Center for the Arts Presents Doc Watson with David Holt and Richard Watson

Posted: December 4, 2009 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: December 4, 2009 at 9:22 am

Legendary folk musician Doc Watson is the recipient of seven Grammy Awards, a National Medal of the Arts, a National Heritage Fellowship and the National Academy of Arts and Sciences Lifetime Achievement Award.

Watson returns to the Center for the Arts on Saturday, Dec. 5, at 8 p.m. for a program that he calls “Hills of Home,” with his grandson, Richard Watson, and long-time collaborator and Grammy-winning banjoist David Holt.

Showcasing his universally acknowledged virtuosity of the flatpicking guitar, Doc Watson has mastered a wide range of musical genres, including traditional ballads, fiddle tunes, blues, gospel, country and contemporary music.

Guitar was primarily a rhythm instrument at the turn of the 20th century. While many folk and rock ‘n’ roll musicians helped bolster the guitar’s popularity, Watson had the greatest influence on the way the acoustic flat top guitar is played as a lead instrument in folk, old-time and bluegrass music.

Fans not only enjoy Watson’s guitar playing, but also his smooth baritone voice, sharp wit and intellect, good nature, country charm and his wonderful storytelling ability.

Watson was born in Deep Gap in the mountains of North Carolina, into a family and a region already rich in musical tradition. His mother, Annie Watson, sang traditional secular and religious songs and his father, General Watson, played the banjo, which he taught to his son. A defect in his eyes caused Watson to completely lose vision before his first birthday. However, his father ensured he never felt helpless. Watson’s father built him a banjo and also bought him a guitar when he was 13.

In 1953, Watson began playing gigs for money with Jack Williams’ rockabilly/swing band, and in 1960, he was invited to record for the first time. Subsequent invitations came to play concerts in New York and at the Newport Jazz Festival. A series of remarkable recordings, including collaborations with Flatt & Scruggs, Chet Atkins, Ricky Skaggs and the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band helped make Watson the gold standard among traditional pickers.

Watson performed for many years with his son Merle, who died in a tractor accident in 1985, and he now hosts the annual Merle Watson Memorial Festival. Since Merle’s death, Watson often performs with his grandson, Richard, and Holt, who is known for his folk music and storytelling recordings, his numerous programs on TNN, “Folkways” on PBS, “Riverwalk” on public radio, and for performing throughout the country.

Watson and Holt have known each other for more than 35 years and have recorded several CDs together, including the three-volume CD “Legacy,” which won the Grammy Award for Best Traditional Folk Recording of 2002.

A discussion, free to ticket holders, begins 45 minutes prior to the performance on the Center’s Grand Tier III.

Tickets are $42, $34 and $21. Tickets are half price for youth through grade 12 when accompanied by an adult. Charge by phone at 888-945-2468 or visit www.gmu.edu/cfa.

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