Whew. I just listened to a little piece called "Nashville Pickin'," by a multiple Grammy winner who is among the best to ever pick up a guitar, and yet he remains a relative unknown to many modern country music fans. Maybe that just says something about the direction country music has moved in recent years, but it would certainly be nice to see a little more appreciation sent the way of Doc Watson.
Which is not to say that he's been completely unappreciated. A Grammy winner in every decade since the 1970s, for many years he's had the admiration and respect of a lot of knowledgeable fans, and has reached nearly God-like status with just about every professional guitarist around. He's considered one of the all-time greats of the acoustic guitar, along with his contemporaries (and buddies) Chet Atkins and Merle Travis.
Arthel Lane Watson was born in North Carolina, and had the dual disadvantage of losing his sight to illness while still very young and spending much of his childhood in the midst of the Great Depression. On the plus side, his family was strong and supportive and he grew to adulthood well-equipped to follow the path mandated by his musical talents.
During World War II and in the years following, Doc performed in relative obscurity nationally, although he did work regularly in everything from radio to county fairs, showcasing his guitar and his strong, natural singing voice. But even if he wasn't hitting the big time during that period, he was busy in other ways. For one, he was building a family, and as he and new wife Rosa began to have children he found that his father-in-law, country fiddler Gaither W. Carlton, was a good source for another of Doc's interests. He soon began building what would become his encyclopedic knowledge of traditional American music.