Legendary American folk guitarist Doc Watson has died, following colon surgery in North Carolina. The multiple Grammy-award winning musician was a highly influential player, and one of the reasons bluegrass and Appalachian folk music is still so popular, and his lightning-fast picking made him a huge influence on guitarists of all genres.
He lost his eyesight while still just a baby, and that hindrance was at least partially why he ended up pursuing music as a career instead of carpentry. While he had a strong singing voice, it was his approach to flatpicking that brought him the most fame, in particular his knack for reinventing fiddle tunes on guitar.
While he was famous for keeping acoustic mountain music traditions alive, his earlier days were spent playing electric guitar in rockabilly and western swing groups. After an appearance at the Newport Fold Festival in 1963 though, he became irrevocably associated with more traditional forms.
It's strange to think that even back then this music was thought of as old-fashioned. Were it not for his impact, bluegrass might have ended up being a forgotten art, instead of a mainstay at roots clubs and festivals worldwide.
Since 1988, he hosted the popular annual celebration of traditional music MerleFest, named after his son Merle, who was killed in a tractor accident. The fest is one of the largest of its type in the world, and attracts over 70 000 people to North Carolina each year.
He was a dedicated performer, and was still gigging until the very end.