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"If you're a dedicated Doc Watson fan, I think you would find this book an interesting read. It does get into some darker areas of Doc's life, such as Merle's death, but it also is a celebration of the man through the eyes and ears of those who know him." - Steve Carr, docsguitar.com "Hard to believe it's been 50 years since Ralph Rinzler first introduced guitarist Doc Wats "If you're a dedicated Doc Watson fan, I think you would find this book an interesting read. It does get into some darker areas of Doc's life, such as Merle's death, but it also is a celebration of the man through the eyes and ears of those who know him." - Steve Carr, docsguitar.com "Hard to believe it's been 50 years since Ralph Rinzler first introduced guitarist Doc Watson to the larger world. It's a fitting anniversary for the first book-length biography on Doc to appear. It was long overdue. This is a valuable, anecdotal work anyone interested in Doc's music and life will enjoy reading." - Bluegrass Unlimited "This is a highly informative, fascinating biography of the great Doc Watson. What a life. It's a page-turner that will keep you up past your bedtime. Don't miss it." - The Inland Northwest Bluegrass Association "A very well researched biography... The story of Doc Watson's life is one of tragedy and success. The author provides a vivid image of Doc's early childhood [and his] years with Merle, and gravely describes the impact of Merle's untimely death. The book is hard to put down..." - Tom Duplissey, Bay Area Bluegrass Association "Musicologists will appreciate the chapters on Doc's singing style and guitar work... Music fans will delight in the book as a whole, a splendid recounting of Doc Watson as man whose '...approach to folk music on a guitar was like Horowitz's approach to the piano...'" - Gary Presley, The Internet Review of Books About the Author Kent Gustavson, PhD is a professor of writing, language and leadership at Stony Brook University, where he is currently the faculty director of the undergraduate Leadership & Development and Community Service Living Learning Centers. As the host of Sound Authors, he has interviewed hundreds of award-winning musicians and authors, and his music has been featured on National Public Radios All Songs Considered. He lives and works in Sound Beach, New York.


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"If you're a dedicated Doc Watson fan, I think you would find this book an interesting read. It does get into some darker areas of Doc's life, such as Merle's death, but it also is a celebration of the man through the eyes and ears of those who know him." - Steve Carr, docsguitar.com "Hard to believe it's been 50 years since Ralph Rinzler first introduced guitarist Doc Wats "If you're a dedicated Doc Watson fan, I think you would find this book an interesting read. It does get into some darker areas of Doc's life, such as Merle's death, but it also is a celebration of the man through the eyes and ears of those who know him." - Steve Carr, docsguitar.com "Hard to believe it's been 50 years since Ralph Rinzler first introduced guitarist Doc Watson to the larger world. It's a fitting anniversary for the first book-length biography on Doc to appear. It was long overdue. This is a valuable, anecdotal work anyone interested in Doc's music and life will enjoy reading." - Bluegrass Unlimited "This is a highly informative, fascinating biography of the great Doc Watson. What a life. It's a page-turner that will keep you up past your bedtime. Don't miss it." - The Inland Northwest Bluegrass Association "A very well researched biography... The story of Doc Watson's life is one of tragedy and success. The author provides a vivid image of Doc's early childhood [and his] years with Merle, and gravely describes the impact of Merle's untimely death. The book is hard to put down..." - Tom Duplissey, Bay Area Bluegrass Association "Musicologists will appreciate the chapters on Doc's singing style and guitar work... Music fans will delight in the book as a whole, a splendid recounting of Doc Watson as man whose '...approach to folk music on a guitar was like Horowitz's approach to the piano...'" - Gary Presley, The Internet Review of Books About the Author Kent Gustavson, PhD is a professor of writing, language and leadership at Stony Brook University, where he is currently the faculty director of the undergraduate Leadership & Development and Community Service Living Learning Centers. As the host of Sound Authors, he has interviewed hundreds of award-winning musicians and authors, and his music has been featured on National Public Radios All Songs Considered. He lives and works in Sound Beach, New York.

30 review for Blind But Now I See: The Biography of Music Legend Doc Watson

  1. 4 out of 5

    Twobookworms

    I had never heard of Doc Watson until a friend told me about this book. I looked him up on youtube and discovered a musician that was part of the formation of American music with skill, grace, and creativity. I've played guitar for about 40 years and I can't believe that I had never heard of this great man. This book is important to the history of music as well as keeping an important figure of our culture in our minds and hearts. The book is not only beautiful in the writing style and the way G I had never heard of Doc Watson until a friend told me about this book. I looked him up on youtube and discovered a musician that was part of the formation of American music with skill, grace, and creativity. I've played guitar for about 40 years and I can't believe that I had never heard of this great man. This book is important to the history of music as well as keeping an important figure of our culture in our minds and hearts. The book is not only beautiful in the writing style and the way Gustavson presents Watson's biography, but also with the illustrations and photos. What a great way to bring to light a great man! If you are a fan of American music, blues culture, the guitar, or stories of how people overcome challenges and thus inspire others, then you have so got to read this book!

