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Guitarist Doc Watson dead at 89: A 1-2-3 video primer

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Guitarist Doc Watson, who died Tuesday at age 89, leaves an extensive legacy that documents his wide-reaching influence in the world of guitar playing and folk music.

‘Doc Watson sort of defined in many ways what Americana has become,’ Jed Hilly, executive director of the Americana Music Assn., told The Times. ‘He played different styles of American roots music.’

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He received a National Medal of Arts in 1997 and a lifetime achievement award from the Recording Academy in 2004.

Watson was well into his 40s before he began a serious music career. Ultimately, his example inspired a generation of musicians to upgrade their instrumental technique.

Here are three examples of his artistry in different settings. He was a commanding soloist and an always amenable collaborator. The first video highlights his take on ‘Black Mountain Rag,’ which traditionally has featured the fiddle. But Watson transformed it, as he usually did, into a thrilling guitar showcase.

Watson also loved playing in the company of other guitarists, and for decades was accompanied on tour and in the recording studio by his son, Merle. But after Merle died in 1985, Watson continued with his career, often sharing the stage with other masters of the instrument. Here’s a 1987 performance from Garrison Keillor’s ‘Prairie Home Companion,’ for which Watson begins with his version of Eddy Arnold’s ‘Just a Little Lovin’ (Will Go a Long Way),’ then is joined by six- and 12-string ace Leo Kottke for ‘Last Steam Engine Train.’

Finally, in a trio setting, below is a historic string-instrument summit meeting of Watson with bluegrass banjo pioneer Earl Scruggs and neo-traditionalist singer, mandolinist and guitarist Ricky Skaggs from a ‘Three Pickers’ in which they serve up the country gospel traditional ‘Rollin’ in My Sweet Baby’s Arms’:

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-- Randy Lewis

Guitarist Doc Watson, who died Tuesday at age 89, leaves an extensive legacy that documents his wide-reaching influence in the world of guitar playing and folk music.

‘Doc Watson sort of defined in many ways what Americana has become,’ Jed Hilly, executive director of the Americana Music Assn., told The Times. ‘He played different styles of American roots music.’

He received a National Medal of Arts in 1997 and a lifetime achievement award from the Recording Academy in 2004

Watson was well into his 40s before he began a serious music career. Ultimately his example inspired a generation of musicians to upgrade their instrumental technique.

But here are three examples of his artistry in different settings.


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