BMI’s database credits Doc Watson with 136 published compositions, co-compositions, and arrangements, including:

  • “Doc’s Guitar”
  • “Southbound”
  • “Your Lone Journey”

Early Influences

  • Delmore Brothers
  • Jimmie Rodgers
  • Carter Family
  • Merle Travis
  • Chet Atkins

Came to Fame With

  • Clarence Ashley, on folk tours and recordings, 1960-1962.

Performed With

  • Jack Williams and the Country Gentlemen (North Carolina), 1953-1962
  • Clarence Ashley and Friends, 1960-1962
  • Doc Watson, 1962-1970
  • Doc and Merle Watson, 1970-1985
  • Doc Watson, 1985-2012

By the Way

  • Doc’s widow Rosa Lee (1931-2012) was the daughter of Gaither Carlton, a neighbor and old-time fiddler.  Married in 1947, Rosa Lee and Doc composed “Your Lone Journey” about their separations during Doc’s early 1960s travels as a performer.
  • Son Eddy Merle (named for Eddy Arnold and Merle Travis, and the namesake of Merlefest) was Doc’s musical and touring partner from his middle teens until his death at thirty-six in a farming accident.
  • Appeared at the first multi-day bluegrass festival, Fincastle, Virginia, 1965.
  • Bill Monroe loved an introductory run Doc played with him on an instrumental version of “You’ll Find her Name Written There”and renamed it “Watson Blues.”
  • Doc’s first Gallagher guitar, which he named “Old Hoss,” is on display at the Country Music Hall of Fame in Nashville, Tennessee.

Led the Way

  • The most significant influence on lead guitar in bluegrass music.  Most famous for his flat-picked arrangements of fiddle tunes, Doc is also widely appreciated for his guitar finger-picking, old-time banjo playing, harmonica, and rich vocals.
  • Released more than 40 albums.
  • Received seven Grammy awards in 1973, 1974, 1979, 1986, 1990, 2002, and 2006, and the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 2004.
  • National Heritage Fellowship, National Endowment for the Arts, 1988.
  • National Medal of Arts, 1997.
  • Bluegrass Hall of Fame, 2000.

From the Archives

From the Archives: Bill Monroe on outside stage at night standing with, first row from left to right, First Lady, Mrs Jimmy Carter, Doc Watson, President Jimmy Carter, Bill Monroe and unidentified man. A group of unidentified people can be seen standing behind them. The occasion was "A Georgia Barbecue" hosted by President and Mrs Jimmy Carter at the White House on 7 August, 1980. Donated by the Jimmy Carter Presidential Library and Museum.

From the Archives: Doc and Merle Watson. Doc Watson came to Japan to celebrate 200 years of US independence in Tokyo. Photo by Nobuharu Komoriya.

From the Archives: Merle and Doc Watson at the Roanoke Blue Grass Festival in Fincastle, Virginia 1965. Photo by Ron Petronko.

"Doc has picked the fiddle tunes when the fiddler didn't show and played rock 'n' roll for the drunks at the VFW because, by God, ten dollars was a lot of money and he had a family to feed and clothe."
Joe Wilson in "Doc Watson: Just One of Us," Muleskinner News, June 1974.
"The late Ralph Rinzler, the wonderful guy who helped me get started, said, 'Doc, play the old-time things till you get your foot in the door, and then you can expand."
Quoted by Barry Mazor in Meeting Jimmie Rodgers, 2009.
"As we discussed the events and changes in Doc's life during the past fifteen years, I asked if any particular one thing stood out as the most important, Doc thought for a moment, smiling...'One day I came home from a trip, sat down, and wrote to the people with the State, and told them I wouldn't be needing their help anymore."
Joe Wilson in "Doc Watson: Just One of Us," Muleskinner News, June 1974.