Pick Another One For Merle: MCR 4.23.14
The world lost the great Doc Watson almost two years ago. It was a solemn day for me because he was a hero at so many levels. He was my all-time favorite North Carolinian - a guy who’d made the rustic mountain side of my home state look pure and righteous and deep in the eyes of a world too quick to harbor hillbilly stereotypes. He was, in my opinion, the single greatest musician to be widely known and associated with folk music from the 60s revival through the new millennium, and that matters because Doc was a powerful ambassador, whose guitar skills, voice and wide ranging repertoire kept the music kept growing for half a century.
Doc lived a long and fulfilling life. Not so his only son Merle, a superb artist himself, who died in an accident in 1985. The tragedy robbed Doc of a loved one but also a musical partner who’d handled the driving and so much of the work. Doc had to adjust and carry on with new partners, and I’m sure it was never quite the same. The people of Wilkes County, NC weren’t about to let Merle’s memory die. They set up a small commemoration that evolved into one of the nation’s big-time festivals – a magnificent union of logistics and curatorial skills. I learned my way through bluegrass and Americana at Merlefest in the 90s and 2000s. To be invited to play there is a sign of having arrived in roots music.
This week, we mark our annual collaboration with Merlefest with a show featuring five artists who will be performing there just a day or two after their Wednesday night engagement with us. So many stories here. So little space.