Tuesday, October 23, 2007

The Good Doctor

The thing that most amazes me about Doc Watson is not the rush of notes that fill up the half-beats between chord changes, or the rich baritone as clear as the skies over his home in Deep Gap, North Carolina. It's not even his unflinching commitment to playing some of the oldest music in this country alonside the youngest and brightest each new generation has to offer. The thing that astounds me is his ability to play for thousands of people and be as relaxed as if he were playing on his front porch.

Merle Watson was only seventeen when this exquisite photograph was taken on April 29, 1967, again by Bill Stevens. After Merle's death in a tractor accident on the family farm in 1984, Doc cancelled the first week of an upcoming tour, but by the second week he was ready to go back to work, saying: "Merle would have not wanted me to just lay down and quit on this".

Arthel "Doc" Watson still performs with his old friend Jack Lawrence, and occasionally with Merle's son, Richard, especially at "MerleFest", held every April at Wilkes Community College in Wilkesboro, N.C. Here's Doc from their website:

“When Merle and I started out we called our music ‘traditional-plus,’ meaning the traditional music of the Appalachian region plus whatever other styles we were in the mood to play. Since the beginning, the people of the college and I have agreed that the music of MerleFest is ‘traditional-plus’ ... "

Sounds good to me.


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