Watson, Doc


  • From Deep Gap, North Carolina.
  • One of America’s best known folk singers and flat-pick guitarists.
  • Real name: Arthel Lane Watson.
  • 1960, he was “discovered” by folklorist Ralph Rinzler.
  • Was born with a defect in the main vessels that carry blood to the eyes, causing him to permanently lose his vision as a small child.
  • Even though he was blind, he was able to perform tasks that seemed almost impossible without vision. For example, he completely wired his house for electricity. All of the wiring was passed by the county building inspector and the feat was written up in an electrical journal.
  • 1953-1962, played with a North Carolina group called “Jack Williams and the Country Gentlemen.”
  • Doc’s first bluegrass recording: a 1965 album of instrumentals with Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs.
  • For more than 25 years, Doc traveled and performed with his son Merle. Merle was killed in a tractor accident on the Watson farm in 1985.
  • After Merle’s death, guitarist Jack Lawrence served as Doc’s right-hand man on stage and on the road.
  • 1965, performed at the first bluegrass festival (Carlton Haney’s Fincastle, VA festival).
  • September, 1997, received the National Medal of Arts from President and Mrs. Clinton at the White House.
  • 2000, was inducted into the IBMA’s Hall of Fame.
  • He recorded more than 50 albums and won seven Grammies. In 2004, he was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award by NARAS.
  • 2003, recorded and performed with Earl Scruggs and Ricky Skaggs as one of “The Three Pickers.”
  • 2012, died after a long illness at the age of 89.
  • 2012, posthumously won the IBMA Award for Guitar Player of the Year.