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Doc Watson tribute to highlight MerleFest 2013



Article Published: Mar. 6, 2013 | Modified: Mar. 6, 2013
Doc Watson tribute to highlight MerleFest 2013

From left, Doc Watson and Sam Bush perform at MerleFest 2010. Bush, a lontime friend of the late Watson’s, will host a Celebration Jam in memory of Watson Saturday, April 27, at MerleFest.

Photo by Frank Ruggiero



When MerleFest, slated for April 25 to 28, kicks off Thursday afternoon, it will be a bittersweet moment.

The four-day event, an annual homecoming of musicians and music fans, will once again take place on the campus of Wilkes Community College in Wilkesboro. But for the first time in its 26 years, MerleFest will take place without beloved music icon Doc Watson, who died May 29, 2012.

“From the beginning, Doc Watson has been the artistic center of this festival,” festival director Ted Hagaman said. “So, for MerleFest 2013, we will come together as a family to pay special tribute to the man and the musician who meant so much to us all.”

In fact, one of the most talked-about events of the festival is Saturday evening’s Celebration Jam. The jam will be hosted by Sam Bush and will feature many of Watson’s closest musician friends, as they tell stories and play some of Doc’s favorites tunes. The jam’s core band will consist of Bush (mandolin/fiddle), Jeff Little (piano), T. Michael Coleman (bass), Jack Lawrence (guitar), Bryan Sutton (guitar) and David Holt (banjo.)

“No matter if it was Carnegie Hall in New York City, a packed theater in Tokyo, Japan, a venue in Southern France or on a flatbed truck somewhere in Georgia, Doc was always just Doc,” Coleman said. “No pretense, no inflated ego and no set list. He invited the audience into his living room, and they felt right at home.”

“Doc personified the three Ts: tone, taste and timing,” Bush said. “Getting to play alongside him at the past 25 MerleFests has been a true privilege and a lesson in how it’s done. He was a musical mentor and a really good friend to me. It’s an honor to have known Doc, (his wife) Rosa Lee and (late son) Merle.”

Additionally, the life and music of Watson will be honored in other ways during the festival.
A special section in the MerleFest program (20,000 copies to be given free) will pay tribute to Doc, with quotations and remembrances from fellow artists and friends.

Video vignettes throughout the festival of Watson will include videos of him performing, talking about his family, telling stories and more.

Throughout the weekend, artists will be reminiscing about Watson and the impact he had on them.
A new display will be introduced in Lowe’s Hall, with a bust of Watson and memorabilia of his life and career.

In addition, a student emergency fund in Watson’s honor will be announced at Wilkes Community College. This fund will be used for student emergency needs to allow students to continue their education.

“Although I learned from many of the old timers, Doc was the main musical mentor in my life,” Holt said. “I was always struck by his ability to bring an older style of music to a modern audience. As a musician, he deeply influenced my sense of timing and tone. I marveled at the way the fingers of his right hand danced on the strings. He never just plodded through a tune, but rather brought it completely to life every time he played it.”

Tickets for MerleFest 2013 can be purchased at http://www.merlefest.org or by calling (800) 343-7857. An early bird ticket discount is available through March 10. Additional details about this year’s festival lineup and other MerleFest information can also be found at http://www.merlefest.org.

MerleFest, considered one of the premier music festivals in the country, is an annual homecoming of musicians and music fans held on the campus of Wilkes Community College in Wilkesboro
The festival hosts more than 90 artists, performing on 14 stages during the course of the four-day event. The annual event has become the primary fundraiser for the WCC Endowment Corporation, funding scholarships, capital projects and other educational needs.

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