Power Pickers
of the '60's

Musicians of the Flower Generation


Doc Watch: ARTHEL WATSON, Tank Commander

This post will be a shorty, and I apologize for how long it’s been since the last one, but in all honesty I’ve been woodshedding for an audition/gig I did Monday, and my mind has been on my  own guitar playing, self-absorbed little putz that I am. I’ll tell you how it turns out, but only if  I get the gig.

However, what I will tell you is I’ve just learned that Doc Watson, unsighted, as you know, was sent a draft notice to serve in WWII, despite his “visually challenged status,” I think is how they’d prob. say that now.  Jeez, my father was rejected because of flat feet. Maybe Southern draft boards were just tougher than our Yankee wussie-boards were then.  Or maybe they thought Doc was an M.D., and they figured if he can practice medicine he can shoot a cannon. That’s ridiculous; everyone  knows Doc  never packs anything bigger than a thirty ought six.  Go figure.

Anyway, I learned about this from Nancy Watson, Doc’s daughter, in a conversation we had day before yesterday. I had called to ask her if there was anything I could do to help move along a Watson Family project, an audiobook, she has undertaken. My contribution would prob. be trying to help her market the project, i.e., find a publisher and/or CD maker who interested in producing and distributing it.

This would be because I live in New York, where there are still some publishers and CD packagers (the CD’s would contain music no one outside the family has ever heard before), as opposed to Deep Gap, NC, where there are prob. are very few or none.

I can’t tell you too much about Nancy’s labor of love, since I don’t know much about it myself, yet, and because I don’t want to betray a trust with her and anyone else in the Watson Family. Doc is the one who put me in touch with Nancy.

But I think it will contain, besides some hitherto (you like that?) unreleased music, music, interviews, photographs and, possibly, a narrative by Nancy that I am pushily suggesting.

Nancy is a folklorist, like myself, and is anything but naïve or unschooled about how you collect, organize and present the kind of information she’s working with. That’s why I would love to interview hershe has interviewed many people, but not herself—and get her to narrate the history and ramifications of the Watson Family over time and place. She knows more than anyone about the subject, and knows how to talk about it.

So, how ‘bout it Nancy? (I told you I was pushy).

Anyway, there’s no reason for me to assume I will necessarily have anything to do with project except watch Nancy create it, but for the record—and isn’t that what blogs are for?—I really want to.

In a similar way, I don‘t know if anyone of you is at all interested in this, but in case you are, remember: you heard it here first.

Written but not rewritten, July 31, 2009.

  1. Bob Fenton Says:

    It was great to see you again last Saturday in west Hollywood.
    I was a big fan of Doc etal. I graduated from Cal in ’61 when folk Music was all the rage. As an aside, I lived on Merrywood Dr. off of Laural Canyon for a short while. The guy next door was a friend of Leadbelly
    who lived with him for awhile.(before my time)
    I am impressed with all your accomplishments.

  2. allan Says:

    Thanks a lot. Great to see you, too, your being the only non-Farrell person in the room (world?) that knows the Farrell family longer than I. Comment more. I love it.


  3. Bob Fenton Says:

    It took me awhile to remember you ( being 73 and all) but I finally did. You were the kid who lived next door the Mike and Jim. I guess you know that.

  4. allan Says:

    Yep. 8945 Rosewood. They were 8949. What was your address?


  5. Bob Fenton Says:

    It is funny but I remember Mike % Jim’s address and phone numbers
    CR 15468 but I can’t remember my own. We lived on Melrose just up the street and then on Beverly just around the corner next to the
    card house. Across the street from Mickey Chaoen(sp)?

  6. allan Says:

    Vague memories of your living in two different but near places, the second being Beverly Blvd. I also remember the card place, but only from the outside. Did you ever go in?
    Also, vague recollection of something about Mickey Cohen living somewhere near, but beyond that just a fog. As soon as you mentioned the Farrell’s phone number I remembered it, too. Funny what sticks and what doesn’t.

  7. Bob Fenton Says:

    My grandfather, Solon Levey, owned the tailor shop next door and was friendly with the card house’s cook. So I was in the kitchen a lot. Mickey Cohen had a place across Beverly from us. It was machine gunned in a drive by but he was not hit. We had actually lived there for a short while before he got the place.

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