Doc Watson: Blind, But Now I See

Recently standing on the corner of King and Depot Streets in downtown Boone, NC, I noticed a sculpture. I have been by this intersection many times before but failed to notice it or at least it just did not stand out at the time. Stopping to read the plaque, it was obvious and well intentioned to be entitled “Just One of the People”.

"Doc" Watson is a local bluegrass legend and he shares an address with Blue Ridge Mountain Club (BRMC). Born in Deep Gap, NC in March 1923 he grew up inspired by our area and contributed greatly to the lore of Western North Carolina music and arts. Although an eye infection caused him to lose his vision before the age of one, that did not stop him. With ten dollars he bought his first guitar at Sears Roebuck & Co. and began to play; eventually perfecting the “flat picking” style. Fast forward many years and Doc is still playing and attracting thousands to watch him play.  He was inducted into the International Bluegrass Music Hall of Honor in 2000, and in 1997 received the National Medal of Arts from President Bill Clinton.

Each spring, not far from BRMC, is the annual MerleFest music festival, which is named after his son Merle, who died in 1985. Attracting over 70,000 people in recent years, MerleFest remains one of the area’s most popular gatherings and keeps Doc grinning and picking.