Doc Watson/David Holt

        Last night we went down the road to Spindale, N.C., the home of WNCW radio, for a festival and concert by Doc Watson and David Holt.  Trust old Dr. B and put this on your calendar for next year; these folks know music.  We sat up our lawn chairs on a gentle grass slope right in front of the stage.  The backdrop was a small lake/large duck pond.  The wind whipped up a few waves and the leaves fluttered around.  All the best regional bands were there.  Very soon I forgot of the troubles I brought with me.

        If you have never seen Doc Watson, the time to go is now.  Like the Appalachian mountains he still calls home, Doc has seen a lot in his time and he continues to express it in his artistry.  He is genuine, no put on whatsoever.  David Holt led him to the stage. Doc was in a flannel shirt and had on some kinda dark dungarees, white socks and worn brown brogans.  As he tuned up my heart pounded with the anticipation of a small child.  I have heard him many times, and yet never grown tired of Doc.  He is as comfortable as a front porch session and yet brilliant.  He began to play.  My wife and did not speak a word until the first break for fear we might miss a note.

        David Holt was the perfect picking partner for Doc.  His respect for him was clear.  He’d coax Doc into telling old stories, some of which I’d never heard.  Doc told us how his dad taught him the harmonica, or French harp as they called it back then.  He told of  a day as a young boy when his grandmother sang ‘Uncloudy Day’ on the porch or listening to Merle Travis in the late 30s and how the ‘Deep River Blues’ came to him.  He talked about courting his wife with ‘Shady Grove’ (said his heart turned a flip the first time he heard her voice) played old fiddle tunes like ‘Rag Time Annie,’ and told of the days when he worked the other end of a cross-cut saw with his Dad.

         There was ‘Step it up and Go’ with David on the washboard, bones on Fisher’s Hornpipe, then hambones and harmonica. David laid his banjo in his lap and used the head as a snare with some brushes and they rendered the old Eddy Arnold number ‘Any Time’ with a swing feel that was might near jazzy.  Doc sang the Crystal Gayle “Ready for the Times to get Better’ in Bm all weary and worn but with hints of hope.  There was the African-American “You Must Come in at The Door’ Doc first heard on a scratchy record many years ago. 

        It was David on the slide resonator with Doc doing ‘Sitting on Top of the World’ to Doc alone right after the break with “What a Friend We Have in Jesus.’  Simple, elegant, true.  Doc is Gershwin to spirituals; ragtime to blues.   He is real.  Please don’t miss him.

         For me it was a reverence close to a church service, though Doc would be the first to tell you we are all just imperfect humans.  Maybe so, but Doc is a mighty fine human, one who overcame a disability to become an American institution.  The remarkable thing is he remains simple and humble.  I don’t think he knows how special he is.

        They did one encore, and then the magic was over for the night.  We turned to the young couple next to us and they shared they had never seen Doc before.  I shook the young man’s hand.  “I’m so glad you were here.  I took my kids to see Doc twenty years ago, because I wanted them to experience truth in music.  They go to see him every chance they get.”

        “I will too, sir.” The boy watched as David led Doc off the stage.  “I promise.”

       I’ll go see Doc every chance I get too.  I learn something every time I get to hear him play and sing.

Dr. B

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10 Comments on “Doc Watson/David Holt”

  1. Carmen Claypool Says:

    I’ve never had the privilege of seeing Doc live, but oh how I admire his talent. His character and humility shine through his music. There are so many of the greats that will not be with us forever. You are right, he is such a treasure.

    • drtombibey Says:

      Carmen,

      I got to open one show for Doc and sit back-stage with him. I told him his music had kept me from running off the road on many a late night hospital run. He said that was why he played; to help people.

      He views himself as a blessed man but nothing special. I see it as he is both blessed and special, but you ain’t gonna convince him; he is so humble.

      This gig is doing with David Holt right now is the most soulful one I have seen him do since Merle died. In spite of having been around the world, sometimes I think Doc still has a bit of a shy side and he really opened up playing with David. It was one of the best concerts I have been to in a long time.

      Dr. B

  2. DJB Says:

    Dr. B: I love your post and your comments about Doc and David Holt. I had a similar experience last year at Merlefest which I wrote about on my blog (http://djbweblog.wordpress.com/2009/04/24/new-wave-and-old-standards-shine-at-merlefest/). I’ve been going to Doc Watson concerts since 1973 and I’ll continue to go as long as Doc keeps playing. The comment about “truth in music” was right on target! Thanks for writing.

    DJB

    • drtombibey Says:

      DJB,

      Thanks so much for visiting. Those of us who have been so lucky to see Doc for so many years have truly been blessed.

      Thanks for your writing too. We need to let the world know about these artists. Doc became famous (and well deserved) but we don’t hear enough about many of them.

      I enjoyed your blog and added it to my blogroll today.

      Dr. B

  3. danny fulks Says:

    I don’t know whether Doc has Kennedy Center honors, National Heritage, or others such as halls of fame. He wouldn’t admit it, but he deserves them. Doc Watson is a genre his own self, comfortable will any instrument in his jams, covers everything from hillbilly to rock to folk to country to jazz to traditional black to pop. Saw him once here in Ashland, Kentucky.

    • drtombibey Says:

      Dan,

      I have followed Doc for many years, and you are right. I have never heard him mention a single award and yet I am certain he must have gotten a bunch of ’em.

      He can do it all. Some might be a bit more flashy but none move me like Doc.

      Dr. B

  4. Billy Says:

    One of your best posts. Brought me right in the scene so much so that when I finished I had to have another cup of coffee just to get my thoughts together before I hit the road. Thank goodness for http://www.panara.com so I can listen to him when I am away from my CD’s

  5. drtombibey Says:

    Billy,

    I might post a DVD of Doc soon. He is musician, story teller and historian all rolled into one, as is David Holt. For now gotta go back to the doc gig of mine but will post more soon.

    Dr. B

  6. Dross Says:

    Doc’s the greatest ain’t he Dr. Tom. I think I’ll dig out some of his stuff and become immersed in him again just as I did in the early 70’s. And speaking of going back…I recently saw a banjo picker that I think we both know…last name of Jenks. He really wants to get together and pick some tunes soon. Wants to get an old friend named Cochran to join on bass, but we need a mandolin player to round things out. Know of one?


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