“Dock Boggs” was born on February 7, 1898 in West Norton, Virginia. His given name was Moran Lee, after an admired town doctor, but his father started calling him Dock as a child. Dock went to school up to seventh grade but at age 12 he began working in the coal mines of Southwest Virginia and Eastern Kentucky. Dock heard the songs that he played from other musicians and his family. He was heavily influenced by African American music being a turn of the century artist and he’s considered part of the bridge connecting traditional African music with old time music. Dock was also an excellent dancer and many of his routines were imitations of people living their everyday lives. Though Dock wasn’t a drunk he led a hard life and was a heavy drinker. His life influenced his songs as he often sang about sadness and death.
“Lonesome songs always appealed to me.”
In 1927 Dock recorded several songs, including Country Blues and Sugar Baby.
After these recordings Dock decided to stop working in the mines, bought a Gibson Mastertone banjo, and put together a stringband to play locally however, after about a year economic hardships and other factors caused the band to fizzle out. His first music career was short lived as the Great Depression hit soon after these 1927 recordings and the development of his string band. He was married in 1918 to Sara from the mountains of Kentucky, and their relationship was very rocky during the 1930’s. Sara was very devoted to her husband even though he may have been whatt is considered a “rambling man.”
Dock had to pawn his banjo to a friend and begin work in the coal mines again when the depression hit hard on Sara and him. He worked hard in the coalmines until 1960 when he began to take an interest in music again. Dock went back to the friend that he pawned his banjo to 25 years ago and picked up where he left off. He played for family and friends, but also at concerts and festivals. His second musical career was much more successful and he continued to play his music until he died on February 7, 1971, his 73rd birthday. He would be 117 this coming Saturday.