Mr. Watson, who came to national attention during the folk music revival of the early 1960s, injected a note of authenticity into a movement awash in protest songs and bland renditions of traditional tunes. In a sweetly resonant, slightly husky baritone, he sang old hymns, ballads and country blues he had learned growing up in the northwestern corner of North Carolina, which has produced fiddlers, banjo pickers and folk singers for generations.
His mountain music came as a revelation to the folk audience, as did his virtuoso guitar playing. Unlike most country and bluegrass musicians, who thought of the guitar as a secondary instrument for providing rhythmic backup, Mr. Watson executed the kind of flashy, rapid-fire melodies normally played by a fiddle or a banjo. His style influenced a generation of young musicians learning to play the guitar as folk music achieved national popularity.
Watson performed at San Francisco’s Hardly Strictly Bluegrass festival in 2005, 2007, 2009 & 2010. Check out this great performance of “Deep River Blues,” with David Holt, at the festival…
And now I’ve gone to say goodbye
And if i sink just let me die
‘Cause I’ve got those deep river blues