What a terrible year for Bluegrass, we lost another original member of the founding generation last night, Doc Watson.

Here’s the intro to the obit from the NYTimes…

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — Doc Watson, the blind Grammy-award winning folk musician whose mountain-rooted sound was embraced by generations and whose lightning-fast style of flatpicking influenced guitarists around the world, died Tuesday at a North Carolina hospital, according to a hospital spokeswoman and his manager. He was 89.

Watson died at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center in Winston-Salem, where he was hospitalized recently after falling at his home in Deep Gap, in the Blue Ridge Mountains. He underwent abdominal surgery while in the hospital and had been in critical condition for several days.

I had a few brushes with Doc at Merlefest over the years, but every time I’d see him I was so star struck I couldn’t even formulate words except, “good pickin Doc.” I bet he’d never heard that one before!

NC flat picking guitar legend Doc Watson critical after fall, get well soon Doc!

Just got this link from a friend. Our thoughts and prayers go out to Doc and his family. Get well soon, there’s more picking to do.

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — Grammy-winning folk musician Doc Watson is in critical condition at a North Carolina hospital after falling at his home earlier this week.

His daughter Nancy tells The Associated Press that the 89-year-old fell at his home in Deep Gap on Monday. She says he didn’t break any bones, but he is “real sick.”

He was in critical condition at Baptist Hospital in Winston-Salem.

The blind singer and guitarist has won several Grammys, including a lifetime achievement award. He also received the National Medal of the Arts.

He’s known as a master of the flatpicking style of guitar playing and for starting Merlefest, an annual gathering of musicians named after his son, who died in a tractor accident in 1985.

Freaky Fiddle Friday: Tony Rive – My Favorite Things, a you tube clip with good audio, who knew?

So today for Freaky Fiddle Friday I found a youtube video that actually has good audio… I didn’t even know there was such thing?

This is an amazing display of what a flat top guitar can do, it’s like a fiddle, a piano and a drum had a beautiful love child. Wyatt’s subtle textural rhythm and Tony’s screaming leads stand in stark contrast to each other, and yet they both are playing the same instrument, in fact the same model, how bout that.

The Rice brother’s here put on a display unlike any other in the pickin world. I could listen to this all day, let alone watch it! Praise BE!

It’s some hot pickin’ in the middle of January.

Thank you Mr. [C.F.] Martin

I saw this on the Bluegrassblog.com this morning and thought I needed to share it here. Its a cool video posted by the C.F. Martin company of their factory in 1939, where they are building what appear to be D sized guitars. DROOOOL!

Based on the value of current Martin guitars from the era this recording was made, I’d say there is nothing shy of a small fortune shown in this video.

So here we are again confronted with the notions of things made in the USA. C.F.Martin being a great example of things still made in the USA.

I know this is toeing the thin line just this side of mawkishness, but I think the video above illustrates the ways things should be. There’s no rushing in the video. There’s not much automation. Things are standardized and jigged to make it easy to produce enough guitars to make money, but still enough hand work to make things enjoyable and not dull. The workers in this video are certainly craftsman of the highest order. However, we don’t see them pondering their existence in zen-like state of mind and or ruminating on the thickness of a plane shaving. They are just plain getting some good guitars built, some of the best ever built I should ad.

But to be honest, these guys are there to make money and put food on the table, while working with tools and their hands and being active. It doesn’t look easy, but it doesn’t look as taxing a days work in the mines either. Sure there are probably OSHA violations in there somewhere. But I think this an example of what we need to moving towards as a society and what I think much of the small makers are enjoying, be it the Bamboo rod builders, or custom luthiers business.

Jobs like these find a balance between craftsmanship and production. Between hand work and automation. Where things of quality are built to last a lifetime and that appreciate in value over time. Things that find their way into our grandchildren’s hands long after we are gone. That’s what we should producing more of and building on. Functional works of art.

I digress… see you on the blown out river or in the jam circle, maybe, if the water level drops a little bit more, and Uncle Gary brings the shine.

Tony Rice Workshop in Roanoke VA


Tony Rice performing at our beloved Merlefest.


Just announced today, the Ultimate Guitar Strummit, in Roanoke Virginia featuring workshops by Tony and Wyatt Rice as well as Josh Williams, and John Miller. Sounds like a good time. I do think saying Tony has never participated in a workshop environment this intense is a bit of a stretch, but whatever it takes I suppose. He has done workshops like this at Jorma’s Fur Peace Ranch right down the road from Fiddle and Creel World Headquarters. But you know, everybody’s gotta be the biggest and the best or first and the mostest, right? Big Mon wouldn’t have it any other way, competition brings out the best in us. Anyway it looks like a good event.

Check the map of trout streams around Roanoke below. Looks promising. I say leave Tuesday morning, fish Tuesday afternoon and all day Wednesday, hit guitar the Strummit on Thursday and Friday, and get home on Sunday. Who is in? Thats a heck of a way to beat the February blues right?

And for good mesure here is s clip of Bill Monroe playing an old time fiddle Tune entitled Roanoke! Bobby Hicks and Charlie Cline on Fiddle, priceless.

Tony Rice Live – Early Morning Rain

This is some classic footage of the Rice Unit playing an excellent Fall-like tune. This friday is the Pheasant opener here in Ohio, and it looks like they are calling for rain and snow. I still don’t know if I can get that day off yet, but I’m working on it. If not then Saturday will have to do.

In a testament to how the fashion world just recycles the same things over and over again, the shirt Tony is wearing would be quite fashionable right now. In fact there is probably some over-priced boutique in Manhattan selling that exact shirt right now for like $300. The more things change the more they stay the same. Maybe he was just WAY ahead of time, or perhaps timeless, or maybe both.

Who cares… how they heck can he play those guitar licks so’ flawlessly is what I want to want to know. Tone, fluidity, grace, punch, execution, crisp enunciation, its all there. Like a perfectly placed upstream presentation of a #14 Adams to a rhythmically rising rainbow, perfection.

And it looks like Vassar on fiddle, RIP – we miss him.

Church Street Blues

Some friends of mine were playing last night at Byrne’s Pub, the greatest Irish Pub I’ve ever been to. I didn’t get to go, but I would like to have.

The fall has crept up on us and now the nights are cool and dry. The days are still warm, but the leaves are falling from the poplar trees like it was the middle of October. Still we sweat in the hot sun and shiver in the cool evening breeze. Nothing says lonesome fall like a solo guitar.

So I thought some good pickin was in order, so without further adieu, here is the legendary Tony Rice playing one of my favorites, Church Street Blues.

Let’s pause today to remember a great one.

Clarence and Roland White – I am a Pilgrim

On this day July 15th, only a few years before I was born, we lost one of the best guitar players of all time, Clarence White. So it is without further adieu that I present a great rendition of I am a Pilgrim and Soldier’s Joy.

New Tony Rice Biography due out soon…

I know what I’ll be reading in April.

The long rumored  Tony Rice biography is due out on April 12th and will be available at Merlefest, too bad I’m not going this year. Details are available on the official website here. It sounds really good. However, I’m not sure what kind of writer Tim Stafford is but it sounds like it could suffer from a case of the schizoids. With each chapter having an intro by Tony then additions by the author, and other supporting details following that? I don’t know,that could end up being a whole heap of jumble, but I hope deep down it works. This one will be one for the ages. He is a true master, and I hope this does him and his enormous contribution to music justice.