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Music Mill Entertainment took a musical snapshot of Doc Watson's amazing career and it includes tracks from seven albums. Tennessee Stud is a varied assortment and includes, we feel, some of the best cuts from Doc and Merle Watsons time at United Artists.
Arthel "Doc" Watson is an American treasure. To agree would be to join Presidents Carter and Clinton, the University of North Carolina and millions of fans. For his contributions to American culture, Doc Watson received awards of merit from his nations CEOs and an honorary doctorate degree from his home states largest school.
But, like all precious jewels, Doc Watsons beginnings were quite humble. On the third day of March, 1923, Arthel Lane Watson was born to General Dixon and Annie Watson; the sixth of eventually nine children. To perpetuate the precious jewel analogy, the pressure to form Doc Watson began immediately.
He was born with a defect in his eyes blood vessels. Within months an infection developed which took his sight completely. Before his first birthday he was blind. To the Watson family, the politically correct term and mindset of "disability" didnt exist. Through his formative years, family, church and ambition molded a man not a disabled man, but a confident man. Daddy would enable and encourage him with instruments bought or built and mama would sing over her baby at home and at church. He also learned to work with his hands. Even though harmonicas, banjos and guitars fit firmly in those hands, so too did a crosscut saw, a screwdriver and a hammer. As his confidence grew in one endeavor, it certainly affected the others. It was at the Governor Morehead School for the Blind in Raleigh, NC where Arthel was exposed to several different styles of guitar playing. He initially learned a rudimentary thumb-picking style, but became enamored with classical and jazz. Soon his first love, the banjo, began playing second fiddle to the guitar as he learned to use a flat pick.
By the time he was eighteen, Arthel was playing live gigs with his buddy Paul Greer. One such gig was a remote broadcast from a furniture store in Lenoir. Pensive regarding the stodginess of the sound of "Arthel," the radio announcer deliberated aloud about how his furniture store duo should be introduced. Eventually a young lady in the crowd yelled "Call him... Doc!" The name stuck another humble beginning.
Odd jobs, school and more live gigs kept Doc busy during his twenties but not too busy to get married. In 1947, he wed Rosa Lee, the daughter of successful fiddler Gaither Carlton. A fortuitous union in many ways, his marriage afforded Doc the opportunity to play music with his new father-in-law. It also produced two talented Watson children, Eddy Merle and Nancy Ellen.
To support his family, Doc tuned pianos and continued playing live gigs. To become more indispensable to possible bandleaders, Doc had invested in an electric guitar and learned to play fiddle tunes to fill the inevitable dance sets. He would break out his acoustic guitar and play an occasional show that called for it. On one such occasion in 1960 while playing traditional, "oldtimey" music with friends in Union Grove, NC, Doc Watson met promoter Ralph Rinzler. This meeting resulted in Watsons touring the coffeehouse circuit in the Northeast and eventually showcased him at the 1963 Newport Folk Festival and New York Citys Town Hall in 1964 alongside Bill Monroe. Upon returning from a tour in 1964, Doc was pleasantly surprised to find that Rosa Lee had taught Eddy Merle (named for Eddy Arnold and Merle Travis) to play guitar. Merle instantly became his touring and studio partner. In 1972 The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band invited Doc, along with Maybelle Carter, Merle Travis, Roy Acuff, Earl Scruggs, Jimmy Martin and others, to record the now historic country/rock fusion project Will the Circle be Unbroken. The album was released by the large United Artists label. The success of Circle propelled Docs career into high gear. Doc and Merle soon signed a United Artists contract of their own and recorded nine albums for their new benefactors from 1972 to 1979.