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”