Doc Watson Day
When Doc Watson was asked about the idea of a statue of his likeness being installed in downtown Boone, he said it would be OK, provided a plaque accompanied it, reading, “Just one of the people.”
The late Watson wanted to be remembered first and foremost as a member of the community – a husband, father, grandfather and a participant.
In that spirit, the town of Boone will celebrate the fourth annual Doc Watson Day Celebration on June 20 at the Jones House Cultural and Community Center in downtown Boone, with a free concert by some of Doc’s friends and admirers.
The concert will begin at 4 p.m., with the Elkville String Band, followed by Charles Welch and John Kirby, Strictly Clean and Decent and concluding with The Kruger Brothers.
Four years ago, when the town unveiled and presented the statue of Watson at the corner of King and Depot streets, then-Mayor Loretta Clawson declared the third Friday of June Doc Watson Day, and the celebration has taken place ever since.
For the second annual celebration, Watson had intended to participate and perform, but he died a month before the show. Close friend and collaborator Charles Welch and The Kruger Brothers performed, celebrating Watson’s life and music and setting the stage for a continuing tradition.
Now in its fourth year, the Doc Watson Day Celebration is expanding to start earlier and include more entertainment — all closely associated with Watson and his musical legacy.
The Elkville String Band hails from Wilkes County and specializes in local and regional songs, tunes and lore. Guitarist Herb Key has gathered stories and interesting facts about most of the songs he sings, including Watson’s version of “Tom Dooley” and more. He accompanied Watson on bass during the unveiling of the statue four years ago. Key is well-supported in the band with fiddler Trevor McKenzie, banjo player Jim Lloyd and bassist Bill Williams, all veteran musicians with deep roots in Southern mountain string band music.
“The guys in Elkville String Band do their homework on the songs and tunes they play, not because they want to be entertaining, rather because they live and breathe for this stuff,” concert organizer Mark Freed said. “But, make no mistake, they are definitely entertainers.”
Welch, longtime friend and collaborator with Watson, will perform after the Elkville String Band, with his musical cohort, Kirby. Welch grew up with Doc’s late son, Merle, and was always a close friend of the family. He accompanied Doc and Merle on trips to gigs, and in the mid-1990s, he began playing with Doc on stage, including at the inaugural Doc Watson Day Celebration in 2011.
“It is always a treat to hear Charles talk about his travels, adventures and times with Doc, particularly coming from such a close friend,” Freed said. “Charles and John have been playing together for decades, and their performances capture their close musical friendship.”
Strictly Clean and Decent will follow Welch and Kirby, featuring husband-and-wife multi-instrumentalists Kay and Patrick Crouch and bassist Ron Shuffler, of the legendary bluegrass Shuffler family. The acoustic trio come with an eclectic repertoire that includes bluegrass, country, Celtic, jazz, blues and traditional sounds of the Southern mountains.
“To borrow a term from Doc, I think you could certainly call Strictly Clean and Decent’s repertoire traditional-plus,” Freed said.
The Kruger Brothers will play the final set of the evening, making a three-year tradition of their participation in the Doc Watson Day Celebration.
“We feel very fortunate to have such amazing musicians be willing to participate in this free, community-based celebration,” Freed said. “These guys do it for their love of Doc and honoring his legacy.”
The Kruger Brothers moved from Switzerland to Wilkes County, after making a few tours to the U.S. and performing at MerleFest. These days, the musicians are regular fixtures of the community and region, though they continue to get more national and international attention.
Last year, Jens Kruger was awarded the Steve Martin Prize for Excellence in Banjo and Bluegrass, and the band recently released a recording of a commissioned musical work for the Banff Centre in Alberta, Canada, called “Spirit of the Rockies.” At last year’s concert, they had just released “Remembering Doc,” an album celebrating one of their most important musical heroes and friends.
“It has been an honor helping do a small part to carry forward Doc Watson’s legacy,” Freed said. “Sitting on the Jones House lawn, looking over the street where Doc honed his performing skills playing for change, listening to Doc’s friends play his songs and tell stories about him is really special.”
The Doc Watson Day Celebration is part of the Concerts at the Jones House series, produced by the Boone Cultural Resources Department. The 2014 series is sponsored by the Downtown Boone Development Association, Mast General Store, MPrints, Footsloggers, Melanie’s, Farmers Rental and Power Equipment and Stick Boy Bread Co.
The Doc Watson Day Celebration concert will begin at 4 p.m. on the front lawn of the Jones House Cultural and Community Center, located at 604 W. King St. in downtown Boone. The concert will take place rain or shine. Patrons are encouraged to bring a chair, though some chairs will also be made available. For more information, including a complete schedule, visit http://www.joneshousecommunitycenter.org, or call (828) 268-6280.