Doc Watson

A few years before the Beach Boys made their first record, the three brothers who formed the original core of the group sang together in the bedroom they shared in a tract home in suburban Southern California. Close quarters fed close harmony, and Brian, Carl, and Dennis Wilson taught themselves to emulate the sound of the pre-rock vocal groups—the Four Freshman and the Hi-Lo's, in particular.

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Doc Watson, the guitarist and singer who died this week at 89, seemed the embodiment of traditional American rural values. He was a handsome mountain man, solid in body and temperament, and he comported himself on stage with courtly grace and gentle humor. Born in the hills of North Carolina, he lost his sight as young child (though he would always have limited perception of light), and found early that he had a knack for playing the mountain music he heard growing up—first on a banjo his father made with the skin of the family’s recently deceased pet cat, then on the harmonica and guitar.

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