Arthel Lane "Doc" Watson (born March 3, 1923) is an American guitar player, songwriter and singer of bluegrass, folk, country, blues and gospel music. He has won seven Grammy awards as well as a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award. Watson's flatpicking skills and knowledge of traditional American music are highly regarded. He performed with his son Merle for over 15 years until Merle's death in 1985, in an accident on the family farm.
Watson was born in Deep Gap, North Carolina. According to Doc on his three CD biographical recording Legacy, he got the nickname "Doc" during a live radio broadcast when the announcer remarked that his given name Arthel was odd and he needed an easy nickname to go by. A fan in the crowd shouted "Call him Doc!" presumably in reference to the Sherlock Holmes sidekick Doctor Watson. The name stuck ever since.
An eye infection caused Doc Watson to lose his vision before his first birthday. Despite this, he was taught by his parents to work hard and care for himself. He attended North Carolina's school for the visually impaired, The Governor Morehead School, in Raleigh, North Carolina.
In a 1988 interview with Terry Gross on Fresh Air, Doc explains how he got his first guitar. His father told him that if he chopped down all the small, dead, chestnut trees along the edge of their field he could sell the wood to the tannery. He and his brother did the work and with the money they earned Doc bought a $12 Stella from Sears Roebuck and his brother bought a new suit of clothes. Later in that same interview, Watson explained that his first high quality guitar was a Martin D-18.
The first song Doc ever learned to play was "When Roses Bloom in Dixieland". Doc proved to be a natural and within months he was performing on local street corners playing Delmore, Louvin and Monroe Brothers' duets alongside his brother Linny. By the time he reached his adult years Doc had become a proficient acoustic and electric guitar player.
In 1947, Doc married Rosa Lee Carlton, the daughter of popular fiddle player Gaither Carlton. Doc and Rosa Lee had two children—Eddy Merle (named after country music legends Eddy Arnold and Merle Travis) in 1949 and Nancy Ellen in 1951.
Full article ▸