The world of country/folk has lost another icon. Legendary guitarist Doc Watson died on Tuesday in a Winston-Salem, North Carolina hospital, after complications from colon surgery. He was 89 years young.
What Earl Scruggs (whom we lost just last month) was to the banjo, Doc Watson was to the guitar. His unique, super-fast style of flatpicking literally changed the way people thought of this instrument. Before Doc Watson, the guitar was simply looked at as an accompanying instrument in bluegrass and folk, backing up lead instruments like the banjo and fiddle. Watson was the guy who basically established guitar as a lead instrument, his lightning-fast playing style literally imitating the runs of the fiddle, banjo and mandolin.
Blind from the age of one, Doc Watson went on to have a music career spanning nearly six decades. He won a total of eight Grammy awards, including a Lifetime Achievement award in 2004. Not limited to country or bluegrass, Watson was a major player in the American folk revival of the 1960s, also venturing into blues and gospel. His largest musical successes came both as a solo artist and in playing with his son Merle, who died in an accident in 1985. Doc Watson’s musical style had a way of intimidating the best musicians in the world, but his humble, unassuming attitude also had a way of disarming them.
A lifetime North Carolinian, Watson is forever identified with the musical heritage of his home state. Last year, a life-size sculpture of Watson was revealed at the corner of Depot and King Streets in Boone, NC—the street corner where he used to play for tips.
RIP, Doc Watson. You will most certainly be missed.
Photo credit: boonejag75/Wikipedia