Mudcat Café message #3357691 The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #145166   Message #3357691
Posted By: Desert Dancer
31-May-12 - 12:11 PM
Thread Name: Obit: Doc Watson 1923 - 2012
Subject: RE: Obit: Doc Watson 1923 - 2012
NYT Editorial | Appreciations: Doc Watson

By Verlyn Klinkenborg
May 30, 2012

In the 1960s, nearly every aspiring guitarist spent a lot of time sitting beside a record player, setting the needle on the vinyl, listening to a few bars and then trying to pick out the notes on the guitar. (Now, of course, there are apps to make this easier.) You would do this over and over and over again. With a little patience, a song would give up its secrets. And the more songs that gave up their secrets, the easier the learning became. For a lot of us young guitarists, that process came to a halt when we first heard Doc Watson, who died on Tuesday at 89.

Hearing him that first time was like standing by the railroad tracks when Casey Jones went past on his last night ride. It wasn't just Doc Watson's speed that stunned a young guitarist. It wasn't even his accuracy. It was the energy behind his flat pick. Listening to him, you could almost imagine his right arm moving like the wheel pistons on a steam locomotive. You could hear the stiffness in the strings, the subtle hammering of his pick, the cyclone of notes gathering round your head. Those old country tunes acquired an angular momentum they had never had before.

Young guitarists (this one, at least) misunderstood what they were hearing. They listened to the picking for itself, the virtuosity of a man who could bring such linear power to the intricate motions of playing guitar. Sooner or later, you realized that the music simply flowed through Doc Watson. He was a delta in himself, where all those traditional musical tributaries converged. Listening to his records, you soon figured out that there was no point picking out the notes he played bar by bar. It was time to learn how to ride the song, the way Doc Watson did.


~ Becky in Tucson