Doc Watson was a legendary performer who blended his traditional Appalachian musical roots with bluegrass, country, gospel and blues to create a unique style and an expansive repertoire. His flatpicking style elevated the acoustic guitar to solo status in bluegrass and country music, and whose interpretations of traditional American music profoundly influenced generations of folk and rock guitarists.
Doc was born in Deep Gap, North Carolina on March 3, 1923, into a family already rich in musical tradition. His mother, Annie Watson, sang traditional secular and religious songs, and his father, General Watson, played the banjo, which was Doc's first instrument as well. In 1953 Doc met Jack Williams, a local piano player, and played rockabilly/swing music for seven years, a period and a style that he later revisited in the album Docabilly. But he also continued to play acoustic traditional music with his family and with his banjo playing neighbor, Clarence Tom Ashley. In 1960, spurred by the growing folk revival, folklorists Ralph Rinzler and Eugene Earle came south to record Ashley, and heard Doc Watson in the process. These sessions resulted in Doc's first recordings, Old-Time Music at Clarence Ashley's.
In 1961 the Friends of Old-Time Music invited Doc, Ashley, Clint Howard and Fred Price to perform at a now-legendary concert in New York City, and one year later Doc gave his first solo performance at Gerde's Folk City in Greenwich Village. From then on, he was a full-time professional, playing a wide range of concerts, clubs, colleges and festivals, including the Newport Folk Festival and Carnegie Hall.
In the late 1960s, Doc was joined on the road by his son Merle, who provided both musical and emotional companionship; with Merle playing guitar and banjo and serving as partner and driver, the father-son team expanded their audience nationwide. Sadly, Merle died in 1985 from a tractor accident.
A series of over 50 remarkable recordings, including collaborations with Flatt & Scruggs, Chet Atkins and the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, helped make Doc the gold standard among traditional pickers. Doc passed away in 2012. He was 89.