It is a short list of voices and sounds really—the ones who have stuck with me, the ones I can trace back to my teens. John Prine, Neil Young, Bob Dylan, John Starling, John Duffey, and Doc Watson. Today Doc passed. It was a better world with him in it.
I first saw him in Richmond around 1985 at The Mosque, but I had already been listening to him for some time. That show was not that long after his son and playing partner, Merle, passed tragically. The opening acts were Mike Cross (his version of “Panama Limited” is amazing!) and John Hartford (marking the rhythm of his fiddle tunes with his feet dancing atop a ply board set across two by fours). As Doc was guided on stage and to his chair, he looked uncertain right until he spoke and began to play, and then he was suddenly and completely in command—earnest, sure, humble, assertive, driving, funny, and perfectly at ease. His guitar was forever the right partner for his voice, and for his presence.
Tonight when I go to sleep I will hear “Deep River Blues”, and I will feel them and “let the big waves make a wall” for the moment right before I imagine that today is the day he can see again. Godspeed.