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 Doc Watson

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Doc Watson

  • Original Name Arthel Lane
  • Birth 3 Mar 1923 Deep Gap, Watauga County, North Carolina, USA
  • Death 29 May 2012 Winston-Salem, Forsyth County, North Carolina, USA
  • Burial Deep Gap, Watauga County, North Carolina, USA
  • Memorial ID 90962799

Country and Western, Bluegrass, Gospel, and Folk Musician. An eye infection caused him to lose his vision before his first birthday. Despite his blindness, his parents taught him to work hard and be self-sufficient. He attended North Carolina's school for the visually impaired, The Governor Moorehead School, in Raleigh NC. Growing up, he learned to play the guitar and performed on the local street corners with his older brother. By the time he became an adult, he had become a proficient acoustic and electric guitar player, as well as the banjo. According to him, he received his nickname "Doc" during a live radio broadcast when the announcer remarked that his given name, Arthel, was odd and that he needed an easy nickname to go by. Someone in the audience shouted "Call him Doc!" presumably in reference to fictional detective Sherlock Holmes' assistant, Doctor Watson, and the name stuck with him. In 1953, he joined the Johnson City TN-based Jack Williams' country and western swing band on electric guitar. Because the band rarely had a fiddle player and was often requested to play for square dancers, he taught himself to play fiddle tunes on his electric guitar. He later transferred the technique to the acoustic guitar, and playing fiddle tunes became part of his unique signature sound. In 1960, as America revived its interest in folk music, he began playing the acoustic guitar and banjo exclusively. His musical career ignited when he played on his first recording "Old Time Music at Clarence Ashley's." He began to tour as a solo performer and appeared at universities and clubs like The Ash Grove in Los Angeles CA. In 1963, he received his big break along with rave reviews for his performance at the renowned Newport Folk Festival. He recorded his first solo album in 1964 and started performing with his son Merle the same year. They toured and recorded together until 1985 when Merle was tragically killed in a farming accident. After the folk revival waned in the late 1960s, his career was sustained by his performance of "Tennessee Stud" on the 1992 live album recording "Will the Circle Be Unbroken." He toured the world during the late 1970s and early 1980s, and recorded over fifty albums between 1963 and 2006. In 1986 he received the North Carolina Award and in 1994 he received a North Carolina Folk Heritage Award. Also in 1994, he teamed up with Randy and Earl Scruggs to contribute "Keep on the Sunny Side" to the AIDS benefit album "Red Hot + Country." In 2000, he was inducted into the International Bluegrass Music Hall of Honor. In 1997, he received the National Medal of Arts from President Bill Clinton. He also won seven Grammy awards during his career for ethnic, folk, and country recordings. He was also known for Merlefest, which was an annual gathering of musicians in Wilkesboro NC, named in memory of his son. A sculpture of him playing his guitar on a park bench sits at the corner of King and Depot Streets in Boone NC. The plaque on the bench reads: "Just One of the People."

Bio by: William Bjornstad


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  • Maintained by: Find A Grave
  • Originally Created by: William Bjornstad
  • Added: 29 May 2012
  • Find A Grave Memorial 90962799
  • Find A Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com : accessed ), memorial page for Doc Watson (3 Mar 1923–29 May 2012), Find A Grave Memorial no. 90962799, citing Merle and Doc Watson Memorial Cemetery, Deep Gap, Watauga County, North Carolina, USA ; Maintained by Find A Grave .