Biographical Information


A Biography of Doc Watson by Dan Miller

One of the most comprehensive biographies of Doc Watson was written by Dan Miller of Flatpicking Guitar Magazine. It appeared in the September-October 1998 issue of the magazine (which focused on Doc Watson), and also as an introduction to the instruction book "Legacy of Doc Watson" by Steve Kaufman (Mel Bay Publications).

We are pleased to offer this complete biography here at Doc's Guitar in Adobe Acrobat format. To view it, you'll need the Acrobat Reader plug-in for your browser.'


The Doc Watson Milestones Project

MilestonesThe Milestones project offers a unique and intimate view of Doc Watson's life. The project was produced by Nancy Watson, Doc Watson's daughter, who spent over a decade on it before its release in 2013.

It's the story of the Watson family - told told in songs, narratives and photographs. The project features 94 previously unreleased tracks and 600 family photos arranged into 50 collages created by Nancy. The collection was created entirely from within the family, with input from Doc himself. This is truly a remarkable project that brings you inside the Watson family and the traditions that shaped Doc's music.

After several years of sales, the remaining copies of Milestones have been returned to the estate of Doc Watson. Please contact Andrea Capau at 828-264-6126 for more information about obtaining a copy. You can also visit Open Records Music for more information.


LegacyLegacy is a 3-CD set in which Doc talks about his life - and music. David Holt interviews Doc on the first two CDs and joins with Doc for a concert on the third disc. The conversation between Doc and David is like they are sitting right in your living room - you feel like you're right there with them. This is the closest thing to an audio biography of Doc that you will find, and the concert on the third disc is just icing on the cake. If you're a serious Doc Watson fan, Legacy is a must-have addition to your collection.
See Legacy
album information and ordering information

Key Dates in the Life of Doc Watson

1923 Arthel Lane "Doc" Watson born in Stoney Fork Township, near Deep Gap, North Carolina, on March 3, 1923
1947 Doc marries Rosa Lee Carlton
1949 Son Eddy Merle Watson born (Named after Eddy Arnold and Merle Travis)
1951 Daughter Nancy Ellen Watson born
1953 Doc gets a job playing electric lead guitar in Jack Williams’ country and western swing band
1960 Doc is "discovered" when Ralph Rinzler meets him while in North Carolina to record Clarence "Tom" Ashley
1961 Doc, Gaither Carlton, Tom Ashley, Fred Price, and Clint Howard travel to New York to perform a concert sponsored by Friends of Old Time Music
1962 Doc's first solo appearance, at Gerde's Folk City
1964 Merle starts learning the guitar; in June he plays backup guitar for Doc at the Berkeley Folk Festival
1973 Doc receives his first Grammy award. This is followed by five more Grammys over the years
1985 Merle Watson dies tragically in a tractor accident on the night of October 23rd
1988 Doc is awarded the National Heritage Fellowship by the National Endowment for the Arts
1988 The first Merlefest is held in remembrance of Merle Watson
1997 Doc receives the the National Medal of the Arts from President Clinton
2004 Doc is awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award by the National Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences at the 2004 Grammy Awards show
2012 Doc passes away on May 29 at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center in Winston-Salem, NC following abdominal surgery. Read Press Release.
Doc's wife Rosa Lee passes away six months later on November 22. Read article in Watauga Democrat
2015 Richard Watson, Doc's grandson and Merle's son, passed away on June 1, 2015. He was 48. A guitarist, Richard performed with Doc at MerleFest and other venues from 1991 until Doc’s death in 2012. Read article in Watauga Democrat.


Doc Watson Is Laid to Rest

by Mitch Greenhill, Folklore Productions

Doc Watson was laid to rest yesterday (Sunday, June 3, 2012), following a moving service at Laurel Springs Baptist Church in Deep Gap, North Carolina. Pastor Larry Young and Reverend Gary Watson, Doc's nephew, presided before an overflow crowd of mourners, who came to pay their respects to the musical giant.

At the family's request, Charles Welch and Wayne Henderson sang "When I Lay My Burden Down," followed by the Krüger Brothers and then the group that assembles at Merlefest each year under the "My Friend Merle" banner: Sam Bush, T. Michael Coleman, Mitch Greenhill, David Holt, Jack Lawrence (playing Doc's old Martin), Jeff Little, Cliff Miller, and Joe Smothers. Songs and stories brought laughter and tears. T. Michael Coleman and Doc's friend Robert Doyle told of days on the road. David Holt recalled how, at every concert, someone would cry out "We love you, Doc," and that became the afternoon's rallying cry. I spoke of Doc's influence in the world beyond the hills that surrounded us. Cliff Miller recalled Doc as a great provider, to his family and to us. We all agreed that Doc had profoundly affected and altered our lives.

Randy Travis sent a special recorded message and a new recording of "Dr. Jesus," a song that Doc loved.

Pastor Young and Reverend Watson reaffirmed Doc's strong religious faith. At the graveside, a smaller group of family and close friends sang "I'll Fly Away." As the sun peeked from behind gathering clouds in the brisk mountain springtime, we huddled close to each other, seeking comfort from the big loss that had suddenly torn our lives.

funeral photo
Photo of Doc's funeral service at Laurel Springs Baptist Church in Deep Gap. Many of the musicians here shared their memories and picked out songs in his honor.
Photo by Laura Graff, Winston-Salem Journal