I knew about Doc Watson years before I ever got to see him in person. His name was on the lips of every music fan I knew in North Carolina, in my formative years. The seamless interweaving of musical genres, and the seemingly effortless way he played the guitar. And oh, by the way, Doc had been blind since the age of one.
In 1994, the cable TV company I was working with at the time was slated to videotape a two-day music festival at Carowinds. What night did I want to work, they asked me. Friday night, I said. I want to see Doc Watson. So, of course, they booked me for Saturday, and spent the day telling me how great Doc had been the night before. Such was that job, which nearly drove me out of media before I ever really started. Thankfully, that job did not deter me, in the long run.
In the summer of 1998, I finally got to see Doc Watson. It had been a bad month, as I had been through a bad car accident that would leave me emotionally scarred for months. Seeing Doc gave me a reason to be happy, and be happy to be alive. At least I lived to see Doc Watson, I thought at the time. It was also the first time I photographed Doc Watson, and it would not be the last.
I honestly cannot tell you how many times I've photographed Doc. I have photos of him with so many great musicians. Ralph Stanley, Earl Scruggs, Jim Lauderdale, David Holt and so many more. Seeing Doc sitting alongside Earl Scruggs at Merlefest in 2006 was just awe-inspiring, for me. I met him on more than a few occasions, listening to him tell stories about his rockabilly days, and just growing up in Deep Gap, NC. One of Doc's old classmates in school told me that Doc had been a bit of a troublemaker, and he never lost that sharp streak. But he never lost his independent spirit, and that wish to do what he wanted, and play what he wanted.
Doc Watson influenced us all, in so many ways. In what we listened to, and how a song could be played. The tribute to his late son Merle that grew into Merlefest. The joy that we all felt whenever he appeared on stage. While it is sad to think that there will not be another Doc Watson show to see, what he has left us with is so many great moments, and great songs that I will carry with me for the rest of my life. Doc Watson brought so many of us together, so it is appropriate that so many honor him today.
Safe travels, Doc.
May 29, 2012