  2. 5 out of 5

    Daniel Ace

    An honest look at a legendary North Carolina performer. A very well done bio telling of good times and bad ones as well.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Cynthia

    Doc Watson is one of the great guitar players period. He is probably the greatest blue grass players specifically. Many people know his name and may know some of his music, but most don’t know a lot about his life. Kent Gustavson’s book does a yeoman’s job of filling in the story. This book is clearly written by someone who knows and loves the music. It’s also clearly written by a scholar. History is researched and documented. There are lots of interviews with people who knew Doc & Merle Watson w Doc Watson is one of the great guitar players period. He is probably the greatest blue grass players specifically. Many people know his name and may know some of his music, but most don’t know a lot about his life. Kent Gustavson’s book does a yeoman’s job of filling in the story. This book is clearly written by someone who knows and loves the music. It’s also clearly written by a scholar. History is researched and documented. There are lots of interviews with people who knew Doc & Merle Watson well. There are chapters that are musicologists will appreciate for the thoughtful discussion about his music and the history of what was happening in music at the time. It is a fascinating story of music, history, travel, musical politics,love and loss. It brings to light just how significantly Doc was impacted by Merle’s playing and by his death. But here’s the problem, it is a remarkably passionless book from a man who is clearly passionate about the topic. It talks about periods of great innovation where music in America was exciting and collaboration across genres was everywhere. But it doesn’t do it with the same excitement. In addition, the book tends to shift fluidly between the biographical accounting of Doc’s life and chapters specific to the musicology of the work. This makes the book a little hard to follow for the general audience to follow. It’s an interesting read if you like music, specifically this kind of music or if you are interested in the history of what was happening in bluegrass music over the last 60 years. But I’m not sure it’s a book the general public would enjoy.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Mark

    Great biography of Doc Watson, he was an influence on many, Maria Muldaur, Bela Fleck, & Old Crow Medicine Show to name a few. I liked how he refused to be typecast into any certain "genre". He liked traditional and he also liked the new things he was hearing, so he combined them and made them his own. The story referred to music as a spectrum, drawing from many colors to create something new, which made sense to me. Great biography of Doc Watson, he was an influence on many, Maria Muldaur, Bela Fleck, & Old Crow Medicine Show to name a few. I liked how he refused to be typecast into any certain "genre". He liked traditional and he also liked the new things he was hearing, so he combined them and made them his own. The story referred to music as a spectrum, drawing from many colors to create something new, which made sense to me.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Monty

    Obviously well-intentioned, but very poorly written. Highly repetitive and almost entirely without any discernible narrative (and certainly not chronological) structure. Disappointing.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Shane Belcher

    Great story, just makes my obsession with Doc deepen even further than it already was.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Laurie Neuwirth

    This is a book I could "hear" while reading. The remarkable Doc Watson grew up in humble circumstances in the mountains of North Carolina. Music was his way out of a life that could have been limited by his blindness. I had to stop reading and play his music while I read this book. Bluegrass is popular in my family, so I was familiar with references to some of the famous musicians referenced in the story. The tragedy in his life was not blindness, but the loss of his beloved son, Merle Watson, w This is a book I could "hear" while reading. The remarkable Doc Watson grew up in humble circumstances in the mountains of North Carolina. Music was his way out of a life that could have been limited by his blindness. I had to stop reading and play his music while I read this book. Bluegrass is popular in my family, so I was familiar with references to some of the famous musicians referenced in the story. The tragedy in his life was not blindness, but the loss of his beloved son, Merle Watson, who served as his companion throughout many years of touring and traveling. Perseverance, overcoming obstacles, and how Doc Watson left his musical legacy as a lasting gift to the world are inspirational messages to take from the story.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Kim

    A book about the life of musical legend Doc Watson. A book filled with many quotes from many of the musicians that Doc Watson influenced over the years. I liked learning about how Doc Watson was taught by his parents to not let his disability stop him from living a productive life. He went from singing on the streets of Boone, NC collecting money in a cup to providing a good life for his family with his music.

  9. 4 out of 5

    jboyg

    Effusive Bio Of The Great Flatpicking Guitarist In my mind Doc Watson, the blind guitarist from Deep Gap, North Carolina, could do no wrong. He perfected the art of flatpicking on the acoustic guitar and sang like a hill country angel on the many old mountain songs he knew so well. This is not a great book, but it is so nice to finally have a bio of this American treasure that I'm just glad it's out there.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Jacqueline Elsner

    Doc Watson died in 2012, the year this biography was published. So much back-story available from Mr. Gustavson's biography, mostly gained from interviews with many of the musicians who worked with Doc and his son Merle through the years. I appreciated knowing more. Doc Watson was a gentleman.

