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Hometown Legend: Doc Watson Dead at 89

Hometown Legend: Doc Watson Dead at 89

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Boone, North Carolina is a college town of about 14,000 nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains, and except for an unfortunate sidetrack to Los Angeles for, oh, about nine years, this has been my home since 1993 — and Doc Watson is our legend. There’s a statue of him in our lovely little tourist trap of a downtown and all kinds of places are named after him, something I think we’re going to see more of now that he’s gone.

Bluegrass, folk, country, and blues are not my kinds of music, so I never had the privilege of seeing Watson play live, but here in what we call the High Country, we sure are proud to have a nationally celebrated, multi-Grammy winning legend to call our very own.

There are all kinds of obituaries out there, but I thought it appropriate to excerpt and link Anna Oakes’ write up in the Watauga Democrat, our local Monday-Wednesday-Friday newspaper:

Arthel Lane “Doc” Watson, an eight-time Grammy Award winner, National Medal of Arts honoree and recipient of the National Heritage Fellowship, died Tuesday, May 29, at Baptist Medical Center in Winston-Salem at the age of 89.

Watson was born in Deep Gap on March 3, 1923, and was a lifetime resident of the small Watauga County community. …

Watson’s flat-picking and finger-picking styles have influenced many a guitarist, and his soulful vocal renderings of blues, country, gospel and folk tunes have introduced countless people across the world to the music of Appalachia.

His late son, Merle Watson, was a skilled guitar and banjo picker in his own right, and father and son toured the nation together. After Merle died in a tragic tractor accident in 1985, the Merle Watson Memorial Festival (now MerleFest) was first held in his honor in 1988. Today, the festival held in Wilkesboro is one of the premier traditional, bluegrass and Americana music festivals in the world. …

Although Watson was not a prolific songwriter, he and Rosa Lee co-wrote “Your Long Journey,” which was featured on the Grammy-winning album “Raising Sand” by Robert Plant and Alison Krauss.

The first stanzas of the song begin:

Now we must part
And as the angels come and call for you
The pains of grief tug at my heart

Oh my darling
Oh my darling
My heart breaks as you take your long journey.”

You can read the full obit here.  


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