June 17, 2014. When Doc Watson was asked about the idea of a statue of his likeness being installed in downtown Boone, he said it would be okay if a plaque accompanied it reading “Just One of the People.” Doc wanted to be remembered first and foremost as a member of the community – a husband, father, grandfather and participant.
In that spirit, the Town of Boone will celebrate the fourth annual Doc Watson Day Celebration on June 20 at the Jones House Cultural and Community Center in downtown Boone with a free concert by some of Doc’s friends and admirers.
The concert will begin at 4 p.m. with the Elkville String Band followed by Charles Welch and John Kirby, Strictly Clean and Decent and concluding with The Kruger Brothers.
Four years ago, when the Town of Boone unveiled and presented the statue of Doc Waston at the corner of King and Depot streets, then Mayor Clawson declared the third Friday of June Doc Watson Day and the celebration has been taking place ever since. On the second annual celebration, Doc was slated to participate and perform but he passed away one month earlier. Close friend and collaborator Charles Welch and the Kruger Brothers performed, celebrating Doc’s life and music and setting the state for a continuing tradition.
Now in its fourth year, the Doc Watson Day Celebration is expanding to start earlier and include more entertainment all closely associated with Doc and his music legacy. The Elkville String Band hails from Wilkes County and specializes in local and regional songs, tunes and lore. Guitarist Herb Key has fathered stories and interesting facts about most of the songs he sings, including Doc’s version of Tom Dooley and more.
He accompanied Doc on bass during the unveiling of the statue four years ago. Key is well-supported in the band with fiddler Trevor McKenzie; banjo player, Jim Lloyd; and bassist, Bill Williams, all veteran musicians with deep roots in southern mountain string band music.
“The guys in Elkville String Band do their homework on the songs and tunes they play not because they want to be entertaining, rather because they live and breathe for this stuff,” said concert organier Mark Freed. “But, make no mistake, they are definitely entertainers.”
Charles Welch, longtime friend and collaborator with Doc Watson will perform after the Elkville String Band with his musical cohort, John Kirby. Welch grew up with Doc’s son, Merle, and was always a close friend with the family. He accompanied Doc and Merle on trips to gigs, and in the mid-1990s he began playing with Doc onstage including at the inaugural Doc Watson Day Celebration in 2011.
“It is always a treat to hear Charles talk about his travels, adventures and times with Doc, particularly coming from such a close friend,” Freed said. “Charles and John have been playing together for decades and their performances capture their close musical friendship.”
Strictly Clean and Decent will follow Welch and Kirby, featuring husband and wife multi-instrumentalists Kay and Patrick Crouch and bass player Ron Shuffler of the legendary bluegrass Shuffler family. The acoustic trio comes with an eclectic repertoire that includes bluegrass, country, Celtic, jazz, blues and traditional sounds of the southern mountains.
“To borrow a term from Doc, I think you could certainly call Strictly Clean and Decent’s repertoire Traditional-Plus,” said Freed.
The Kruger Brothers will play the final set of the evening making a three-year tradition of their participation in the Doc Watson Day Celebration.
“We feel very fortunate to have such amazing musicians be willing to participate in this free, community-based celebration,” said Freed. “These guys do it for their love of Doc and honoring his legacy.”
The Kruger Brothers moved from Switzerland to Wilkes County after making a few tours of the U.S. and performing at MerleFest. These days, the band is a regular fixture of the community and region, though they continue to get more national and international attention. last year, Jens Kruger was awarded the Steve Martin Award for Excellence in Banjo and the band recently released a recording of a commissioned musical work for the Banff Centre in Alberta, Canada called Spirit of the Rockies. At last year’s concert, they had just released Remembering Doc, an album celebrating one of their most important musical heroes and friends.
“It has been an honor helping to do a small part to carry forward Doc Watson’s legacy,” said Freed. “Sitting on the Jones House lawn, looking over the street where Doc honed his performing skills playing for change, listening to Doc’s friends play his songs and tell stories about him is really special.”
The Doc Watson Day Celebration is part of the Concerts at the Jones House series, produced by the Town of Boone’s Cultural Resources Department. The 2014 series is sponsored by the Downtown Boone Development Association, Mast General Store, MPrints, Footsloggers, Melanie’s, Farmer’s Rental and Power and Stick Boy Bread Co.
The Doc Watson Day Celebration Concert will begin at 4 p.m. in the front lawn of the Jones House Cultural and Community Center in downtown Boone at 604 W. King St. The concert will take place rain or shine. Patrons are encouraged to bring a chair though some chairs will also be made available. For more information including a complete schedule visit www.JonesHouseCommunityCenter.org. or call 828-268-6280.