May 29, 2012

Someone Wonderful: Doc Watson (1923 - 2012)

adocwatson.jpg

So long, Doc. We'll see you a little further down the road.

Cheeks as red as a blooming rose,
And eyes of the prettiest brown;
She's the darling of my heart,
The prettiest little girl in town.
I wish I had a glass of wine
And bread and meat for two;
I'd set it all on a golden plate
And give it all to you.
Shady Grove, my little love,
Shady grove I say.
Shady Grove, my little love,
I'm a-bound to go away.

Posted by gerardvanderleun at May 29, 2012 7:27 PM
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It is a sad day for me, but Doc can see again, and he is with Merle.

Posted by: mushroom at May 29, 2012 8:22 PM

Gerard,

Thanks for putting this up; I seem to have been writing about Doc and his influence on my life for a few weeks now. If I were into woowoo I'd think I saw this coming, but that's bullshit, of course.

I first heard Doc almost 50 years ago, and saw and met him a couple of years after that. In those days he was traveling and performing alone; the place I saw him was about the size of a small coffehouse in Austin. If you've never heard him solo, I urge you to go find the first few albums on Vanguard, it'll blow your head. Even considering Bobby McFerrin, Doc was the most astonishingly complete solo performer I ever encountered, hands down.

There was never any sense that he was referring to time, or playing to time. He embodied time, and even well into his 80s there was no mistaking who you were listening to from the first lick. The news keeps referring to him as the master flat-picker, and that's true enough. Without him there wouldn't have been Clarence White, without Clarence there wouldn't have been Tony Rice. Without Tony Rice the modern bluegrass world just wouldn't have happened, since he showed generations of young guitarists that there were no limits. But like I say, find some of those recordings of Doc when he was around 40, and compare the Travis-style stuff he was playing to the finger picking of the folkies. It's so slick that at first you don't notice it, until you realize that it doesn't stand out because it's perfect. And it boogies like a bitch, I promise you.

For all the nights I went to sleep over the last 50 years with Doc's voice and guitar keeping the blues away, I still know for sure that what affected me the most was meeting him and seeing the dignity and courage of a guy from the mountains traveling around alone, on airplanes he couldn't see, singing for folks he couldn't see, bringing it the best he could from inside his mind and heart.

That was a man, and I could never say thanks enough for what he meant to my life, and means still. There's a country and a world full of guys who learned everything they could from him in the days when all you could do was watch and try, and slow down the records to 16. And I'll tell you what, we recognize each other as soon as some of that sound shows up.

Thanks, Doc. A thousand thousand times, thanks.

If you have friends in Gloryland
Who left because of pain,
Thank God up there, they’ll die no more
They’ll suffer not again

Then weep not friends,
I‘m going home
Up there we’ll die no more
No coffins will be made up there
No graves on that bright shore

The lame will walk in Gloryland
The blind up there will see
The deaf in Gloryland will hear
The dumb will talk to me

The doctor will not have to call
The undertaker – no
There’ll be no pain up there to bear
Just walk the streets of gold

We’ll need no sun in Gloryland
The moon and stars won’t shine
For Christ himself is light up there
He reigns of love divine

Then weep not friends,
I’m going home
Up there we’ll die no more
No coffins will be made up there
No graves on that bright shore

Posted by: Rob De Witt at May 29, 2012 8:37 PM

Your wonderful selections are not to be missed. Ever. American music ~ sweet, lean, spiritual.

That hit the spot. Thank you, Gerard!

Posted by: nlmoss at May 29, 2012 8:45 PM

My intro to Doc came about 58 years ago when listening to the Grand Ole Opry. He was amazin'. The second clip Will the Circle be unbroken lets us see how many of these fine folks are gone: Acuff, Cash, Earl Scruggs, Helm, Atkins among others.

I'd guess Doc and Merle are jammin' with them now.

Posted by: Peccable at May 30, 2012 4:51 AM

Wonderful stuff. He was incredible but so were so many others at the time, and every time one passes, we are diminished as a culture.

Posted by: Christopher Taylor at May 30, 2012 8:52 AM

It's been sixteen years now, but it seems like yesterday that we lost Bill Monroe. Later, Jimmy Martin, Tut Taylor, recently the incomparable Earl Scruggs, and now the dearly beloved, astonishing Doc Watson. Only Ralph Stanley and Norman Blake remain of the giants of mountain music. And Doc was a force unto himself, so wide ranging and always impeccable, and impeccably kindly. Bless his soul, and praise the Lord that we had him with us to a ripe old age.

Posted by: Dan D at May 31, 2012 6:43 AM

A very moving piece. I have linked to your post here: http://bobagard.blogspot.com/2012/06/will-circle-be-unbroken.html

Posted by: Bob Agard at June 1, 2012 5:49 PM

What a beautiful song.

And I'd never heard of him or heard him before.

I'll be listening now.

Posted by: pdwalker at June 3, 2012 9:44 AM
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