  11. 5 out of 5

    East Bay J

    I'm a monster Doc Watson fan. I was first introduced to his playing on the Country Music And Bluegrass At Newport 1963 LP. "Doc's Guitar" and "Black Mountain Rag," as well as his playing and singing with Clarence Ashley, Clint Howard and Fred Price, absolutely floored me and I was hooked from then on. Watson stands as the king flatpicker of all time and his ability to tear through fiddle melodies with stunning speed, precision and timbre has awed, inspired and influenced generations of guitarist I'm a monster Doc Watson fan. I was first introduced to his playing on the Country Music And Bluegrass At Newport 1963 LP. "Doc's Guitar" and "Black Mountain Rag," as well as his playing and singing with Clarence Ashley, Clint Howard and Fred Price, absolutely floored me and I was hooked from then on. Watson stands as the king flatpicker of all time and his ability to tear through fiddle melodies with stunning speed, precision and timbre has awed, inspired and influenced generations of guitarists. I found a copy of Blind, But Now I See on a recent visit to Portland and I was very excited to give it a read. Any time I approach a biography of a musician or band I love, the anticipation is there. I always look forward to putting on the records and reading the story. This time, unfortunately, the story didn't live up to the soundtrack. Gustavson's writing is clumsy. One of his glaring hangups is that he restates every quote, seemingly in an effort to drive home the point the speaker is making. This restating of the speaker's words is tedious and gives the whole thing the feel of being aimed at younger readers. There is also a lot of what I'd call foreshadowing, for lack of a better term. "Soon that would all change..." or, "little did he know." In both these instances, the restating and the foreshadowing, it's bad enough to distract from the story at hand. There is also a strong need for some editing. Gustavson starts at the beginning and ends near the end, but everything in between is like a collage. He'll talk about Watson's first recording sessions, move on to some other stuff, start talking about his first solo LP then he's back to the first sessions. There is only the barest hint of a timeline here. The chapters are more thematic than chronological. The result is a kind of constant, steady confusion as to where and when the action is taking place. There is also the endless repetition. Facts, ideas, stories, concepts, etc. appear over and over, dragging the book down and giving the reader a feeling of being beat over the head. If overstatement were wealth, this book would be a millionaire. Ultimately, my excitement about reading this book turned into excitement to be done with it. This was clearly a labor of love for Gustavson but it comes off as rambling and unfinished. It's interesting for its topic but, in the end, it's a tedious grind.

  12. 5 out of 5

    MaryEllen

    For my full review, visit my blog at www.maryellenherrera.com The biography of music legend, Doc Watson, Blind but Now I See is a great book about this Appalachian musician. As the title indicates, this book is a biography of Doc Watson's life. From his humble beginnings, through his years as a musician, and ending with the impact he had on the many lives of others who knew him or heard his music. In between the stories shared are sketches of Doc along with photographs illustrating his life and c For my full review, visit my blog at www.maryellenherrera.com The biography of music legend, Doc Watson, Blind but Now I See is a great book about this Appalachian musician. As the title indicates, this book is a biography of Doc Watson's life. From his humble beginnings, through his years as a musician, and ending with the impact he had on the many lives of others who knew him or heard his music. In between the stories shared are sketches of Doc along with photographs illustrating his life and certain situations he encountered; from family portraits to stage performances. When receiving this book, I was anxious to begin reading the story of Doc Watson. From the synopsis on the back cover I knew this was going to be an inspiring story about a man who beat some incredible odds to reach the heights he did through his guitar playing. I wasn't disappointed as I read through the book. Each chapter shared a certain aspect of Doc Watson's life, along with a great life lesson - something Doc learned along the way. Lessons we all could learn and use in our own life. Not only was the book a delightful read, it also peaked my interest about Doc Watson's music and I found myself searching the web for videos of him playing the tunes mentioned in the book. Below my review are two such videos I found. I can now truthfully say I am a fan of Doc Watson and his guitar flatpicking. And to think, I didn't even know what flatpicking was when I first received the book. I had to ask my guitar playing fiancé! ——————————————————————————————————————– Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher Sumach Red Books. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

