Patt Morrison for May 30, 2012

In memoriam: bluegrass guitar legend Doc Watson, dead at 89

2009 New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival Presented By Shell - Day 5

Rick Diamond/Getty Images

Recording artist Doc Watson performs at the 2009 New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival at the Fair Grounds Race Course on May 1, 2009 in New Orleans.

Folk music lost a legend this week. Singer and famed flatpicker Doc Watson, known for his optimistic and sweet voice as much as for his guitar stylings, died Tuesday at Wake Forest Baptist Memorial Center in North Carolina.

Watson grew up influenced by blues, bluegrass, gospel, and cowboy yodelers; in turn, he inspired musicians like Bob Dylan, Allison Krauss, Chet Atkins and more. Doc lost his sight as a toddler, but his father (also a musician) made sure he stayed busy and worked hard, even building Doc a fretless banjo once he realized that Doc could manage it.

By the 1960s, Doc had switched to electric guitar, but as the folk revival swept through he re-embraced the banjo, along with the acoustic guitar. His first solo record debuted in 1964, and while he never hit gold, he earned his way into millions of hearts, as well as the International Bluegrass Hall of Honor and a National Medal of Arts.

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How can the influence of Doc Watson be heard today?


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