By Mark Kemp

The great flatpicker Doc Watson would have been 93 today. Watson died four years ago after a fall at his home in the mountain community of Deep Gap, North Carolina. The guitar player’s legacy is not just his highly influential playing style, but also his enduring folk-music event, Merlefest, named for his guitar-playing son Merle, who died at 36 in a tragic 1985 tractor accident. However, the elder Watson — a seven-time Grammy winner and Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award winner — may be best remembered for his amiable personality, his remarkably open mind when it came to the preservation of traditional folk and bluegrass, and his unwavering support of younger musicians.

“There may not be a serious, committed baby boomer alive who didn’t at some point in his or her youth try to spend a few minutes at least trying to learn to pick a guitar like Doc Watson,” President Bill Clinton said of Watson in 1997, while presenting the guitarist with the National Medal of Arts at the White House.


Enjoy the clip above of Watson in his prime, at home picking with longtime friend and fellow North Carolinian Earl Scruggs, the famed banjo player who died at 88 on March 28, 2012 — two months prior to Watson’s death.

Also, take a look at my obituary of both great Carolina musicians from a 2012 issue of the Charlotte, North Carolina, alternative weekly Creative Loafing. And don’t miss young guitarist Sierra Hull’s video tribute to Watson posted earlier today.



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