As many of you know, Doc Watson is one of my favorite musicians. I think part of music appreciation includes knowing some background about the artist or group you listen to. Where did they get their inspiration from? Was it from their childhood experiences, a mid life crisis, an old truck they had, or a psychadellic trip they took?
When I first heard of Doc Watson, I was actually driving through his home state of North Carolina, on Doc Watson highway. For me, the mountains of North Carolina make me think of a certain type of music- bluegrass. North Carolina is home to many bluegrass groups- Red Clay Ramblers, Kickin Grass, Paul's Creek, and others.
Now, a bit about Doc- The sixth of nine children, Arthel Lane "Doc" Watson was born in Stoney Fork,Watauga County, North Carolina on 3 March, 1923, to Annie Greene and General Dixon Watson. When he was born, he had a defect in the vessels that carry blood to the eyes. He later developed an eye infection which caused him to completely loose his vision before his first birthday. He was raised, and still resides, in Deep Gap, North Carolina.
Early Days of Playing-
Doc has said that his earliest memories of music reach back to his days as a young child being held in his mother’s arms at the Mt. Paron Church and listening to the harmony and shape-note singing. The first songs he remembers hearing are "The Lone Pilgrim" and "There is a Fountain." Singing led to an interest in making music and Doc says that he began "playing with anything around the house that made a musical sound." At about the age of six, Doc began to learn to play the harmonica and from that time was given a new one every
year in his Christmas stocking. Doc’s first stringed instrument, not to include a steel wire he had strung across the woodshed’s sliding door to provide bass accompaniment to his harmonica playing, was a banjo his father built for him when he was eleven years old. His father taught him the rudiments of playing a fretless banjo, the rest Doc learned by trial and error.
Soon after, Doc borrowed a friend's guitar and was hooked from the first chords he learned. It was only days later that Doc was holding his very own Stella uitar his father bought him from Sears.
Doc is 88 years old and still on tour each year. I had the opportunity to see Doc last year in Arlington, VA.
Below is one of Doc's finest- Deep River Blues