Doc Watson is the name most readily associated with bluegrass and Appalachian music, and that’s for good reason. He revolutionized folk music with his distinctive flatpicking guitar style (you have to see it believe it), and, through his clever lyrics, he always had a way of making life’s hardest moments beautiful. Following his death in the spring of 2012, Daytrotter’s Sean Moeller wrote this about the bluegrass legend:
There’s wallowing in your troubles and then there’s what Watson always did with them. He always managed to find incredible beauty in the darkest moments – those which were essentially going to be what convinced someone else of a man’s truest character. He was a poor man, but he was a happy man. He had been through the worst and he knew that somehow, the worst was probably still yet to come and come what may…They are the same old problems of people gambling with their lives, coming up short and making things better with whiskey and love and yet, there’s no one who can explain it all the way we expected Watson would be able to.
Indeed, Watson had a knack for making sorrow more tolerable. Moeller wrote the above in response to recordings from a 1963 show at the Ash Grove venue in Los Angeles. It just so happens that Watson played Ash Grove many times throughout the 60s and 70s, including four years after that on this day (Nov. 20) in 1967, recordings from which you can hear below. The Nov. 20 show was just one of a week-long residency at the famed California venue. At this set, he played classic American folk songs like “Crawdad Song” and “There’s More Pretty Girls Than One” as well as his own songs like the dark, brooding “St. James Hospital.” He’s joined by fellow old-time musicians Fred Price and Clint Howard.
Again, you can listen to Doc Watson perform in California circa 1967 below. While you’re here, take a glance at our roundup of the best Appalachian albums.