Trial Balloon

Trial Balloon: May 12, 2010 Archive

An Audience With A Legend

Posted at 6:00 AM on May 12, 2010 by Dale Connelly (21 Comments)

Radio Heartland has tickets to a landmark event at the Cedar Cultural Center this Saturday night - the first Twin Cities appearance in five years by the legendary Doc Watson. The concert has sold out at $65 per seat.
Only three pairs of tickets remain.

As is the case with all our drawings, this is open to everyone.
You do not have to be an MPR member to enter or to win.

Enter the drawing.
Follow the rules.
Good Luck.

Doc Watson was born with a defect in the blood vessels around his eyes and became blind by the time he was one year old. He just turned 87 in March. He is an expert in flatpicking and fingerpicking guitar techniques. His influence among players of traditional and popular music is impossible to measure. Among his many honors, Doc received the National Medal of Arts from President Clinton in 1997.

Doc Watson.jpg

But far greater gifts came from Doc's father, who hand built a banjo for his 11 year old son. Watson told Fresh Air's Terry Gross that his dad ...

"... showed me a few of the old time frailing or clawhamer style banjo tunes. And one day he brought it to me and put it in my hands and said "son I want you to learn to play this real well. Some of these days we'll get you a better one. It might help get you through the world."

General Dixon Watson's dedication to helping his son 'get through the world' led to another important moment. When Doc was 14 his father assigned him to do some work with a crosscut saw - a risk many of today's hyper-protective parents wouldn't take with their sighted children. Doc told an interviewer for "Bluegrass Unlimited" ...

"He made me know that just because I was blind, certainly didn't mean I was helpless."

And it helped develop a useful skill. Doc and his younger brother cut and sold scrap wood to a local tannery to make some money. Doc used his share to buy his first mail order guitar from Sears Roebuck.

Years later, a music store proprietor in Boone, North Carolina offered to help Doc get a better guitar, a Martin D-18, by cutting the payments to five dollars a month.
As Doc told Terry Gross ...

"At that time I was playing at the little fruit stand and a little bean market that they had at Boone and makin' me a few shekels on Saturday. Havin' a good time a pickin'. I paid for the guitar that summer. He got me that thing at his cost - and it cost ninety bucks. And I paid for it. Lord I was proud of that guitar. But in all truth, compared to my guitar now it was like frettin' a fence.
It was really hard to play."

Doc Watson has certainly made the best of what he had to work with. If you didn't already know the story you wouldn't look at that early handmade banjo or the Sears mail order guitar and guess that a blind boy might pick them up and with time and talent, become a national treasure.

Have you stashed away an early tool or a toy that was a "starter" for a lifelong passion?

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