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American guitarist and folk musician Doc Watson, 89, passed away on May 29, 2012, at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.
According to USA Today, Agent Mitch Greenhill, of Folklore Productions, said Watson was responding and recovering last week from undergoing colon surgery he had on Thursday. It was said Watson remained in critical condition on Friday. Nancy, Watson’s daughter, told the Associated Press, Watson fell on Monday.
The legendary guitarist and Grammy winning musician’s death was confirmed Tuesday night.
The folk musician was born Arthel Watson near Deep Gap, North Carolina on March 3, 1923. He lost his vision before he was 1 year old but began playing instruments from a young age, starting with a harmonica and a banjo given to him by his father. When he picked up a guitar he began teaching himself and started playing for tips.
Watson married Rosa Lee Carlton in 1947, they had two children, Merle and Nancy. In 1953, he started playing with country dance band, Jack Williams and the Country Gentlemen. A few years later he sat with Tom Ashley for a recording session, a year later he performed with Ashley and other musicians at a concert in Greenwich Village which was the start of his career.
When Watson’s music career took off in 1963 when he released his solo debut, Doc Watson and Family. In 1964, he began touring with his 15-year-old son Merle Watson.
The father son duo played together for the next 20 years until Merle’s death after a farming accident in 1985. Over the years, Watson won eight Grammys, seven of them for different albums and the eighth Grammy was a Lifetime Achievement Award in 2004. While he earned many musical awards and honors through out his career, none of his 60+ albums ever went gold according to the Chicago Tribune.
“Doc was a legendary performer who blended his traditional Appalachian musical roots with bluegrass, country, gospel and blues to create a unique style and an expansive repertoire,” his management company, Folklore Productions, said. “He was a powerful singer and a tremendously influential picker who virtually invented the art of playing mountain fiddle tunes on the flattop guitar.”
Watson made music that influenced many artists and guitarists. Known for his fingerpicking and flat-pick guitar styles, he pioneered a new bluegrass style playing fiddle style tunes on guitar at a quick pace. He changed folk music forever.
“Overall, Doc will be remembered as one of America’s greatest folk musicians. I would say he’s one of America’s greatest musicians,” said David Holt, a longtime friend and collaborator.
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