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‘Doc Watson Family Milestones’ – Treasure Trove of Home Recordings, Photos, Kickstarter Campaign Ensues


By Jesse Wood

Feb. 11, 2013. “Nancy Watson, Doc Watson’s only daughter, would like to tell you a story. It is a story made up of songs, family history, narrative and photographs over a decade in the making.” 

That’s how the description for the Kickstarter project entitled “Doc Watson Family Milestones” starts. 

Doc Watson Family Milestones is an audio and visual collage that “quite literally began with scissors and construction paper, string and glue, recently found reel-to-reel tapes, and stacks of family photo albums,” according to the Kickstarter webpage. 

Photo by Jesse Wood
Photo by Jesse Wood

For the diehard Doc Watson fan, this four-disc collection, which features never-before-released material that has been recorded without “outside influence and for [The Watson Family’s] own enjoyment,” will leave them speechless. 

Nancy Watson found every single one of the 94 recordings, which span from 1953 through 2006, in Doc Watson’s house in Deep Gap, according to Roy Andrade, a producer helping Nancy on the project, in the Kickstarter promotional video.

“It’s the first anthology of family’s music that I know of that was created entirely from within the family,” Andrade said. “All of these home recordings were recorded by members of the family meaning that they actually pressed the record button.”

The collection allows you to take a step back in time to when Doc played his electric guitar, when he used to play pop, jazz and rockabilly standards at local square dances to pay the bills- all before the Folk Revival exploded across the nation.

Listen to Doc’s father-in-law Gaither Carlton, an old-time fiddler, sing songs and play fiddle and banjo tunes. Listen to original ballads by Nancy, Rosa Lee and, of course, Doc. Listen to rare home recordings, rehearsals and live concerts, and flip through collages of 500 photographs created by Nancy.

“Listening to the music and finding all these treasures that have basically been hidden away, it’s just been so much fun,” said Nancy Watson in the video, adding that she’s learned so much more about her family through the course of the decade-long project.

The reason for the Kickstarter campaign is affordability – for both the creators of the project and the consumers. The family could afford to take on 1,000 copies yet the end product would cost well over $100 per copy, which is unacceptable for the Watson family. So the Kickstarter campaign is raising money to print off 5,000 copies that will be audio-mastered by GRAMMY Award-winning engineer Bill Wolf, and in the end, be more affordable for the consumer, fans of the late Doc Watson. 

For those who support the Kickstarter campaign, another treasure trove exists. Backers have the chance to earn mementos of Doc with certain dollar pledges.

Items include:

  • Doc’s Ball Cap,
  • Doc’s Guitar Strings,
  • Doc’s Finger Pick,
  • Doc’s Flat Pick,
  • Doc’s Capo,
  • Doc’s Pocket Knife,
  • Doc and Merle Out of Print CD,
  • Doc and Chet Out of Print CD,
  • Doc’s Silver Belt Buckle,
  • Doc’s Shirt and Photo
  • Hand Stitched Quilt,
  • Doc’s Lap Steel Guitar
  • Doc’s Hammered Dulcimer
  • Hand Woven Rug
  • Doc’s Cigar Box Slide Guitar
  • Doc’s Harmonica
  • Doc’s Braille Hymnal

Here’s What’s Inside The Box Set:

  • Recordings made by various members of the Watson family in an informal setting, without outside influence and for their own enjoyment.
  • Rare selections that Doc Watson recorded by himself at home, using a multi-track tape machine, on which he creates a veritable one-man string band.
  • Material ranging from Doc’s father-in-law Gaither Carlton singing songs and playing fiddle and banjo tunes, to Doc telling stories of his early life, to work songs sung by Doc Watson’s mother.
  • Recordings from the 1950s of Doc playing his Les Paul electric guitar – unavailable until now. At this early point in his career, he was playing pop, jazz and rockabilly standards with pianist Jack Williams.
  • Three original songs written by Doc Watson, and original material from other members of the family as well.
  • Home recordings of rehearsals for the 1961 Friends of Old-Time Music, as well as live concert performances spanning decades. 
  • Ballads by Doc, Nancy, and Rosa Lee Watson (Doc’s wife and Nancy’s mother) who also wrote two songs in the collection.
  • Collages of photographs created by Nancy. Over 500 in number, the pictures were carefully chosen from family photo albums and arranged to support the music you’ll hear.

The box set is set to be released in April at MerleFest in Wilkesboro, which takes place April 25 to 28. 

So far more than 139 people have pledged $32,641 for the project. The Kickstarter campaign has 13 more days to raise the final total of $72,000.

For more information, click here: http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1207511959/doc-watson-family-milestones