Grammy-winning US folk legend Doc Watson has passed away at the age of 89.
The folk music world lost one of its oldest and brightest stars. Doc Watson passed away on Tuesday at a hospital in Winston-Salem, NC where he had been a patient for over a week. He was 89.
Watson was admitted to the Watauga Medical Center near his home in Deep Gap, NC last Monday after taking a fall and was moved to Baptist Medical Center in Winston-Salem on Thursday. He subsequently had colon surgery for an undisclosed reason.
Watson was born in Deep Gap in 1923 and lost his sight before the age of one due to an infection. While he was young, he bought himself a guitar and proved to be a natural musician, playing popular folk and country tunes on street corners in his hometown.
He eventually moved from acoustic to electric guitar and began his professional career in 1953 playing with Jack Williams’ country swing band in Johnson City, TN. Doc was known for being able to pick out the fiddle parts on his guitar, a technique that he later used to become one of the fastest flat pickers in the music business.
In 1960, Watson went solo with his first recordings on the 1961 album Old Time Music at Clarence Ashley’s, Volume 1. In 1964, he made released his self titled debut album, the first of almost thirty that he would release during his career.
That same year, Doc began performing regularly with his son Merle Watson, a collaboration that would continue until Merle’s untimely death in 1985 in a tractor accident. His tribute to his son has been MerleFest, a regular folk festival held in Wilkesboro, North Carolina.
During the 70’s, the Watson’s continued to tour even though folk music had become a bit passe; however, he kept his name before the public with his recording of Tennessee Stud on the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band’s landmark album Will the Circle Be Unbroken.
Watson’s last original release was 2002’s Legacy, a three-CD set that included interviews with Doc along with music. It won the Grammy Award for Best Traditional Folk Album.
Over the years, Watson received the North Carolina Award (1986), the North Carolina Folk Heritage Award (1994) and the National Medal of Honor (1997). He was inducted into the International Bluegrass Hall of Fame in 2000 and received the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 2004. Overall, Doc received seven Grammy Awards.
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