doc and merle watson mural by scott nurkin

Doc and Merle Watson, an iconic musical duo, rose to prominence in the 1960s and 1970s, enchanting audiences with their masterful blend of traditional folk, bluegrass, and country music. Doc's virtuosic flatpicking guitar style and soulful vocals, combined with Merle's dynamic guitar playing, formed the foundation of their musical partnership. Their collaboration yielded numerous albums and performances worldwide, showcasing their impeccable musicianship and heartfelt storytelling. Despite Merle's tragic passing in 1985, the duo's legacy lives on through their recordings and the indelible mark they left on American roots music. Doc continued to perform and receive accolades until his death in 2012, leaving behind a lasting legacy that continues to inspire fans of all ages and musical backgrounds

I'd think learning to play the guitar would be very confusing for sighted people


Doc and Merle Watson were an influential American musical duo known for their mastery of traditional folk, bluegrass, and country music. Their unique blend of virtuosic guitar picking, soulful vocals, and heartfelt storytelling endeared them to audiences around the world.

Arthel Lane "Doc" Watson was born on March 3, 1923, in Deep Gap, North Carolina. Blind from a young age due to an eye infection, Doc's musical talent began to emerge when he received his first harmonica at the age of five. He later learned to play the banjo, guitar, and other instruments, developing a distinctive flatpicking guitar style that would become his trademark.

Merle Watson, born on February 8, 1949, was Doc's son and musical protégé. Merle grew up surrounded by music, learning guitar from his father and absorbing the rich musical heritage of the Appalachian region. His guitar playing complemented Doc's style perfectly, forming the foundation of their musical partnership.

Doc and Merle began performing together in the 1960s, captivating audiences with their effortless harmonies and instrumental prowess. Their repertoire included traditional Appalachian ballads, bluegrass standards, country classics, and original compositions, showcasing the breadth of their musical talent.

In 1964, Doc gained widespread recognition after appearing at the Newport Folk Festival, where his flatpicking guitar skills left audiences in awe. This exposure helped propel Doc and Merle to greater prominence within the folk and bluegrass music communities.

Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, Doc and Merle released numerous albums, including "Doc Watson and Son" (1965), "Will the Circle Be Unbroken" (1972), and "Red Rocking Chair" (1981). They toured extensively, performing at festivals, concert halls, and folk clubs across the United States and abroad.

Doc and Merle Watson's influence on American roots music cannot be overstated. They helped popularize traditional folk and bluegrass music to a new generation of listeners, inspiring countless musicians with their impeccable musicianship and heartfelt performances.

Their collaboration bridged generational and stylistic divides, appealing to fans of all ages and backgrounds. Doc's intricate guitar work and soulful singing combined with Merle's dynamic guitar playing created a musical synergy that was truly magical.

Tragically, Merle Watson's life was cut short when he died in a tractor accident on October 23, 1985, at the age of 36. His passing was a devastating loss to the music world, but his legacy lived on through his recordings and the indelible mark he left on American music.

Doc Watson continued to perform and record after Merle's death, honoring his son's memory while continuing to inspire audiences with his timeless music. Doc received numerous accolades throughout his career, including several Grammy Awards and a National Medal of Arts in 1997.

Doc Watson passed away on May 29, 2012, at the age of 89, leaving behind a legacy that continues to resonate with fans of folk, bluegrass, and country music worldwide. Together, Doc and Merle Watson left an enduring imprint on American musical history, reminding us of the power of music to transcend boundaries and touch the soul.

The Hobo

A bout of eye infection robbed Doc of his sight before he reached his second birthday. He subsequently enrolled at the Governor Morehead School for the Blind in Raleigh, North Carolina, where he pursued his education.