At a Glance: Doc Watson

Born on March 3, 1923 from Deep Gap, North Carolina was Arthel Lane Watson, arguably one of the most influential old-time bluegrass artist. Mr. Watson was left blind after an eye infection  during infancy, but that did not hold him back in the slightest. Doc gives much of his credit for not allowing his handicap to get in the way, to his father, who would have Doc help in him in the shop, sawing wood and doing everything that a normal young man could do to pull his own weight.

doc watson

At the age of 12, Mr. Watson began to play the guitar, slowly developing the flat-picking style that would change the sound of bluegrass forever. Much of this credit Mr. Watson gives to Jimmie Rodgers, who heavily influenced the sound Watson was looking for since a very young age.

As Mr. Watson started out, he would play for tips and eventually started playing gigs, until he finally was played on the radio. He was given the name “Doc.” after coming on the air with an announcer that thought he needed a more catchy name. And it stuck with him all the way to his death at the age of 89.

Doc gained national recognition in the 1960s during the music revival. People, including myself, were very taken by his true old time sound, which carries with it all of the feelings of tradition and memory from days long past. Just listening to any one of Doc’s many blues driven songs will take you to the work fields or into a church revival. His quick picking still inspires the youth of aspiring artists today, making him a time transcending force, who will go on always keeping a blue spark burning for the beautiful mountain music he played so simply. So sweetly.