I recall hearing Doc say that he named his son after Merle Travis. I gather that Doc was VERY heartbroken over losing his son, and I wouldn't doubt that it still pains him some. Some aspects of life just suck.
Nevertheless, Doc plugs along, still playing wonderful music for us to enjoy. I just heard of Merlefest this year (I believe it was from you, Dharmabum), and plan on attending next year. The silver lining to the cloud, perhaps.