Doc Watson

The Shrine of Dig represents music that has made indelible impressions on our lives, both musically and personally. We plan to enshrine works and artists that stand out for any number of special reasons, from those glorious moments we first heard something captivating and new, through the continuous impacts of the music upon our lives. The induction ceremony involves multiple posts where we will both explore and pay tribute to the words and sounds which have been so important to us. In doing so, we share with you some music we believe is damn near infallible and absolutely worth listening to. View all

Doc Watson: When The Roses Bloom in Dixieland

Sadly, Arthel Lane "Doc" Watson died yesterday at the age of 89. With him goes a wealth of knowledge, technical facility, and musical authenticity that the steel string guitar has seldom known. The New York Times has written an absolutely wonderful obituary here which both lauds the man, and gives new comers to his work a succinct history of his importance. I highly recommend reading their eloquent account of his life.

For me, it was Doc's instrumental versatility and incredible prowess that made him so intriguing to listen to. His armory of talents included the banjo, the harmonica, his reassuring vocals, and of course his wonderful guitar playing. I am consistently blown away by the cleanliness of his playing. The care in which he took to eliminate production noises from his left hand is staggering. Seldom do you hear steel string players with less scratches and more sustain, not to mention to his superb vocal separation. Doc Watson was single handedly responsible for raising the expectation for all subsequent folk guitar players. He made the instrument a primary player in this music and did so with a humble and modest demeanor.

In 2002 Doc Watson and David Holt released a 3 CD set which includes an extended interview regarding Watson's full musical and personal history in addition to a concert. This box set paints the complete picture of a brilliant musician and an incredible human being who had to overcome his own loss of sight as well as his humble family beginnings on the way to his admirable career. This album is available via itunes here and gets my highest recommendation. When deciding what song I wanted to include for this write up I was listening back to this interview when I was struck by the song When The Roses Bloom in Dixieland. It was clear to me right away that this song was the right choice and I was later reassured of this when I found this quote in the NY Times write up.

By then, Arthel had moved beyond the banjo. His father, hearing him plucking chords on a borrowed guitar, promised to buy him his own guitar if he could teach himself a song by the end of the day. The boy taught himself the Carter Family’s “When the Roses Bloom in Dixieland,” and a week later he was the proud owner of a $12 Stella guitar.

Doc Watson's talent stemmed from his undying love of the craft. He was a musician in the highest sense of the word and communicated both his love of the music, as well as his great understanding of the music's history every time he played. Fare the well Doc. You will be missed and kindly remembered.