Doc Watson z”l

Doc Watson, one of the greatest guitar players ever, has died, at the fine age of 89.

Doc Watson is one of the very few, perhaps the only, musician loved by both my grandmothers – my New York Jewish Browderite Communist one, who played the Appalachian dulcimer and followed the first American folk revival (which was partly inspired by the Popular Front policy), and my British, Radio 2 listening, working class Tory one. The latter was the owner of Good Deal!: Doc Watson in Nashville, which I would always play when visiting her.

Probably best known for his versions of “In the Jailhouse Now” and “Tennessee Stud“, Doc Watson had a varied reportiore, from deep rootsy bluegrass to the blander Nashvillia of Good Deal. For a nice appreciation, check Gene Shay. For a glimpse of the importance of his music, check out some of the posts at Cover Lay Down which document his versions of others’ songs and others’ versions of his.

Doc’s death follows closely on that of his near contemporary Earl Scruggs, who also spanned the (false) gap between folk “authenticity” and “commercial” country music. This collection showcasing Scruggs’ banjo virtuosity includes a collaboration with Doc Watson. Check out no.6, with Alison Kraus singing a lovely Carter Family song with the old boys.

Here’s Doc, with his son Merle who tragically died young in the 1980s, playing “Let The Cocaine Be” and “Summertime”


About bobfrombrockley

South London family man. Eating bacon bagels on the 171 bus, listening to Johnny Cash while reading Hannah Arendt, the kid next to me playing dubstep on his telephone. Mostly politics at http://brockley.blogspot.com and mostly music at https://bobsbeat.wordpress.com

4 comments on “Doc Watson z”l

  1. Check out no.6, with Alison Kraus singing a lovely June Carter Cash song with the old boys.

    Almost: it’s an A.P. Carter song, although almost certainly goes back way further than The Carter Family. Some of the lyrics appear in a lot of old folk songs, especially “who will shoe your pretty little feet” and “do you see the turtle doves”. Both appear in a song called “Hard for to Love” by an outfit called Appalachian Vagabond, which is about as earthy as it can get. Wonderful stuff.

  2. Thanks Tim. I ought to have known that! The first bit I mean. I don’t know Appalachian Vagabond, but will check them out.

  3. Amended the Carter reference, and also corrected my misnaming of the type of dulcimer my grandma played.

  4. […] Rising Storm goes from Doc Watson (who I celebrated here) to Pete Seeger to someone I’ve never heard of but is wonderful, Ellen McIlwaine. Share […]

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