Folk music pioneer Doc Watson passed away Tuesday (May 29) at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, where he was registered in critical condition last week. Watson, who recently underwent abdominal surgery, was 89 years old.
Watson is best known for his influence on the ’60s folk movement with his groundbreaking flat-picking technique on the acoustic guitar. His songs brought vintage country to the next generation of folk and bluegrass lovers. Moreover, his command of flat-picking helped bring the guitar to the forefront of music in the ’50s and ’60s, since at the time, the instrument was often treated as a backup for the mandolin, fiddle or banjo.
Watson was born March 2, 1923 in Deep Gap, North Carolina. He lost his eyesight by the age of 1, but he still began playing guitar, banjo and harmonica as a child. By the end of his career, Watson had released over 50 albums, scored seven Grammy Awards and, in 2004, earned a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award.
Watson’s son Merle played with him until he passed away in 1985 in a tragic tractor accident on his North Carolina farm. Watson paid tribute to his son by starting the Merlefest Music Festival in North Carolina.