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Video: Author Kent Gustavson on Doc Watson

Arthel Lane “Doc” Watson, who lived from 1923 to 2012, was undoubtedly among the most influential of American musicians of the past 100 years. The conventional wisdom is that Watson was a virtuoso country guitar player. That’s accurate. But, at the same time, it’s subtly limiting. Watson was a amazing musician who was a bedrock of Americana and country genres who connected to his audiences in a deep and meaningful way.

I recently spent a few minutes discussing Watson with Kent Gustavson, author of “Blind But Now I See: The Biography of Music Legend Doc Watson” (Here it is at Amazon.) Check out the video of our conversation on the left. Among the many interesting things that Kent shared was that Watson could play many different types of music at a very high level. And he should know: Gustavson has a doctorate in classical composition and has released several albums.

My attraction to Doc Watson goes deeper than his guitar playing. There are lots of superb players, many of whom I enjoy. Obviously, Watson is at the top of the heap in terms of skill. But what is even more pronounced in every video I have watched is the deep sense of dignity that Watson projects.

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Doc Watson (Photo: Joe Giordano)

Rolling Stone’s David Fricke did a nice job of highlighting two important elements of what made Watson special in this remembrance. It was posted when Watson died:

But Watson was a pioneering instrumentalist – liberating the guitar from its supporting rhythmic role in country rags and mountain balladry with a jazzman’s drive, improvising on complex fiddle and banjo motifs like a Blue Ridge Django Reinhardt – who always took the Main Point stage like a neighbor from the next valley over, delighted to be passing through. He conversed with the crowd in a gently crusted drawl and sang fireside standards such as “Deep River Blues” and “Tennessee Stud” with renewing vigor – a dynamic reminder of a rough dynamic America that was, at the time, not that distant.

Notice that two important and very distinct elements are side by side in the paragraph. One is that Watson was a major innovator. The other is that he was a gifted performer. The two are not synonymous, but do often go together. The commentators agree that the strength of Watson’s relationship with the audience was that he was able to project in a very real way who he was. The idea that emerges is that he was a great showman because he was not a showman.

Kent Gustavson is co-founder of Thought Leadership Path. He says that the organization works with experts and entrepreneurs on their authority platforms in order to help them up-level in life and business.

Below the Amazon links is “Deep River Blues.” Sad commentaries about our modern world come in surprising ways. To me, it’s that 155 people gave this a thumbs-down.

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Duke Ellington brought class, sophistication and style to jazz which, until that point, was proudly unpolished and raucous. His story is profound. The author, Terry Teachout, also wrote "Pops," the acclaimed bio of Louis Armstrong. Click here or on the image.

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