The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #146252   Message #3385983
Posted By: GUEST,Hootenanny
04-Aug-12 - 09:48 AM
Thread Name: Ralph Rinzler, Doc Watson & authenticity
Subject: RE: Ralph Rinzler, Doc Watson & authenticity
Will, I am very surprised to know that Ralph Rinzler was unknown to you. You say that you have listened to everything that Doc recorded in which case you will have heard the Watson Family recordings which Ralph Made. Here you can hear Doc's, mother, brother, cousin, father in law and other family members singing and playing the music they grew up with. The "Old Time Music at Clarence Ashleys" albums bring in friends and neighbours. Doc himself always acknowledged the music which surrounded him when growing up including the records. There is no doubt whatsoever in my mind that Doc had good solid grounding in traditional songs and tunes. Prior to Ralph meeting him for the first time Doc was having to busk on the streets in order to survive and yes playing electric guitar in a local dance group. Of course he learnt material from radio and recordings including popular music of the times. Some of the old time folks and even "Heavy" Mississippi blues men also attempted pop material. I believe that Robert Johnson also picked up material from recorings.
As pointed out above Ralph was responsible for Bill Monroe becoming so succesful later in his career and likewise he knew how to present Doc to the prospective audience of the time in order bring him wider recognition. If Doc had been recorded as a great guitar picker I doubt that he would have received the same attention. Chet Atkins was already out there, Merle Travis was already out there, Ike Everly was already out there and I think Jerry Reed was already out there too plus other capable guitar players you ain't never heard of.
I can understand Doc's discomfort with travelling and touring for not much financial gain in the beginning but isn't that always the way in real music (as opposed to the "music industry"). Doc was a home loving man who hated being away from his family and with the disadvantage of being sightless in a strange environment this obviously made things even more difficult out on the road. When Merle started working and travelling with him this obviously eased the situation but Doc always said that he would prefer to have been an electrician or engineer than a professional musician.
I had the great pleasure of seeing Doc on numerous occasions from his first London appearance in the 60's up until 2007 and like many I enjoyed everything he did from wherever it originated.
I also had the pleasure of knowing Ralph Rinzler when he was here in 1959 and even took a few guitar lessons from him. I think Doc would acknowledge the part that Ralph played in bringing him to a larger audience and enabling him to eventually have a pretty good standard of living.
In addition to Ralph's part in the careers of Bill Monroe and Doc Watson he also made field good recordings and did stirling work at the Smithsonian. His early death means that he is much missed.
One final thought on the book which I haven't read. I believe that this was written and published without Doc's consent so I wonder how reliable the information is, and is it a medical fact that Doc's stomach ulcer was purely brought about by the stress of touring?

From speaking to others who knew Doc I think it is safe to say that if Doc thought things weren't working with Ralph then the relationship would not have continued for as long as it did. Doc was a strong wise man.