Goodnight, Doc

When Earl Scruggs died, I had a feeling that his longtime friend Artel “Doc” Watson would soon follow. I hate to be right sometimes.

Doc Watson died on May 29th. It’s hard to explain my relationship to the man’s music. Growing up, my father would go down in the basement and play from his collection of folk and bluegrass records. He had huge speakers, the old kind that could serve as end tables or coffee tables, and the music wafted up through the floorboards. As a result I grew up not so much listening to bluegrass but surrounded by it.

Doc Watson is a mutual favorite. The old blind man from Deep Gap North Carolina had a deceptively simple style that could appeal to both generations. He was best know for his flat picking, which he demonstrates to good effect in this version of Black Mountain Rag:

This is one of my favorites, Doc’s “courting song,” Shady Grove:

Doc had a knack for surrounding himself with talented friend. Earl Scruggs is a good example. Here’s Doc with his friends Ricky Skaggs, Jerry Douglas, David “Dawg” Grisman and Tony Rice:

Hallquist on Eich
So Long, Pete, It’s Been Good to Know Ya
So Long, And Thanks For All The Memories (From Dan)
Romance at Mars Hill
  • Theory_of_I

    Thanks, Vorjack, for the tribute to a great musician. Not everyone appreciates bluegrass, but for those of us who do, there was no better example than the Doc.
    I think Doc’s son Merle was frailing the banjo on Shady Grove, an outstanding picker in his own right.
    Thanks, Doc, for the hours of enjoyment. RIP

  • mikespeir

    I’m not into that kind of music, but I can appreciate the artistry. That first video was a lot more impressive than others I’ve seen of him and leaves me convinced he was a considerably better guitarist than the average country picker.

  • trj

    Not my kind of music, overall. But I do recommend something a bit similar, but darker: Woven Hand / 16 Horsepower (both bands by David Eugene Edwards). It’s in the style of bluegrass and traditional American folksongs, with lyrics that are often delightfully melancholic and god-fearing. Example

  • Stony

    I feel we’ve lost a national treasure. Doc played a concert in my county every year– daytime for the school kids for free and evening for the public. Without fail my folks would go, so each year I heard “double” concerts. My friends and I had a standing date for Merle-Fest each year until I moved to Florida. Gonna miss you, Doc.