Boone, NC Weather
Partly Cloudy
7-Day Forecast

For the Watsons

By Frank Ruggiero (

Article Published: May. 2, 2013 | Modified: May. 2, 2013
For the Watsons

The annual MusicFest 'n Sugar Grove has been renamed in honor of the late Doc and Rosa Lee Watson.
Photo courtesy of Brian Barker Photography


The Lineup

The Carolina Chocolate Drops
The Krüger Brothers
Doyle Lawson and Quicksilver
Amantha Mill
Ashley Heath & Kevin Reese
Blue Horizon
Boss Hawg
Brian Swanson
Carolina Crossing
Copper into Steel
ETSU Country Pride Band
He Said…She Said
Jim Avett
Laurel Creek Trail
Made of Suede
Mountain Laurels
Richard Watson & Charles Welch
Slice of Bluegrass
Sons of Bluegrass
Spirit Fiddle
Sweetbriar Jam
The Blue Ribbon Boys
The Cockman Fmaily
The Dusty Road Rangers
The Major Sevens
The New River Boys
The Snyder Family
Typical Mountain Boys
Upright & Breathin’
Vudu Sister
White Top Mountain Band

Lineup is subject to change.

Doc and Rosa Lee Watson were inseparable.

The couple met as teenagers, while a young Doc Watson — blind since early childhood — was making his commute to Boone from Deep Gap.

“I was walking the Wildcat Road,” Watson said in a 2009 interview with The Mountain Times, “… and I heard some little feet coming up, and she took me right by the hand and said, ‘I’m going to walk with you,’ and my heart did a flip. It was young love, the best kind, and it lasted all these years … You can’t beat that with a stick, boys.”

The two married in 1947, and the rest is romantic and musical history.

Although both died in 2012 — Doc on May 29 and Rosa Lee Nov. 22 — their music and legacy will never be forgotten, and organizers of the annual MusicFest ’n Sugar Grove are seeing to it personally.

Now called “The Doc and Rosa Lee Watson MusicFest ’n Sugar Grove,” the two-day festival, slated for July 12 and 13, is paying homage to the couple that made it all possible.

“We’re doing this year’s festival in honor of Doc and Rosa Lee,” festival organizer, co-founder and co-chairman Tommy Walsh said. “They’d been with us for 15 years, and we were very fortunate to have had them.”

“It’s a family experience,” festival co-chairman Willard Watson said, “but we’re missing our grandparents.”

Co-chairwoman Amy Shelton agreed, saying it’s the festival’s responsibility to honor the Watsons, their values and their outlook on music. “It’s important to remember what he’d like us to do, what he’d like to see,” she said.

“Like how informal it is, with the artists interacting with the audience,” Willard Watson said. “Everyone’s going to play his songs, too. It’s like he’ll be there with us.”

As with the previous MusicFest, the 2013 event will feature three stages — the Main Stage, Solar Stage and The Mountain Times Pickin’ Parlor, the latter of which will greet festivalgoers with live music as they enter the festival grounds at the Historic Cove Creek School.

The festival features, to date, 31 acts and counting, including headliners The Kruger Brothers, Doyle Lawson and Quicklsilver, Jim Avett, Carolina Chocolate Drops and Boss Hawg, as well as Amantha Mill, Ashley Heath & Kevin Reese, Blue Horizon, Brian Swanson, Carolina Crossing, Copper into Steel, ETSU Country Pride Band, He Said…She Said, Laurel Creek Trail, Made of Suede, Mountain Laurels, Slice of Bluegrass, Sons of Bluegrass, Spirit Fiddle, Sweetbriar Jam, The Blue Ribbon Boys, The Cockman Family, The Dusty Road Rangers, The Major Sevens, The New River Boys, The Synder Family, Typical Mountain Boys, Upright & Breathin’, Vudu Sister and White Top Mountain Band, although Walsh stressed that the lineup is subject to change.

Walsh said there would also be a “big tribute to Doc,” featuring Watson’s grandson, Richard; guitarist Charles Welch, a longtime friend of Watson’s; and The Krüger Brothers, who were heavily influenced by Watson’s music, prompting their move from Europe to Western North Carolina.

On their website, the Krüger write, “(Watson’s) true legacy lies not in whichever posts he may have passed first, but in the person and the performer that he was. Humble, talented, giving, rational. He often mentioned that if it were not for his blindness, he likely would have become an electrician. His love for his wife was palpable, and his rootedness in his religion, while never cloying, was real and deeply felt, bringing him to tears on stage at times when discussing it.”


Advance tickets to The Doc and Rosa Lee Watson MusicFest ’n Sugar Grove cost $15 for Friday and $20 for Saturday. Tickets sold at the gate cost $20 Friday and $25 Saturday. Advance tickets are available online at and in person at Boone Drug (Deerfield Road and Foscoe locations), Mast General Store (Boone and Valle Crucis), Cove Creek Store, Historic Cove Creek School, Ashe Arts Council and Mountain City (Tenn.) Welcome Center.

The festival is organized as a joint effort by Cove Creek Preservation and Development and the Appalachian State University Sustainable Development Outreach Program. Proceeds benefit the restoration of the Historic Cove Creek School and help sustain the Doc & Rosa Lee Watson Scholarship Fund.

For more information, call (828) 297-2200.visit

Additional Images

The annual MusicFest 'n Sugar Grove has been renamed in honor of the late Doc and Rosa Lee Watson.
Photo courtesy of Brian Barker Photography

Richard Watson, grandson of the late Doc Watson, will perform with Charles Welch and The Krüger Brothers for a special tribute to Watson at 2013’s Doc and Rosa Lee Watson MusicFest ’n Sugar Grove.
Photo by Frank Ruggiero

Charles Welch, guitarist and longtime friend of the late Doc Watson, will perform a tribute to Watson at The Doc and Rosa Lee Watson MusicFest ’n Sugar Grove this July.
Photo by Frank Ruggiero

Doc Watson performs at what would be his final MusicFest ’n Sugar Grove in 2011.
Photo by Frank Ruggiero

Hubby Jenkins of Carolina Chocolate Drops performs with Boone resident — and flatfoot dancer extraordinaire — Arthur Grimes at 2012's MusicFest 'n Sugar Grove. Jenkins and the rest of the band will return for 2013's festival.
Photo by Frank Ruggiero

A perennial favorite, The Krüger Brothers will return for the 2013 Doc and Rosa Lee Watson MusicFest ’n Sugar Grove.
Photo by Frank Ruggiero

Facebook Fans
Home » Music » For the Watsons
Local Business Marketplace

Find more businesses on

Attorneys · Automotive · Health Care
Home & Garden · Hotels & Lodging Restaurants
Retail · Recreation · Real Estate & Rentals · Services

Banner Elk My Hometown
ASU Sports