Arthel Lane “Doc” Watson was born into a family with a rich musical tradition in Deep Gap in 1923. Young Arthel lost his vision to an eye infection prior to his first birthday. He learned ballads and sacred songs from his mother and from the radio. He played music at home and with neighbors until the 1950s when he joined a Western swing band, playing electric guitar.
In the early phase of a national folk music revival in the 1960s, Watson’s genius as a traditional musician was discovered. He became one of the most popular performers on the folk circuit. His many Grammy Awards and his recognition as a premier American artist are testimony to his impact on the nation’s musical culture. He hosted Wilkes County’s MerleFest for many years until his death in 2012.
Digital Heritage Moments are produced at Western Carolina University in Cullowhee. To learn more, visit DigitalHeritage.org. You may also hear Digital Heritage Moments each weekday on radio stations WKSF-FM, WWCU-FM, WMXF-AM, WPEK-AM and WWNC-AM. (Photo) Doc Watson at MerleFest. Photo by Austen Millkulka