Positive Music Place

Doc Watson: 10 great performances

Posted by dlockeretz on June 9, 2012

The music world recently lost yet another icon.   On May 29th,  Arthel Lane Watson, best known as Doc, died at age 89.

Blind since childhood, Watson was raised to be independent, and earned the money for his first guitar by chopping wood and selling it to the local tannery.  While he is best known for his folk, bluegrass and country music, his first big professional gig was on electric guitar, with a western swing band.  However, it was during the folk music revival of the 1960s that Watson’s career took off.  In the years since, many musical fads have come and gone, but Watson’s art remains timeless, always reaching new audiences.

Two of my favorite Doc performances are not present here, as I was unable to find them online (so if anyone knows where they might be hiding in cyberspace, please let me know.)  “F.F.V.”, a song about a train-wreck that was first played by the Carter Family as “Engine 143“, and “Dill Pickle Rag” (played here by Chet Atkins) were both heard on his 1966 record “Home Again.”  He also performs “Down in the Valley to Pray” and “Old Man Below” on this release.

Deep River Blues – probably Doc’s most famous finger-style number, played and studied by countless guitarists.

Down in the Valley to Pray – sometimes Doc’s singing is overlooked compared to his instrumental ability.  Here he gives a great a capella version of a Gospel classic.

In the Jailhouse Now – classic drinking/gambling/carousing song, with nice slide guitar and yodeling.

Little Sadie – a classic “murder” ballad.

Mama Don’t Allow No Music – a fun, uptempo song which gives each instrumentalist a chance to play the music that “mama don’t like.”  This live version features piano, electric bass and drums as well as banjo, mandolin and guitar.

Old Man Below – as a youngster, I remember finding the line about the “double-barreled gun” amusing.

Peach Pickin’ Time in Georgia – great rendition of a country classic, with nice flatpick solos – and more yodeling!

Tennessee Stud – besides murders, jail and train wrecks, Doc liked to sing about horses.

Wabash Cannonball – not all train songs are about crashes, such as this classic foot-stomper.

Way Downtown – apparently the characters in “In the Jailhouse Now” didn’t learn from the experience.

The ten songs picked here are no means a comprehensive list of Doc Watson’s best work, but for those not familiar with him, they make a nice introduction, and connoisseurs will undoubtedly enjoy the memories.  Thanks Doc for all the great music!


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