Doyle Lawson and Quicksilver return to MusicFest
Doyle Lawson can’t tell you the exact number of times he has
performed at the Doc & Rosa Lee Watson MusicFest ’n Sugar Grove, but he circles the date on his
tour calendar as he makes his way toward his home in the hills of Tennessee.
And every time is a little bit different, while still reminding Lawson the purpose and history behind old-time music.
As the front man for Doyle Lawson and Quicksilver, Lawson takes bluegrass and country music to heart more than anyone could imagine.
“Like most families of that era, we would listen to the Grand Ole Opry and other radio programs every Saturday night,” Lawson said. “Even before they called it bluegrass, I would listen to the Opry and people like Bill Monroe, who left quite an impression on me. I haven’t been the same since then, and I never will be.”
The music festival, which is a tribute to the late Doc and Rosa Lee Watson, perfectly sums up what bluegrass music is really about — playing the favorites of your audience and making sure they have an experience that YouTube clips could never rival, Lawson said.
Events such as these also preserve a lasting tradition in rural America.
“I think that right now, really, it’s important as it has always been,” Lawson said on the need to keep festivals like MusicFest going strong. “The beautiful part of this is that it’s a process of people trying to preserve the music and keep it going. There’s definitely awareness."
As Lawson puts it, people are looking for “something real” to latch onto — an almost return-to-your-roots type of feel.
“With today’s busy world and the Internet, everything is so accessible at the fingertips, but there’s still something that makes people want to reach out and find something,” Lawson said. “Even if the music is a little because of the environment (at live concerts), they want to find something not fabricated and where they can feel that emotion.”
This dedication to showmanship is why Lawson never tires of playing the fan favorites.
“When people come through the gate and pay money, to me, part of my responsibility is to do what pleases them,” Lawson said. “People ask if I get tired of doing ‘Blue Train’ every show, and I say I’m not, because people expect to hear it.”
The fan-comes-first and down-to-earth humble attitude is a trait that Lawson took note of in the festival’s namesake, Doc Watson.
Lawson recalled running into Watson during a folk music jamboree in Woodston, N.J.
“I happened to be standing at the entrance of backstage when I spotted Jack Lawrence, who played with Doc after (son) Merle (Watson) passed,” Lawson said. “I said to Jack, ‘What are you doing here?’ And he told me that he wanted to come and listen to me play. I was quite flattered.”
After the performance, Lawson and Watson caught up.
“I had this segment in the show where I was picking my Gibson guitar, and afterwards, Doc asked me, ‘Hey, what kind of Gibson guitar are you playing with?’
Watson was blind almost his entire life.
“So, here, Doc was sitting backstage, and he was able to tell the exact kind of guitar I was playing,” Lawson said. “He had an incredible ear for music. That’s what struck me all these years.”
Folks can see Doyle Lawson and Quicksilver perform Saturday, July 12, from 4 to 5:30 p.m. on the Main Stage at the Doc & Rosa Lee Watson MusicFest ‘n Sugar Grove.
For more information on Doyle Lawson and Quicksilver, visit http://www.doylelawson.com. For more on MusicFest, visit http://www.musicfestnsugargrove.org.