Doc Watson has influenced many, but few have achieved the legacy of this inimitable traditional musician who continues to inspire. The impact of his life as an artist and demeanor as a personality will soon be celebrated through a concert series, "Doc at 100," commemorating the seven-time Grammy Award winner's birth in 1923.
The concert series is co-produced by musician Jack Hinshelwood and music scholar Ted Olson and includes performers Hinshelwood, Wayne Henderson, T. Michael Coleman, and Jack Lawrence. Hinshelwood said the concert series idea came about after Olson wrote the book that accompanies last year's release of the 4-CD box set titled "Doc Watson—Life's Work: A Retrospective." Olson recently received the IBMA 2022 Industry Award for Best Liner Notes for the book.
"We thought it would be a good time to put something together to celebrate Doc's legacy,"Hinshelwood said, adding they thought the presentations/performances should be "humanities rich." The result is a series of concerts that offer music, storytelling, analysis of Watson's impact, and more.
"There are four of us playing the music Doc put his mark on," Hinshelwood said, adding that two of the show's performers have backgrounds playing with the legend. "T. Michael played bass,and Jack Lawrence was side-man on guitar, so obviously, they have great insights into Doc and great stories. Wayne and Doc also became pretty good friends."
Hinshelwood said music history plays a big role.
"Ted will be talking about Doc's legacy," he said. The first hour will be individual presentationswhere Hinshelwood and the other three artists will each play short sets "of three songs or so."Then all four will be out together onstage.
"The second half of the show will be Doc's 'best loved' repertoire, which is huge," Hinshelwood said.
Hinshelwood expects to add more dates, but right now, four shows are on the slate: Roanoke, VA, on November 5; Alexandria, VA, on February 26; Asheville, NC, on March 25; and Emory, VA, on May 8. Tickets and updated information about added performances are available at Docat100.com.
"Doc at 100" also aims to familiarize new fans with the music and persona of Doc Watson.
"He was very authentic and genuine, and that really connected people with him," Hinshelwood said. "He had opportunities he could have pursued in places like Nashville, but family and community were important to him, so he stayed in western North Carolina."
Hinshelwood said the man's character is summed up succinctly by the words engraved on a Doc Watson statue in Boone, North Carolina. "Just one of the People," it reads.
"It's one thing to say, 'I love this artist's music,' and it's another to say, 'I love this artist as a person.' And many people would say both about Doc," he suggested.
"Any time you're a pioneer, you're gonna garner people's attention," he continued. "He was a pioneer of the flatpicking on the guitar."
Hinshelwood said one plus in getting new fans onboard to appreciate the Doc Watson legacy – and something that "catches a lot of people by surprise" when they first begin delving deeply into Watson's discography – is the cross-genre breadth of his recordings.
"He was firmly rooted in traditional music, in gospel and old-time string bands," Hinshelwood explained, "but he was learning show tunes and all kinds of music that his contemporaries in traditional music just weren't doing. He was like a sponge. He learned the popular music…he learned the show tunes."
"Eventually," Hinshelwood continued, "he came to record things like 'Knights in White Satin'...it's pretty far from things like 'Cripple Creek' on the banjo."
He sums up nicely the reasons he enjoys Doc Watson so much.
"His blues is amazing, his gospel, his bluegrass…he was an Americana guitarist before Americana was cool."