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House considers resolution to honor Doc Watson

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Article Published: Mar. 13, 2013 | Modified: Mar. 13, 2013
House considers resolution to honor Doc Watson

The late Doc Watson is the subject of a proposed N.C. House resolution honoring his life, music and legacy.

Photo by Frank Ruggiero

The N.C. House of Representatives is considering a resolution honoring the late Doc Watson.

Rep. Jonathan Jordan of Jefferson is one of two primary sponsors for the resolution, which passed its first reading March 5.

The March 5 draft resolution, House Resolution 210, reads:

A House resolution honoring Arthel Lane “Doc” Watson, legendary singer and musician.

Whereas, Arthel Lane “Doc” Watson, the sixth of nine children, was born in the Stony Fork Township near Deep Gap, N.C., on March 3, 1923, to General Dixon Watson and Annie Greene Watson; and
Whereas, a childhood illness left Arthel Watson visually impaired by the age of 2; and

Whereas, Arthel Watson developed a love for music at an early age; by age 5 he had learned to play the harmonica, and by age 11, he had learned to play a homemade banjo; and

Whereas, Arthel Watson began playing the guitar while attending the Governor Morehead School for the Blind in Raleigh, and soon afterward he and his brother, Linney, began playing traditional music around Western North Carolina; and

Whereas, at the age of 18, Arthel Watson joined a band that had a regular radio program in the town of Lenoir, and for the next six years they played throughout North Carolina; and

Whereas, during this time, Arthel Watson got his nickname from a radio announcer, who heard an audience member shout, “Call him Doc”; and

Whereas, Doc Watson played and sang a large variety of folk and country music songs he learned from family members, neighbors, records and radio; and

Whereas, in 1947, Doc Watson married Rosa Lee Carlton, the daughter of fiddler Gaither W. Carlton, and they were married for more than 66 years; and

Whereas, early in his marriage, Doc Watson worked as a piano tuner to support his family; and
Whereas, in 1953, Doc Watson began playing the electric guitar with Jack Williams’ country and western swing band and developed his trademark acoustic flatpicking style; and

Whereas, in 1961, Doc Watson joined the Clarence “Tom” Ashley String Band and switched to acoustic guitar. That same year, he made his recording debut on Clarence Ashley’s “Old Time Music at Clarence Ashley’s”; and

Whereas, during the 1960s, a revival in folk music began, and Doc Watson’s popularity increased with the help of Ralph Rinzler; and

Whereas, in 1963, Doc Watson performed at the Newport Folk Festival and, in that same year, released his first solo album, “Doc Watson and Family”; and

Whereas, in 1964, Doc Watson performed at a concert with Bill Monroe, considered to be the father of bluegrass, at Town Hall in New York City; and

Whereas, that same year, Doc Watson began performing and recording with his son, Merle Watson, who accompanied his father on guitar, making 20 albums and winning four Grammys together; and

Whereas, in 1972, Doc Watson sang and played guitar on the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band’s album, “Will the Circle Be Unbroken,” along with other country and bluegrass stars, including Mother Maybelle Carter, Merle Travis, Roy Acuff, Earl Scruggs and Jimmy Martin; and

Whereas, in 1988, Doc Watson began hosting MerleFest, an annual festival held on the campus of Wilkes Community College as a fundraiser and memorial to his son, Merle, who died in 1985; and

Whereas, Doc Watson made more than 50 recordings and received numerous honors during the years, including seven Grammy awards in the categories of Best Ethnic or Traditional Recording in 1973 and 1974, Best Country Instrumental Performance in 1979, Best Traditional Folk Recording in 1987, 1991 and 2002, and Best Country Instrumental Performance in 2006; and

Whereas, Doc Watson was presented with the Lifetime Achievement Award by the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences during the organization’s Grammy Awards show in 2004; and

Whereas, Doc Watson was inducted into the International Bluegrass Music Association Hall of Honor in 2000 and the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2006 and has received the National Medal of Arts in 1997, the National Heritage Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts in 1988, and several honorary doctoral degrees, including Wilkes Community College’s first honorary associate in arts degree in 2005; and

Whereas, in 2011, Doc Watson was honored by the town of Boone with a life-size statue that was inscribed, “Just one of the people”; and

Whereas, Doc Watson died on May 29, 2012, at the age of 89; and

Whereas, Doc Watson is survived by his daughter, Nancy Ellen; several grandchildren and great-grandchildren; and his brother, David Watson; and

Whereas, Doc Watson has enriched our culture with his unique mix of traditional Appalachian folk music, blues, country, gospel and bluegrass, and his flatpicking style has influenced generations of guitarists; Now, therefore,

Be it resolved by the House of Representatives:

Section 1. The House of Representatives honors the memory of Arthel Lane “Doc” Watson and recognizes the life and accomplishments of this native son for the lasting legacy of his music.

Section 2. The House of Representatives extends its deepest sympathy to the family of Arthel Lane “Doc” Watson for the loss of a beloved family member.

Section 3. The principal clerk shall transmit a certified copy of this resolution to the family of Arthel Lane “Doc” Watson.

Section 4. This resolution is effective upon adoption.

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