Name at birth: Arthel Lane Watson
Arthel "Doc" Watson is the blind guitarist who was a pioneer in the distinctive "flat-picking" style of folk and bluegrass guitar. "In a career that spanned seven decades, Mr. Watson influenced such diverse musicians as Jerry Garcia of the Grateful Dead, Clarence White of the Byrds, the innovative acoustic picker Leo Kottke and bluegrass multiinstrumentalist Ricky Skaggs," said his 2012 obituary in The Washington Post. Doc Watson grew up listening and playing traditional folk and bluegrass music on the family farm in North Carolina. Blind since he was an infant, Doc Watson began playing guitar for money in the 1950s, playing the electric guitar in a small local band. With the folk music revival of the 1960s, Doc moved to acoustic guitar (and harmonica) and recorded original and traditional tunes, quickly earning a reputation as one of the best flat-pickers in the business. He recorded several records with his son, Merle (born in 1943 and killed in 1985 in a tractor accident), and won Grammy awards for the 1973 recording Two Days in November. Doc Watson's influence on country and bluegrass music was widely acknowledged, as was his encyclopedic knowledge of traditional folk tunes. He died in 2012, shortly after undergoing abdominal surgery after a fall.
Doc Watson was “blinded by an eye infection before his first birthday,” according to his obituary from Bloomberg News… After his son’s death, Doc Watson founded the MerleFest music festival in Wilkesboro, North Carolina, which became one of the South’s biggest annual folk music festivals.