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Doc Watson's daughter, ETSU professor create box set of legendary guitar player

Wes Bunch • Feb 22, 2013 at 9:24 AM

JOHNSON CITY — An East Tennessee State University old-time music professor and the daughter of Doc Watson have teamed up to release a CD box set featuring rare and previously unreleased recordings made by the legendary guitar player and members of his family.

The 4-CD, special edition box set was created by Watson’s only daughter, Nancy, and is being produced by ETSU Bluegrass, Old-Time and Country Music Studies assistant professor and former Reeltime Travelers banjo player Roy Andrade.

Entitled “Milestones: Legends of the Doc Watson Clan,” the collection will include songs, family history, photographs and narratives compiled by Nancy Watson over the course of a decade.

In addition to the CDs, the box set will also feature over 500 pictures and artwork by Nancy Watson and liner notes penned by Andrade.

“Nancy listened to thousands of recordings, and she picked out 94 of the best,” Andrade said. “She then sequenced it all chronologically to tell the story of the Watson family. It’s not just music, there are over 500 photographs she’s made into collages, then there are stories and remembrances.”

In order to release the 94-track collection, Andrade said he and Nancy Watson decided to start a Kickstarter campaign in the hopes of generating enough funds to cover production costs.

As of Thursday evening, the project had reached a little more than 89 percent of its goal, with 377 individuals contributing a total of $64,553 through the Kickstarter site.

The deadline for contributing to the project is Sunday at noon, Andrade said.

If the goal of $72,000 is met, Andrade said it will allow a large initial order of the box set, which will in turn help lower the final cost for those who wish to purchase it.

If the goal is not met, however, the money raised through Kickstarter will be returned to those who pledged it.

The collection will be released on Open Records, a label Andrade began for the purpose of releasing “Milestones.”

Andrade said the box set will be released in late April at Merlefest, an annual festival in North Wilkesboro, N.C., established by Doc in remembrance of his son, Merle.

According to Andrade, the box set is different from other anthologies because it was created entirely from within Watson’s family, with Doc himself giving some input before his death at age 89 on May 29, 2012.

“It’s a box set of a family’s music, made by the family,” Andrade said. “That’s something that’s never happened before.”

The project will contain a number of unique and rare tracks, Andrade said, including Doc playing his Gibson Les Paul electric guitar around Boone, N.C., and Johnson City with Jack Williams’ band in the 1950s and recordings of his father-in-law Gaither Carlton singing songs and playing fiddle and banjo tunes. The set also includes three original songs written by Watson, as well as other traditional and original songs performed by numerous family members.

Andrade said the collection’s never-before-heard home recordings, combined with the artwork and stories the box set will include, make the project one of the most noteworthy Americana music releases in recent years.

“I consider this to be one of the most significant traditional music releases in a long time,” Andrade said. “The title of it is ‘Milestones: Legends of the Doc Watson Clan,’ and it itself is a milestone of traditional American music, so I feel very fortunate to be involved in it and to get to know the (Watson) family so well.”

Of the 94 tracks on the box set, Andrade said 92 have never been released.

Andrade, who has been working with Nancy Watson on the project for nearly three years, said the decision to start the Kickstarter campaign was made in the hopes of raising enough money to ensure the final price of the set is affordable.

“The first thing Nancy said to me when I became involved in this project was that it’s really important to her that the people around Deep Gap could afford this. She didn’t want it to be expensive,” Andrade said. “So, we’re doing the Kickstarter so we can afford to print 5,000 copies, and it’s going to cost $75,000 to do that.”

All money raised through the Kickstarter campaign will be used to cover manufacturing costs, Andrade said.

In order to encourage donations through Kickstarter, Andrade said Nancy Watson has offered a number of items owned by Doc as rewards for certain pledge amounts.

“People may want to get involved because they can get souvenirs and things that belonged to Doc Watson,” Andrade said. “Instruments he played, out-of-print music, personal items like the ball caps and picks he used, so it’s all sorts of neat memorabilia.”

Pledges run from $5 for “the satisfaction of contributing” to the project to $250 for one of Doc’s flatpicks and as much as $5,000 for a harmonica that belonged to Doc.

For more information on the project or to donate through Kickstarter, visit www.docwatsonmilestones.com or www.openrecords.com and click the Kickstarter link on the lower right side of the page.

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