Daily Archives: June 1, 2012

Earl Scruggs and Doc Watson – American Virtuosos

The legendary Doc Watson passed away on Tuesday, coming just months after the death of the legendary Earl Scruggs. Both men had such a huge influence on American music that it would be impossible to talk about the development of Folk or Bluegrass music without mentioning each man by name. Both changed music forever as innovators and originators of their styles, with techniques that they each developed on their own individual instruments.

Earl Scruggs
Tim Mosenfelder/Getty

Earl Eugene Scruggs (January 6, 1924 – March 28, 2012) invented the three-finger banjo-picking style that is a signature sound of Bluegrass. It’s hard to overstate his contribution to the genre.

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AP file photo, April 28, 2001 – Music legend Doc Watson performs at the annual Merlefest at Wilkes Community College in Wilkesboro, N.C.

Arthel Lane “Doc” Watson (March 3, 1923 – May 29, 2012) took what should have been solo fiddle parts for Country-type songs, and adapted them to a unique flatpicking technique he developed for acoustic guitar, forever elevating the status of the guitar as a solo instrument, rather than just providing the rhythm. He helped create what we think of as American Folk Music today. He was also an amazing guitar fingerpicker and singer.


Here are some library materials featuring their techniques:

Doc’s Guitar (DVD): The Fingerpicking and Flatpicking of Doc Watson
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The Songs of Doc Watson (score) – “30 favorites as sung and played by the … folk musician of the Smokies. With transcriptions of guitar instrumentals and accompaniment patterns in standard music notation and tablature.”
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Earl Scruggs and the 5-String Banjo – According to the publisher Hal Leonard, this is “the best-selling banjo method in the world.” It includes sections on the history of the 5-string banjo, how to build a banjo, how to read tablature, autobiographical notes, and more.


Here are a few biographies of Doc:

Blind but Now I See: The Biography of Music Legend Doc Watson by Kent Gustavson.
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The Life Work and Music of the American Folk Artist Doc Watson by Fred Metting.


For your immediate enjoyment, I found this completely charming You Tube video of Earl and Doc, with their sons, playing music in Doc’s backyard. It brought a tear to my eye  – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DUzVUNJKiDc&feature=fvst

-Joelle

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