03 June 2015

Passing on

This cover image for the 1963 Folkways album Jean Ritchie and Doc Watson at Folk City forms a link between three recent obituaries on Bluegrass Today.

On Monday 1 June Jean Ritchie died. Born in December 1922 into a well known ballad-singing family in Viper, KY, she became the voice of Appalachian traditional music for innumerable people in the folksong revival of the mid twentieth century, and in particular was responsible for making the mountain dulcimer (below right) more widely known and played. A longer appreciation by Richard Thompson is in preparation;* meanwhile a biography can be seen on Wikipedia.

*Update 3 July: this has now appeared on Bluegrass Today.

Also on Monday 1 June, Richard Eddy Watson, grandson of Arthel 'Doc' Watson, died of a heart attack. He had continued the family tradition as an accomplished blues guitarist, accompanying Doc on tour and on stage, and through his work for the great MerleFest festival commemorating his father, Eddy Merle Watson.

The notes for the Smithsonian Folkways reissue of the Ritchie/Watson album were written by Joe (Joseph T.) Wilson (16 Mar. 1938-17 May 2015) of Tennessee, who was executive director of the National Council for the Traditional Arts (NCTA) from 1976 to 2004, and was designated a Living Legend by the Library of Congress in 2009.

Thanks to Fred Bartenstein for passing on news from the Galax Gazette that a celebration of Joe Wilson’s life, work, and legacy will be held on 25 June from 2.00 p.m. at the Blue Ridge Music Center in Galax, VA. Another celebration in Washington D.C. is planned for later this summer; details will be announced on the NCTA website, where tributes can already be read.



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