"I'd think learning to play the guitar would be very confusing for sighted people."
- Doc Watson
Doc Watson (1923-2012), a blind musician from the mountains of Deep Gap, North Carolina was an originator and master of the style of guitar playing known as “flatpicking”. Bluegrass musicians to this day embrace his dazzling style of playing a solo using rapid up and down strokes while holding a plectrum (flatpick).
In 1953 Doc traded his Martin guitar for an electric gold-top Gibson Les Paul and joined a rockabilly band to support his young family. Because the band did not have a fiddler, Doc picked out the fiddle tunes on his Les Paul. Doc was “discovered” in 1960 by folklorist Ralph Rinzler and was asked to be part of a recording session, but was encouraged to play an acoustic guitar instead of his Les Paul. In those early acoustic years, Doc borrowed several old Gibson flat tops including the 1948-1949 Gibson J-45 shown here until 1963 when Doc purchased a 1945 Martin D-18. The D-18 was his main guitar until J.W. Gallagher gave Doc one of his custom hand-built guitars in 1968. From that point on Doc played Gallagher guitars, or occasionally he was seen with a guitar that legendary guitar builder Wayne Henderson gave him in 2006.
Doc’s talents did not stop at flatpicking; he was also an excellent vocalist, songwriter, fingerstyle guitarist, and banjo player. Doc recorded ‘The Black Mountain Rag’ on his first album in 1964 and it still inspires fledgling pickers to try to flatpick the fiddle tune on their guitars.
- Black Mountain Rag (Live) from The Essential Doc Watson, 1973
- Windy and Warm from Southbound, 1966
My 1948 Gibson J-45 – The J-45 “Jumbo” model made its debut in 1942. The early ones are highly desirable, but some of the post-war Gibsons (like this one) can also be terrific sounding guitars. This particular guitar does not have a serial number but can be dated by its specs. The preferred small rectangular bridge and small teardrop pickguard make this guitar a bit more desirable than the ones soon to follow with larger and newly shaped pickguards and bridges. This era Gibson is known for its chunky neck which players either love or hate. Many changes to the original design were made over its run, but never for the better.