‘We Shall All Be Reunited’

By Frank Ruggiero (frank@mountaintimes.com)

Article Published: Jun. 27, 2013 | Modified: Jul. 14, 2013
‘We Shall All Be Reunited’

Charles Welch, musician and longtime friend to the late Doc Watson, performs at the annual
Photos by Frank Ruggiero

MusicFest ’n Sugar Grove isn’t just a festival; it’s a reunion.

For two days each summer, friends, families, musicians and all of the above gather at the historic Old Cove Creek School to celebrate a High Country treasure — the music of Doc Watson.

Watson died in May 2012, later followed by his wife, Rosa Lee, that November. To honor them both, festival organizers redubbed the event as the Doc & Rosa Lee Watson MusicFest ’n Sugar Grove.

The festival — with its newly minted name — returns to Sugar Grove Friday and Saturday, July 12 and 13, featuring three stages of live music with a variety of acts, including The Kruger Brothers, Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver and The Carolina Chocolate Drops.

“We’re so fortunate to continue their legacy,” festival co-chairman Willard Watson III said of Doc and Rosa Lee Watson. “It feels like we’re being reunited with our family members.”

With that in mind, he referenced a song performed by Doc and his late son, Merle, “We Shall All Be Reunited,” and said it would be the theme for this year’s festival.

And, according to some of the festival’s performers, it’s a perfect fit.

“He’s never as far away as my instrument,” Becca Eggers-Gryder, bassist and vocalist for Amantha Mill, said about Watson at a MusicFest press conference last Thursday.

“His spirit is alive and well,” Amantha Mill guitarist Bill Helms said.

“As time passes, the memories become sweeter and the pain a little less,” Eggers-Gryder said.
Helms said he’s happy to see the festival — now in its 16th year — continue to grow, calling it a testament to Watson’s talent and legacy.

“It’s always going to be a little different,” said Jeff Moretz, mandolin player with Upright & Breathin’. “He’d be glad that we’re here doing it.”

They agreed that Rosa Lee Watson would feel the same. Charles Welch, guitarist and longtime friend of Watson, told how Rosa Lee played an integral part in Watson’s success, giving him the courage to grow outside of his comfort zone.

In addition, her side of the family was also musically gifted, Welch said, with Rosa Lee even penning a song, “Your Long Journey,” that won a Grammy Award as performed and recorded by Robert Plant and Alison Krauss.

“That’s pretty special,” Welch said. “We got any Grammy winners in here?”

“Doc always said he was prouder of her than any award he got,” Willard Watson said, referring to Watson’s multiple Grammys, “and he had eight.”

Watson was also proud of MusicFest.

“It’s in the county where Doc was raised, and I think he was very proud of that,” Welch said. “He wanted to do it, and the people here treat it really well. To me, any festival where I got to play music with Doc was special.”

Helms praised the festival for its open, but intimate atmosphere, in which festivalgoers can interact freely with the artists, who often stroll the grounds to take in the experience.

“There doesn’t seem to be much of a dividing line between the audiences and the performers,” he said. “It really does feel like family.”

“When I’m here with the festival, it’s just home,” Eggers-Gryder said. “It always will be.”

The 2013 Doc and Rosa Lee Watson MusicFest ’n Sugar Grove will feature live music on three stages — the Main Stage, Solar Stage and The Mountain Times Pickin’ Parlor, in which festivalgoers will have the opportunity to pick with the pros.

Friday’s lineup includes Made of Suede, The Major Sevens, New River Boys, Upright & Breathin’, Blue Horizon, Amantha Mill, Jim Avett, Carolina Crossing, Willow Beast, Dusty Road Rangers, Brian Swanson, He Said…She Said…, Ashley Heath & Kevin Reese, Blue Ribbon Boys, Spirit Fiddle, the Mountain Laurels, Vudu Sister and The Kruger Brothers.

Saturday’s lineup includes New River Boys, Carolina Crossing, Amantha Mill, Jim Avett, Spirit Fiddle, Slice of Bluegrass, The Snyder Family, Sons of Bluegrass, Folk & Dagger, Brian Swanson, Dashboard Hula Boys, He Said…She Said…, ETSU Country Pride Band, Ashley Heath & Kevin Reese, Sweetbriar Jam, Vudu Sister, Blue Horizon, Upright & Breathin’, Made of Suede, Dusty Road Rangers, Laurel Creek Trail, Blue Ribbon Boys, Charles Welch, Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver, The Kruger Brothers and The Carolina Chocolate Drops.

On both nights, there will be a Doc & Rosa Lee Watson Memorial Jam, and, in addition, Charles Welch will host tribute to the Watsons Saturday.

Saturday’s festivities will also feature a couple workshops, one with The Kruger Brothers and Bob Kogut and another with Jim Avett.


Tickets purchased in advance cost $15 for Friday and $20 for Saturday. Tickets at the gate cost $20 for Friday and $25 for Saturday, with children 12 and younger admitted free, when accompanied by an adult.

Two-day reserved seating costs $55, and special group rates are also available.

For tickets and more information, visit http://www.musicfestnsugargrove.org or call (828) 297-2200.

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