Doc Watson, the legendary Bluegrass musician who inspired generations with his virtuoso flatpicking skills, has passed away at the age of 89. According the the Winston-Salem Journal, Arthel Lane “Doc” Watson was recovering from colon surgery when the family was alerted to his condition on Sunday. In a statement released by representatives at Folklore Productions, Watson was pronounced dead at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center on Tuesday.
Watson, who was blinded by an eye infection that occurred before his first birthday, received his first guitar after helping his brother cut down a tree for their father. While his sibling used the reward for the deed to purchase a new suit, Watson decided to splurge on a Stella guitar from Sears Roebuck. The first song he learned to play was “When Roses Bloom in Dixieland”. By the time he was an adult, his skills were already sharp.
Born in Deep Gap, North Carolina, his love of music was fostered by his parents; his mother used to sing around the house while his father was a banjo player and vocalist for his church. Watson developed his two-finger style all on his own, and his speed and precision were second to none. His nickname came about after a live radio broadcast, when a DJ claimed that his first name was “odd” and that he needed a new one. Someone in the audience shouted, “Call him Doc!”, which is thought to be a reference to Doctor Watson of Sherlock Holmes fame. The name stuck with him from that point forward.
Watson credited his father with introducing him to music at an early age. “One day he brought (a banjo) to me and put it in my hand and said, ‘Son, I want you to learn how to play this thing real well,” Watson explained to NPR’s Terry Gross in 1988. “It might help you get through the world.”
Watson became active in the music scene during the 60’s, and has gone on to influence a great number of folk musicians and guitarists alike. Over the course of his career, Watson won seven Grammys, including a Lifetime Achievement Award in 2004. To solidify his place in the world of music, Doc was inducted into the International Bluegrass Music Hall of Honor in 2000. Additionally, President Clinton presented the talented musician with the National Medal of the Arts in 1997. To say that the man was beloved is an understatement.
The passing of one of music’s innovators has touched a lot of people today. You can find a gathering of Twitter reactions to this news by having a look at the posts embedded below. As you can see, his passing has touched a great number of individuals from all walks of life.
One of the great guitar innovators, Doc Watson died today. RIP.
Ouch. The great bluegrass legend Doc Watson is gone. Check out the song Tennessee Stud to get his essence.
so long doc watson, hate to see you go.