A few weeks back, we noted the passing of bluegrass legend Earl Scruggs, so it seems only fitting to so the same for Doc Watson. Watson died yesterday at 89 in a North Carolina hospital from complications from a recent fall in his Blue Ridge Mountain home.
The blind guitar picker was a legend of traditional American music whose fast-paced flat-picking has influenced generations of players since he emerged on the world stage from his North Carolina hill-country home in the 1960’s with standards like this:
Watson collected Grammy awards along the way to opening up a genre of music as beautifully raw as the wilderness from which this nation was carved to a world-wide audience and received the National Medal of the Arts from President Bill Clinton in 1997.
I was rummaging through a flea market a couple of months ago and ran across an old LP of his. The kid working the market—I guess he was about 20— at first refused to sell it to me because he wanted to take it home and hang it on his wall.
I told him that would be a shame, because and album like that deserved to be listened to and I was finally able to talk him into letting me buy it for five bucks. Watson sings in the background as I type this, with all the pops and skips that you might expect from a well played vinyl pressed over 40 years ago. It doesn’t detract a bit from his rich baritone and flat-picking. In fact, it adds something.
Watson’s country blues moonshine brims with an authenticity sadly missing in the over produced, watered-down whiskey that passes for country music these days.
Here he is with Mr. Earl. It doesn’t take long to lose a couple of bona fide giants of American music, I suppose: