David Bromberg does this tune DIFFERENT STYLE VERY COOL!
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One of the greats
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How can one calculate the enormous influence of Doc Watson on folk and Old Timey music? His soulful voice, fabulous amazing breadth of material, and unbelievable talent with any instrument he held in his hands (ultimate master of guitar flat picking) left a mark on all of us who loved and lived with his music. Thankfully, I had he opportunity to hear and meet with him in the summer of 1963 in Cambridge, MA, thanks to Mike Seeger. I shall never forget it! God rest his soul...
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Absolutely loving your music it really is great. Thanks Pandora.
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Saw Doc and Merle in the early 70's at the Great Southeast Music Hall in Atlanta, GA. Fell in love with that night and have never forgotten the impact they had upon me. What an awesome pair!
Pastor Mark
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they good!!
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Been a favorite for yers
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Sightless sure does not hurt THE DOC of all docs of Music Artistry. Absolutely the best.
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Doc has been a favorite of mine for the last forty years... Best flat pick picker I ever heard
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I first heard of Doc Watson in the sixties and he remains a true troubadour of American folk/country music, even now.
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ws_euclidfor e i g n
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we lost atrue master of music when doc watson passed.
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Simply the greatest ever!!
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I have never grieved the loss of a musician this much.Maybe because It was more than music with this man.By all accounts he was such a gentle man, humble and of strong character and faith.
Thank you Doc for everything you blessed us with.And thank you Lord for the life of this great man.
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God Bless, Doc Watson...
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Rest in Peace, Doc. Thank you.
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Doc is great.. as a kid my dad used to play a mixed cassette tape with some Doc tunes on it (always liked Tenessee Stud).. good memories.. been a fan ever since. The PBS special Three Pickers (mentioned below) is very good... I was present at the show.. an amazing night of music. Check out the album Doc and Boys.. alot of strong, fast licks.. a favorite of mine! Way to Doc.. Merlefest is coming up soon!
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Doc rock's and that's all there is to it. The Home Sweet Home album reissued by Sugartree Records is outstanding for anyone interested.
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aka Deep gap
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Tripplet NC
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The worst I have ever heard
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This guy knows how to play!!!!
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Gimme a break... just great???
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Wow this is a great song!
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Although realitively new to bluegrass, i can see how present day artists were influenced by the great Doc Watson. I love it and listen as often as possible. I'm playing presently with a group of fantastic bluegrass and we do all we can to promote bluegrass.
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doc is the king of the flattop
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We went to the first MerleFest and a friend won a nice acoustic guitar they were raffling off. There were maybe 500 people there, went back 2 yrs later and barely found a place to camp. Hell of a Party!
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my daughter isabella grace's artist of the month.. trying to teach her good taste.. at least this month i can call my teaching bonified. john belar johnson chattanooga tennessee
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Love Doc too and 1st went to Merlefest 14 years ago and have only missed one since. I am amazed at how talented Doc is and how pure he is. Seeing him in person even though he is 80+ now it is amazing how good he still is! Agree on the Merlefest comments...c u r r e n t l y counting down the days til that Thursday afternoon at the end of April...know where I will be rain or shine!
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So good, much better than what is coming down the pike these days.
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charitybarre t t
I am surprised this bio didn't mention the Merle Fest held in Wilkesboro, NC every April. As a native of NC growing up around the Wilkesboro area I have been listening to Doc all my life. He still performs at the Merle Fest every year and he still "has it." He is an amazing artist. For those who haven't been to the Merle Fest, it is a great 4 day festival with many different types of artists.
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i seen doc a few years back in ga it rained like hell but it was great
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We went to Doc's 80th birthday celebration out at Boone, NC, a number of years ago -- he's past 85 now and still performing, I think -- he's one of a kind.
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First saw Doc and Merle in 1967. Talked with Merle at the time. A quiet, unassuming young man who appreciated the attention on his father. I have followed Doc ever since. Got to go to Merlefest and see him for about the sixth time. Went to Deep Gap twice. Love this Christian man and his music
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I would recommend a great DVD featuring Doc Watson playing along with Earl Scruggs and Ricky Skaggs. I think it's called "Three Pickers in Concert." Also, the bluegrass album Doc recorded with Merle is outstanding. If you ever get the chance, you've got to attend Merlefest to see some great acoustic music being played by the finest of the fine.
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will never forget live concert doc and merle just the greatest the student audience lovedthem
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Amazing. I've heard of Doc Watson, of course, but I never listened to him before. He's fantastic. I'm buying everything he's ever done!
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i like his three finger playing when it country blues
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The ring of the banjo is magic!String , percussion, bag-pipe-lik e twang that is uniquely American infecteous toe-tapping sound. I bloodied my fingers on a Pete Seeger instruction book and record in 1958, before I heard a Earl Scruggs recording in the college dorm in 1960 at Penn State. He is the master.
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My first concert was Doc and Merle for my 6th birthday. My dad and grandpa took me. They passed their love of bluegrass to me and my daughter loves it now. She can't wait til MerleFest next year. Doc is truly an American Legend!!!!
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I really enjoy Doc. There are very few that are in his class. His distinctive voice is incredible.
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I saw Doc the first time in Denver (about 1969/70) at the Denver Folklore Society 'concert hall'. I wasn't more than 15 feet from him and I don't think I closed my mouth (from awe) the entire concert. My cheeks hurt from smiling so hard, and from laughing at his cornycorny jokes. Love this man's music and spirit.
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