Doc Watson, 1923–2012

Legendary, inimitable, iconic . . .  Today will be a day filled with adjectives as people describe guitarist Doc Watson, born eighty nine years ago in Deep Gap, North Carolina.  Watson passed away yesterday in a Winston-Salem hospital.

Doc Watson and Jack Watson

Hugh Morton’s photograph above of Doc Watson, seated, and Jack Williams in 1953 appears in his book Hugh Morton’s North Carolina with a caption stating that Watson and Williams “were members of a band that played for small dances and family gatherings . . .”  That caption is all we know about this photograph.  Morton made this photograph very early in Watson’s career—the year Watson and Williams first met, eleven years before Watson’s first recording.

The original 35mm slide or a color negative has not turned up in processing the Morton collection.  There is, however, an inkjet print and the low resolution digital file within a PowerPoint presentation shown here, in the unprocessed files of non-original items.  Morton’s portrait of Watson playing a guitar in front of a woodpile, published in Making a Difference in North Carolina, has also not surfaced.  To date, fifteen photographs of Doc Watson can bee seen in the online collection.

2 thoughts on “Doc Watson, 1923–2012

  1. A researcher using the online collection of Hugh Morton images sent word that the person on the left in the group portrait made in the woods (which is featured in the MC Miscellany post) is likely Merle’s son Richard Watson because it looks like him and not Merle, and that the date provided for the photograph (14 January 1987) is after Merle’s death. The photograph is a 35mm color slide, and that date is actually the film processing date imprinted on the mount, so the image is probably a bit earlier. After the two group portraits on the same roll of film are some distant views of Grandfather Mountain without snow, then some snow scenes, then some landscapes with a full moon but with only traces of snow. The full moons for that time period were December 16 and Jan 15. It’s possible, therefore, that a few weeks passed before the Morton processed the film. For example, photographs Morton made at the University of Jacksonville vs. UNC basketball game played on December 13, 1986 and vs. Maryland on January 8, 1987 have “01-12-87″ on the slide mounts.

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