Honesty in Music
Doc Watson’s charity was infectious.
In contrast with the epidemic of trivial celebrity, Watson’s gentleness and proficiency disarmed worry and frivolity.
“It came from a wonderful place,” said Joel Landsberg, bassist with the Kruger brothers. “It was honesty in music.”
On Friday, June 15, at 5 p.m., the free second annual celebration of Doc Watson’s life will be held at the Jones House Community Center in downtown Boone, as part of the 2012 Concerts at the Jones House series.
The diverse sounds of three bands, the Stephen Gallagher Trio, the Kruger Brothers and Charles Welch, will wade into the crowd, rousing what what Watson termed “traditional plus,” gutsy classics plus whatever the vibe calls for.
Many other retrospectives have been held, and outside of the High Country – the Avett Brothers played “Down in the Valley to Pray,” “learned from Doc Watson” at Bonnaroo, tributes were held at Wakarusa Music Festival, and the NCMA will hold a celebration of his life on June 30.
But, as Mark Freed of the Jones House Community Center, said, “This is special, because it’s right on the street, right where Doc started playing.”
This year’s celebration is several months in the making, with an extra stage and more sound equipment than last year.
“Everybody involved last year thought it was a nice gig, lots of fun, close to home,” Freed said. “The heart of this, and the fact that it’s free, makes it a real community celebration. Doc was that special of a person that everyone should be able to access it.”
The Stephen Gallagher Trio, composed of Stephen Gallagher (banjo, fiddle, mandolin), Daryl Rodger (guitar, vocals) and Melissa De Cloet (feature vocalist, upright bass), plays rootsy original songs.
Gallagher is the third in a generation of craftsmen that build Gallagher Guitars. His grandfather, J.W. Gallagher, met Doc Watson at Union Grove Fiddler’s Contest in 1968. Gallagher offered a G-50 model for Watson to test-pick and, after hearing his stoke, traded the guitar for Doc’s promise that he would play it.
Cradled in his bronze statue’s arms is “Old Hoss,” the same G-50, his favorite. It was his nearly exclusive guitar until 1974, when he asked for a new custom-made instrument, beginning the Doc Watson line of guitars.
The Kruger Brothers, comprised of Jens Kruger (banjo, vocals), Uwe Kruger (guitar, lead vocals) and Joel Landsberg (bass, vocals) who met the brothers in Switzerland, have pioneered through classical, jazz, and bluegrass music with a trim Americana and Celtic balance since 1995.
“It was a wonderful honor to meet and pick with Doc at MerleFest in 1997 and call him a friend over the years,” Landsberg said. “He was one of our biggest supporters.”
Landsberg said that Watson not only influenced the Kruger Brothers’ style with his singular flat-picking, but also their resolve. “I’ll never forget, he told us once to ‘Keep doing what you’re doing, boys. You’re doing the right thing. Believe in it, and people will respect that.’”
Watson’s generosity and unobtrusive respect for all musicians are what the Kruger Brothers hope to recall for the audience. “Sharing is one of the greatest honors in the world,” Landsberg said, “and Doc recognized that.”
Charles Welch, was, as told by Watson to Wayne Henderson during last year’s celebration, Watson’s best friend.
“He went to school with Merle and, for the last six years, was always by Doc’s side,” Landsberg said.
Welch will be playing guitar solos reminiscent of music he played with Watson.
This free concert is part of the Concerts at the Jones House series, which takes place every Friday at 5 p.m. at the Jones House, located at 604 W. King St. in downtown Boone.
The series is sponsored by Mast General Store, Footsloggers, MPrints, Stick Boy Bread Company, Melanie’s and the Downtown Boone Development Association. For more information on the series, visit http://www.boone-nc.org or call (828) 262-4576.
“We’ll never be able to replace Doc,” Freed said. “But look at his music that’s thriving. His legacy is still living, and it’s accessible to everybody.”