1000 x 90

Festival, Friends to Honor Doc Watson’s Legacy at MusicFest N Sugar Grove July 15-16

Story and Photos by Jessica Isaacs | jessica@highcountrypress.com

The annual Doc and Rosa Lee Watson MusicFest ‘N Sugar Grove is right around the corner, set for Friday and Saturday, July 15-16. With an astounding variety of chart-topping, award-winning and up-and-coming performers in the lineup, this year’s event promises an incredible chance to get to know the artists who are taking Appalachian music and the bluegrass world by storm.

Charles Welch, a longtime friend of Doc Watson, plays a tune on the porch at the Mast Store in Valle Crucis during a press conference for MusicFest 'N Sugar Grove. Photo by Jessica Isaacs.
Charles Welch, a longtime friend of Doc Watson, plays a tune on the porch at the Mast Store in Valle Crucis during a press conference for MusicFest ‘N Sugar Grove.

Following tradition, the two-day festival will take place on the grounds of the historic Cove Creek School building in Sugar Grove and its lineup will feature more than 22 impressive acts. Among them are local musicians, regional artists with strong ties to the area, rising stars, celebrated veterans and several of this year’s coveted International Bluegrass Music Association nominees.

Now recognized as a career-launching festival for many of the bluegrass scene’s shining stars, MusicFest has hosted countless world-renowned performers since its 1997 inception. Its mission, however, remains the same: to honor legendary artist Doc Watson and his wife, Rosa Lee, and to carry on the traditions of his genuine musical heritage.

Taking the stage again this year will be Watson’s longtime friend Charles Welch, who often shared the stage with him over the years. Welch will perform some of the songs and arrangements that Watson made famous, as well as share stories about his life, his music and their friendship.

Welch played the festival with Doc every year until his passing, and has continued to play it every year since.

“I don’t know any person that wouldn’t know about Doc. Everybody knows Doc, no matter where they come from. He was such a cool guy — really an awesome person to be around,” Welch said at a press conference held Tuesday at the Mast General Store in Valle Crucis. “He would always make you feel welcome. He never let celebrity bother him. He was just Doc.”

He picked a few tunes during the press conference that he loved to share with Doc, and spoke to the legend’s unique sound.

“His arrangements of the songs were the best — the very best. You could hear that same song, but everybody always wanted to learn Doc’s version,” Welch said. “His style of playing just absolutely influenced every person that’s ever picked up an acoustic guitar. Not just folk music, blues or Americana, but all music.”

Welch said he enjoys playing MusicFest every year for many reasons, although sharing stories about Watson is by far his favorite part.

“It’s just a very neat festival and it’s very family-oriented. It’s a good lineup and good food,” he explained. “What I really like about it is saying things about Doc and keeping his memory alive. He was such an important part to Watauga County.

“Doc just had a way about him that just made you feel real welcome. Like he was playing music just especially for you — and he really was. He liked to play music for people and make them feel good about it.”

About Doc Watson

From downtown Boone to the streets of New York and many other major cities across the globe, Deep Gap native and flatpicking icon Arthel Lane “Doc Watson” (1923-2012) led a remarkable life, and his unique musical career left a legacy that is nothing short of phenomenal.

Although he won seven Grammy awards in addition to the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award, this world-traveling singer, songwriter and all-around musical pioneer kept a humble attitude and throughout his life maintained that he was “just one of the people.”

He revolutionized the genres of bluegrass, folk, country, blues and gospel to create a sound that was entirely his own — a sound that continues to inspire musicians around the world and that countless musicians his junior work hard to carry on, pay tribute to and replicate.

Watson’s life and music are recognized annually at the Doc and Rosa Lee Watson MusicFest ‘N Sugar Grove, where he played for several years until his passing.


Photos from Tuesday’s MusicFest ‘N Sugar Grove press conference with Charles Welch at the original Mast General Store in Valle Crucis:












The 2016 MusicFest Lineup:

For tickets, directions and additional information, visit musicfestnsugargrove.org or call Cove Creek Preservation and Development at 828-297-2200.

Festival rules: no glass, no coolers, no tents and no pets.

Friday, July 15

Gates Open at 1 p.m.

On the Solar Stage:

  • 3:15-4 p.m. Mike Preslar
  • 4:15-5:15 p.m. Ashley Heath
  • 5:30-6:30 p.m. Broke Holler

In the Museum:

  • 3:15-4 p.m. John Peterson Mountain Banjo

On the Main Stage:

  • 3 p.m. Opening Ceremony
  • 3:15-4 p.m. Strictly Strings
  • 4:15-5:15 p.m. Andy Ferrell
  • 5:30-6:30 p.m. Clay Lunsford
  • 6:45-7:45 p.m. The Honey Chasers
  • 8-9:30 p.m. Rob Ickes and Trey Hensley
  • 9:30-10 p.m. Jam

Saturday, July 16

Gates Open at 10 a.m.

On the Solar Stage:

  • 11-11:45 a.m. Mike Preslar
  • Noon to 1 p.m. Broke Holler
  • 1:15-2:15 p.m. Brandon Holder
  • 2:30-3:30 p.m. Thistle Dew
  • 3:45-4:45 p.m. Clinchfield Mountain Boys

In the Museum:

  • Noon to 12:45 p.m. Tin and Anders
  • 2-2:45 p.m. Bob Kogut and Friends Fiddle Extravaganza

On the Main Stage:

  • 11 a.m. to Noon Cane Mill Road
  • 12:15-1:15 p.m. Ashley Heath
  • 1:30-2:30 p.m. Amantha Mill
  • 2:45-3:45 p.m. Jim Lloyd
  • 4-5:15 p.m. Snyder Family Band
  • 5:15-5:45 p.m. Doc and Rosa Lee Watson Memorial Scholarship Presentation
  • 5:45-6:30 p.m. Charles Welch
  • 6:45-7:45 p.m. ClayBank
  • 8-9:30 p.m. The Grascals
  • 9:30-10 p.m. Jam