Wednesday, May 30, 2012

More (but never enough) Doc Watson

Writing for the Watauga Democrat, I was able to interview Doc and be a member Doc's press briefings on any number of occasions. I found this old interview and, with a little editorial red pencil (long-outdated information specific only to the Music Fest) would like to post it today.

Doc Watson said, “A good audience is like a warm handshake.” At 78 years-old Doc has shaken a few hands and faced a few audiences. On Wednesday afternoon he sat in a straight-backed wooden chair and faced 30 members of the print, TV and radio media at a press conference at the Historic Cove Creek High School in Sugar Grove and answered questions for over an hour in preparation for the fourth annual Doc Watson MusicFest...The two day music festival supports the Doc and Merle Watson Folk Art Museum and the restoration of the old school that is its home...The museum exhibits instruments played by the Watson family, Doc’s Grammys, Merle’s quilt, and a history of Doc’s career from pickin’ on the street corner in Boone to playing at Carnegie Hall.
The museum committee has prepared new displays with a focus on the Third Generation, Merle’s children, Richard and Karen and their families... It is not possible to have Doc Watson and his guitar in front of a group of people and not have a song. By request Doc sang “Tom Dooley” and then, one of his contemporary favorites, “For the Good Times”. He talked about the sadness of one of the song’s lines, “Just pretend you love me one more time.” “She or he never loved the other person,” he said. “It was a pretense all the time.
“The first person writer in the song realized that. Maybe Kris (Kristofferson) had the experience. That song says a whole lot more than the lyrics.”
With a gentle laugh he declined a request to sing “Tennessee Stud”. “Do you know how many thousand times I’ve sung that song?” he asked. Doc said that one of the proudest moments of his life was the naming and dedication of the Doc and Merle Watson Highway, a section of U.S. 421 running through Deep Gap near his home. “I’m real proud of that,” he said, “more than any award I ever got even the Medal of Arts at the White House. “People will forget about that medal of art. I won’t as long as I live, but people will see that sign out there. It’ll be there when my grandchildren and great grandchildren are still here.”
...Doc said that, in addition to his own sets, he will sit in with the appearing performers as the spirit and the music moves him....
Doc does not call his music ‘Bluegrass’. Despite the word ‘Bluegrass’ etched in raised letters on his leather guitar strap, he will not give a specific title to his brand of music. Pressed for a title, he said, “Call it ‘traditional plus’ — plus whatever I want to play.”
After the songs, Doc tapped the back of his Martin guitar, rubbed the side of the armless chair and, obviously comfortable, called out to Tommy Walsh, MusicFest organizer, “Tommy, this is a good pickin’ chair. I may have to take this back to my pickin’ room.”

During one interview I asked Doc how he got his nickname. He said that everyone thought that it had something to do with Doctor Watson, the sidekick of Sherlock Holmes. He said that he was performing one time early in his carrer and the announcer, having trouble with “Arthel” (Doc's first name) asked the audience what to call him. A little girl in the front rows yelled, “Call him 'Doc'” and the name stuck.

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