Generations of traditional American music

Doc Watson brings music and stories to Weinberg

Doc Watson brings music and stories to Weinberg

January 24, 2008|By JULIE E. GREENE

FREDERICK, Md. - One of the memories guitarist and storyteller Doc Watson has been sharing recently is about the time a faith doctor healed his father.

His father had hurt his back one summer doing heavy work with a crew installing a spur line for the railroad. He had to use canes to walk, and he couldn't work or sleep on his own bed because of the pain.

"When the prayer was finished, (my father) dropped his canes ... and walked over to the truck," said Watson.

But Watson, who had lost his vision as a young child and was about 6 years old at the time his father visited the faith doctor, wasn't healed.

"If I had been healed and my eyes had been cured, then I very probably wouldn't be sitting here talking to you," said Watson by phone from his North Carolina kitchen. "The Lord knows the future and we don't. There was a reason why I wasn't healed.


"I might have been 'planted' - as my old cousin, Willard Watson, would say - on the island of Okinawa during World War II or I might have fallen (while) working as a carpenter and been killed," he said.

Instead Watson learned to play banjo and guitar. And this Saturday, he brings his music and stories to the Weinberg Center for the Arts, performing with fellow guitarists David Holt and Richard Watson, who is Doc's grandson.

Holt said Watson raised the flat-picking technique to a higher level and plays complex fiddle melodies on the guitar, which is very difficult technically.

"He revolutionized guitar playing," Holt said, "but also is an incredibly soulful singer with a wonderful repertoire of traditional and some modern songs that connect with modern audiences. I think he's one of the greatest, certainly one of the greatest tradition-based or folk-based, musicians America has produced ever."

At 84, Doc Watson admits he's had some senior moments when he's had to relearn some of the songs in his deep reservoir of traditional American music.

That's how Watson describes what he plays.

"I don't play bluegrass music," said Watson. "Traditional American music plus whatever else I want to play."

"I play it for the love of the music and I play it so we can hang onto what my little darling has saved of the income," said Watson, referring to his wife, Rosa Lee.

Holt said he and Doc Watson have been touring with the Hills of Home show for approximately 10 years.

Watson has won seven Grammys, including one with Holt for 2002's "Legacy" album, a three-CD set about Watson's life, featuring music and conversation.

If you go ...

WHAT: Hills of Home concert with guitarists Doc Watson, David Holt and Richard Watson

WHEN: 8 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 26

WHERE: Weinberg Center for the Arts, 20 W. Patrick St., Frederick, Md.

COST: Tickets cost $20 to $30.

MORE: For tickets, call the theater box office at 301-600-2828 or go to

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