Doc Watson, the 89-year-old guitarist whose expert flatpicking style brought him a level of acclaim during the folk revival of the 1960s and who is still revered 50 years on, is recovering after he fell down at his Deep Gap, N.C., home. According to Mitch Greenhill, president of Folklore Productions International, which represents him, after being taken to to a hospital, other health issues were discovered.
"They determined after keeping him overnight that there were more serious things going on, and they transferred him to Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center in Winston-Salem for surgery," said Greenhill. The musician, who lost his eyesight when he was a year old, remains in critical but stable condition after undergoing colon surgery, he added.
A statement on the company's website reads, "Doc Watson is in critical but improved condition after undergoing colon surgery at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. The family appreciates everyone’s prayers and good wishes."
The guitarist and banjo player didn't achieve national acclaim until age 30, but drew influential supporters after his first appearance at Gerde's Folk City in 1961. After hooking up with fellow folkies such as David Grisman, Watson became a well-known figure in the budding scene. He was a regular performer at the Ash Grove whenever he was in Los Angeles.
These days, Watson is known as well for his founding of the popular North Carolina music event Merlefest, which brings together folkies from all over the country for a pleasant, family-friendly weekend of music. The event, which Watson started in the memory of his late son, celebrated its 25th anniversary in April, when the three-day event brought together dozens of acts, including Donna the Buffalo, Jim Lauderdale, Sam Bush, Bela Fleck and the Flecktones, and John Hammond. And, of course, headlining was Watson himself.
-- Randall Roberts
Photo: Music legend Doc Watson performs at the annual Merlefest at Wilkes Comunity College in Wilkesboro, N.C., on April 28, 2001. Credit: Alan Marler / Associated Press.