Arthel Lane "Doc" Watson has passed away at the age of 89. He was a shining light of Americana, bringing the country ballads, bluegrass and old hymns of his native Appalachia to new generations of listeners.
As a guitarist, Watson helped re-define the instrument's role, taking it into the soloing spotlight. He re-interpreted old fiddle and banjo tunes, playing melodies with astonishing speed. He began as a fingerpicker but is best known for his flatpicking, a technique he claimed to have learned by listening to Jimmie Rodgers records. Watson was also an accomplished harmonica player and a strong singer with a rich baritone.
This tribute playlist spans nearly 20 years of Watson's career, with a focus on performances at Los Angeles' Ash Grove club, the epicenter of the city's folk revival. We begin with recordings made with Clarence "Tom" Ashley, an appropriate starting point: folklorist Ralph Rinzler first "discovered" Watson while he was playing in Ashley's band.
One of the most interesting recordings here is from the 1968 Newport Folk Festival, when Doc led a backstage jam session before the scheduled performances began. The spontaneity of the jam really let him cut loose.
There's also a good representation of material from Doc and Merle Watson concerts, including a few Ash Grove shows from 1967 and two sets from New York's Bottom Line in 1977. The latter are a particularly excellent example of Watson's "traditional plus" music, presenting American roots music alongside popular songs, jazz standards, and whatever else tickled his fancy.
Throughout this mix we've included hymns and spirituals, which seemed fitting for the occasion. We've also included plenty of Doc's between-song banter in order to showcase his infectiously joyous stage presence.
There is a statue of Doc Watson in Boone, NC which, at his own request, is inscribed with the phrase, "Just One Of The People." You can hear in this playlist that Watson certainly stands for all that is 'f