North Carolina-Doc Watson-February 22

North Carolina People, Places, and Things-February 22

I am the dad to five adult children. As they were growing up I attempted to remind them they were special and to implore them to learn something new. My goal was to do that daily.

In 2016 my goal is to learn something new daily on the people, places, and things that make North Carolina special.

I have to admit I have never met anyone with the first name of Arthel. I stumbled on to the music of an artist with the given name of Arthel Watson yesterday. I subscribe to Spotify Premium and every week on Monday they send me a playlist of 30 songs they call Discover Weekly.

Discover Weekly

Discover Weekly brings you two hours of custom-made music recommendations, tailored specifically to you and delivered as a unique Spotify playlist.


As my music taste evolves away from exclusively the blues Discover Weekly does the same each week. In fact, the more I listen, the better and more diverse the list gets each week. A couple of weeks ago I listened to some Blue Grass instead of the Blues. That choice allowed Discover Weekly to give me a sample of a North Carolina legend Arthel “Doc” Watson.

doc watson

Doc Watson was born in Deep Gap, NC on March 3, 1923. He died on May 29, 2012 a the age of 89. He got his nickname “Doc” during a live radio broadcast when the announcer remarked that his given name Arthel was odd and he needed an easy nickname. A fan in the crowd shouted “Call him Doc!” and it stuck.

An eye infection caused Doc Watson to lose his vision before he was one year old. He was taught by his parents to work hard and care for himself. He attended North Carolina’s school for the visually impaired in Raleigh, NC.

His parents also encouraged his musical talent – his father, General Dixon Watson, led the singing at the local church, and his mother, Annie, sang old-time ballads at home, and music quickly became part childhood.

As a teenager, Watson took his music to the streets literally, performing with his brother Linney, on street corners in the nearby town of Boone, North Carolina, where in 2011 a life-size statue was erected in his honor on the corner of King and Depot Street.


Watson’s first national acclaim came during the folk music revival of the early 1960s. His performance at the Newport Folk Festival in 1963 helped launch his solo career, and he released his debut album Doc Watson and Family that same year.

In 1964, Watson put his own family into the act when his 15-year-old son Merle joined him as a guitarist. Father and son performed together for 20 years, receiving Grammy Awards for their albums Then and Now (1974), Two Days in November (1975) and Big Sandy/Leather Britches (1980). They toured together until Merle’s death in 1985 after a tractor accident. After his son’s tragic death, Watson’s return to music was bittersweet, winning Grammys for his albums Riding the Midnight Train (1987), On Praying Ground (1991) and Legacy (2003).

His final performance was at Merle Fest in April 2012. You Tube link below.

Glad Spotify pushed me to listen to a North Carolina musical treasure.


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