An iconic American musician is celebrated at a concert in Roanoke this weekend
(Music: Blackberry Blossom-Doc Watson)
As a young man Doc Watson would travel from his home in Deep Gap North Carolina to nearby Boone to busk on King Street. When he couldn’t find a ride he would hitchhike, sometimes with one of his brothers, but often solo. This despite being blind from an eye infection suffered in infancy.
“He never viewed blindness as a handicap, quite the contrary, he said it opened up new avenues of seeing and sensing the world that helped him as a musician.”
Ted Olson, professor of Appalachian Studies and Bluegrass, Old-Time, and Roots Music Studies at East Tennessee State University, author of Doc’s World: Traditional Plus. The book grew from liner notes Olson wrote for a box set of 101 Doc Watson recordings which he curated.
“I felt like just writing about the recordings themselves was only half of the story, so I wanted to provide a biography of Doc and writing about Doc meant going to the people who knew Doc best, who had traveled with Doc, performed with Doc, who had recorded with Doc.”
Several of those people are now part of a concert series featuring music from Watson’s catalogue which Olson is co-producing with Jack Hinshelwood, guitarist, and former executive director of The Crooked Road. Hinshelwood will be joined in performance by world renowned luthier Wayne Henderson from Ruby, VA and by Jack Lawrence and T. Michael Coleman, both of whom toured and recorded with Doc Watson. Hinshelwood says it will be more than a musical performance
“It’s going to be a great opportunity for all of us to learn a little bit more about life on the road with Doc. How did he navigate through touring and that sort of thing. I’m sure all of that’s very interesting, I’d love to know.”
And there will be stories, such as an anecdote shared by Olson.
“Mitch Greenhill, I believe it was had called Doc to say that Doc had won a Grammy award. But he told Mitch Greenhill, son could you call back, I’m watching Love Boat.”
Jack Hinshelwood says Doc’s personality also came through in his musical choices.
(Music: Nights in White Satin-Doc Watson)
“This is something Doc himself said; people were surprised sometimes who maybe thought of him or knew of him through his traditional music, they were surprised to find out just how broad his repertoire was.”
Ted Olson agrees.
“When he would try music that people maybe thought like wasn’t part of Doc’s wheelhouse, Doc would try it anyway because he wanted to see if he could do it. One track on the box set was Doc’s cover of Nights in White Satin by the Moody Blues.”
DOC AT 100, the concert series celebrating the 100th birthday of Doc Watson will feature Ted Olson as host and all the musicians on stage together sharing Doc’s music and stories. The series kicks off tomorrow night at the Jefferson Center in Roanoke.
More information here