Doc Watson, the flat-picking guitar great from Deep Gap, N.C. who was one of the most revered and influential folk musicians of the the last half century, has died, according to his manager Mitchell Greenhill. He was 89.
Watson, who lost his sight as an infant, had an operation on his colon last week and also recently suffered a fall, his daughter Nancy said. at Wake Forest Baptist Hospital Medical Center in Winston-Salem, N.C. His Associated Press obituary is here.
The esteem with which Watson was held be his fellow musicians is perhaps bst expressed in Guy Clark's song "Dublin Blues," in which the Texas troubadour sang: "I have seen the David," Clark sings. "And the Mona Lisa, too / And I have heard Doc Watson play 'Columbus Stockade Blues.' "
Last year, the Philadelphia Folksong Society brought Watson to town for a rare appearance at the Keswick Theater in Glenside, and I interviewed him on the phone before he came to town.
Watson, who hosted the annual MerleFest in North Carolina named after his son who died in a tractor accident in 1985, talked about learning how to play from listening to black country blues players and white country acts like the Carter Family, about how he never took to the electric guitar and how in his opinion, the late Chet Atkins was "the guitar player of the century."
He also spoke about the days when he came to prominence during the folk revival of the 1960s and he was a frequent visitor to local clubs like the Main Point and the Second Fret, and talked about the ease ith which he could get around despite being being because "I can see with my feet and my hands and my ears." That entire interview is here.
Below, a clip of Watson playing Bob Dylan's "Don't Think Twice, It's Alright," with his late son Merle; and Watson, Atkins and Leo Kottke playing "Last Steam Engine Blues"; and Doc and Merle doing George Gershwin's "Summertime."