An iconic American musician is celebrated at a concert in Roanoke this weekend

(Music: Blackberry Blossom – Doc Watson)

As a young man, Doc Watson traveled from his home in Deep Gap, North Carolina to nearby Boone to perform on King Street. When he couldn’t find a vehicle, he hitchhiked, sometimes with one of his brothers, but often alone. This despite being blind due to an eye infection suffered in childhood.

“He never viewed blindness as a disability, quite the contrary, he said it opened up new avenues of seeing and feeling the world that helped him as a musician.”

Ted Olson, Professor of Appalachian Studies and Bluegrass, Old-Time, and Roots Music Studies at East Tennessee State University, author of Doc’s World: Traditional Plus. The book grew out of the liner notes Olson wrote for a box set of 101 Doc Watson recordings he curated.

“I felt like just writing about the recordings themselves was only half the story, so I wanted to provide a biography of Doc and writing about Doc meant reaching out to people who knew best Doc, who had traveled with Doc, played with Doc, who had recorded with Doc.

Many of those people are now part of a concert series featuring music from Watson’s catalog that Olson is co-producing with Jack Hinshelwood, guitarist and former executive director of The Crooked Road. Hinshelwood will be joined in the performance by world-renowned luthier Wayne Henderson of Ruby, VA and by Jack Lawrence and T. Michael Coleman, who have both toured and recorded with Doc Watson. Hinshelwood says it will be more than a musical performance

“It will be a great opportunity for all of us to learn a bit more about life on the road with Doc. How did he go through touring and that kind of stuff. I’m sure it’s all very interesting, I would like to know.

And there will be stories, like an anecdote shared by Olson.

“Mitch Greenhill, I think he called Doc to say Doc had won a Grammy Award. But he said to Mitch Greenhill, son, could you call back, I’m watching Love Boat.

Jack Hinshelwood says Doc’s personality also showed in his musical choices.

(Music: Nights in White Satin – Doc Watson)

“It’s something Doc himself said; people were sometimes surprised who perhaps thought of him or knew him through his traditional music, they were surprised to discover how wide his repertoire was.

Ted Olson agrees.

“When he tried music that maybe people thought was not in Doc’s wheelhouse, Doc tried it anyway because he wanted to see if he could do it. One of the tracks on the box set was Doc’s cover of Nights in White Satin by the Moody Blues.

DOC AT 100, the concert series celebrating the 100e Doc Watson’s Birthday will feature Ted Olson as host and all the musicians on stage sharing Doc’s music and stories together. The series kicks off tomorrow night at the Jefferson Center in Roanoke.

(Music fades out)

More information here