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Photo by Peter Figen
Winston-Salem, NC (May 30, 2012) – Arthel Lane “Doc” Watson died on Tuesday, May 29 at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center in Winston-Salem, NC. He was 89.
Born in 1923, Watson brought the guitar into the modern age of folk and mountain music with his incredible facility and ability to switch between fingerstyle and flatpick-style with ease. He came to prominence during the folk revival in the ‘60s and began to tour throughout the United States as a solo performer. In the early seventies, Watson began to play in duo with his son Merle–namesake of the annual MerleFest that Watson hosted–until Merle’s untimely death in 1985.
By combining traditional bluegrass with elements of gospel, blues and folk music Watson influenced countless guitarists of all genres and recorded over fifty albums. Although not a prolific songwriter, a few of Watson’s songs have been recorded by other artists. Alison Krauss and Robert Plant recorded “Your Long Journey,” which was co-written by Watson’s wife, Rosa Lee, on their Grammy-winning album, Raising Sand.
During the last few decades Watson’s recording output slowed down but he continued to play gigs until the end of his life. Recently, he has been inducted into the International Bluegrass Hall of Fame, received a National Medal of Arts from President Bill Clinton, and an honorary doctor of music degree from the Berklee School of Music.