If someone comes into your home a couple of weeks a year for three years in a row, you’re probably going to remember it, and maybe have some lasting memories from it. And so it was with Doc Watson, who stayed with me every time he played at the Ash Grove in LA in the middle ‘Sixties.
[The vinyl album slick (ca. 1966 or thereabouts) pictured here was a token from Doc in lieu of a signature. As I recall, Rosa Lee, his wife, took care of all his correspondence]
These visits had a whopping influence on my guitar playing, and I talk about that in other posts. But there were other, non-musical, experiences, some funny, some touching, some that were real learning ops for me. I’d like to put them all down in one place, right here and now, but I’m going to space them out a little in the silly hope that maybe you’ll come to this blog again. In my dreams. Although many of them are pretty interesting, even if not particularly momentous. The anecdotes, I mean.
Take, for example, some things I noticed about the way Doc, who didn’t travel with even a companion, let alone a retinue, coped with blindn−oops, sight-challengedness.
Besides the usual unsighted-persons use of watches and clocks with exposed numerals and hands and not-so-usual use of Braille, Doc had some routines that he may or may not have developed on his own.
For example, all his sox and shirts were one color, white, and all his pants were copier-repairman blue. His shoes were black. No exceptions. So he never had to ask anyone if he was color-cordinated or not. And nobody could play any mean-spirited tricks on him (see my post on him and Roy Noble’s psychedelic guitar). Doc prized his independence.
He carried bills of different denominations in different pants-pockets: ones, say, in front right, fives in front left, tens in right rear. A twenty (it was the ‘Sixties, remember: no one needed to carry a much bigger bill than that unless he was buying a car) went in his watch pocket. I asked him what he did in places like New York, where pickpockets would have a field-day with that organization plan. He told me he fastened the bills to the insides of his pockets with saftety pins.
“Doesn’t that make them really hard to get to?” I asked.
“Well, lets’ put it this way,” he said, grinning. “A lot of people pick up the bill when they eat with me.”
He also sometimes figured out where things were in a new place by measuring the distances between them with toe-to-heel steps. E.g, in my roomy Hollywood apartment, he quickly learned where the bathrooms, hi-fi (remember those?) and telephones were by counting the steps between them.
Next post: Doc-as-foodie. Y’all come back, y’hear? Please?