“I regard Doc Watson as the patron saint of mountain music. Every note played on his guitar was heaven sent. He was my friend and I’ll miss him. His music will stand the test of time, and I’m certain that he will be remembered as one of the most influential musicians of our time."
—Marty Stuart, Grammy Award-Winning Musician
Arthel Lane “Doc” Watson was born in Deep Gap, North Carolina in 1923. After losing his eyesight as an infant, he would develop an uncanny ability to navigate his surroundings and environment through heightened hearing powers, and his auditory strengths would later contribute to his musical abilities and excellence.
Doc’s performance career began as a street musician and later with country dance bands, playing banjo, guitar and harmonica. He developed a dynamic and melodic approach to finger-picking and flat-picking styles with his interpretations of American colloquial music. He was equally adept in performing a multitude of musical genres from ragtime, bluegrass, gospel, rock and roll, popular song and country music.
In his 60 years as a performer, Doc collaborated with a variety of other musicians including Randy and Earl Scruggs and The Clarence Ashley Group. He was encouraged to play folk music by Ralph Rinzler and also developed a close friendship with Pete Seeger. Throughout the course of his life Doc received many honors for his musical mastership, including an honorary doctorate from the Berklee College of Music, induction into the North Carolina Music Hall of Fame and the International Bluegrass Music Hall of Honor. He received the National Medal of the Arts and was declared a National Treasure by President Jimmy Carter. Doc garnered eight Grammy awards and indelibly influenced generations of flat-picking and finger-picking guitarists.
Doc Watson was known to play on a Martin D-18 as well as a Gibson Les Paul, among other guitars. But it was this Gallagher G-50 that would become his most iconic instrument. Gifted to him by the maker J.W. Gallagher, Watson christened the guitar “Ol’ Hoss” and used it on the seminal recording sessions for the 1972 “Will the Circle Be Unbroken.” In 1975 the guitar was placed with the Country Music Hall of Fame where it resided on exhibition until recently.
Listen to a selection of music by Doc and Merle Watson off the album Ballads from Deep Gap below
Roll in My Sweet Baby's Arms
Texas Gales [Instrumental]