  13. 5 out of 5

    Archie

    A seemingly well-researched but poorly written biography of a true American treasure. I'm in no position to judge the accuracy of the history presented here but, given that it's based largely on quotes from sources who know Doc personally, it's probably reasonably close to the facts. However, the book is marred throughout by a seriously flawed writing style and poor editing. An example - Gustavson uses variations of the hook, "little did he know...," followed by some unknowable tidbit, so freque A seemingly well-researched but poorly written biography of a true American treasure. I'm in no position to judge the accuracy of the history presented here but, given that it's based largely on quotes from sources who know Doc personally, it's probably reasonably close to the facts. However, the book is marred throughout by a seriously flawed writing style and poor editing. An example - Gustavson uses variations of the hook, "little did he know...," followed by some unknowable tidbit, so frequently that one wonders if it's mentioned so often because there might be some history of prescience in the Watson family and it would be remarkable that Doc didn't know these things ahead of time. Of course, there is nothing in the book to establish any particular skill at foretelling the future. It's simply a juvenile attempt to connect threads throughout the narrative. Here's a hint - it's a biography. There's already a thread to connect the dots. Much of the information about Doc's background was new to me and that made it worth the effort to wade through the frustrating writing style. The book pales in comparison to the fabulous Tony Rice biography by Stafford and Wright, at least in terms of general readability and entertainment. It's too bad - Doc is a giant of American music and deserves a better presentation of his remarkable life story.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Dan Verner

    Kent Gustavson must have talked to hundreds of people to write this thorough biography of arguably the world's greatest guitar player. Doc Watson was the real deal, and he played acoustic guitar in a way that few people can. Gustavson shows the role that musician and folk scholar Ralph Rinzler played in the Doc's rise from obscurity and poverty in rural North Carolina to fame among his loving fans. The story makes clear the Watson labored in poverty for decades and that playing on the road took Kent Gustavson must have talked to hundreds of people to write this thorough biography of arguably the world's greatest guitar player. Doc Watson was the real deal, and he played acoustic guitar in a way that few people can. Gustavson shows the role that musician and folk scholar Ralph Rinzler played in the Doc's rise from obscurity and poverty in rural North Carolina to fame among his loving fans. The story makes clear the Watson labored in poverty for decades and that playing on the road took so much out of him. With his son Merle, he toured the country, and continued with a broken heart after Merle's accidental death at the age of 36. Watson passed away earlier this year from ihjuries suffered during a fall. I remember long hours trying to play guitar as smoothly and cleanly as he could. I finally gave it up: it just wasn't possible for me. But it was for Doc and his legacy is for people who love music and excellence however it come.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Steven

    "I liked it" - but it needed editing. An editor carefully cutting out about a 1/4 of the book (mainly: redundancies) might have raised this up to a 4 or 5. It also sorta ends ten years ago (although the interviews are recent) - giving us not much a feeling for what Doc Watson recently, and Doc does still do some shows outside of Merlefest. However this might not be the author's fault, as Doc has become more private (as mentioned). I confess that I'm also lot more sympathetic to Ralph Rinzler's wa "I liked it" - but it needed editing. An editor carefully cutting out about a 1/4 of the book (mainly: redundancies) might have raised this up to a 4 or 5. It also sorta ends ten years ago (although the interviews are recent) - giving us not much a feeling for what Doc Watson recently, and Doc does still do some shows outside of Merlefest. However this might not be the author's fault, as Doc has become more private (as mentioned). I confess that I'm also lot more sympathetic to Ralph Rinzler's way of getting Doc in the music business (as a trad performer) than the author is. The author also probably tells more of Merle's problems that the family would have liked him too. On the other hand, "I liked it" - he did a lot of research and interviews, and the book tells the life story of Doc Watson. It gives a good feeling about what other musicians think of Doc and his influence on musicians. If I could give half stars, I'd give it 3 1/2.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Jean Ray

    I liked this book a great deal, but more because I was interested in the subject matter than due to the writing style. Not bad, but the writing certainly could have been more polished. But it did appear to be well researched, and for anyone with an interest in American roots music, traditional mountain music, or whatever else it might be called, it is an important book. Doc Watson was probably the most important figure in this style of music. At times the book does drag, but over all it kept my I liked this book a great deal, but more because I was interested in the subject matter than due to the writing style. Not bad, but the writing certainly could have been more polished. But it did appear to be well researched, and for anyone with an interest in American roots music, traditional mountain music, or whatever else it might be called, it is an important book. Doc Watson was probably the most important figure in this style of music. At times the book does drag, but over all it kept my interest and it is certainly worth reading for anyone interested in the history of traditional American music.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Kaj Samuelsson

    I was recommended to read this book, by my wife a few years ago, but I thought that a biography about a musician cannot be very interesting, so I didn't read it then. Now I got it as an E-book and thought maybe I can at least give it a try. From the moment I started I got fascinated by the life of Doc Watson, he was not only a great musician, he was a great person, period! It also introduced me to other musicians I never heard of and as I love music I started to listen to them too. For me it was I was recommended to read this book, by my wife a few years ago, but I thought that a biography about a musician cannot be very interesting, so I didn't read it then. Now I got it as an E-book and thought maybe I can at least give it a try. From the moment I started I got fascinated by the life of Doc Watson, he was not only a great musician, he was a great person, period! It also introduced me to other musicians I never heard of and as I love music I started to listen to them too. For me it was a musical discovery, though no one beats Doc in his playing. I sure enjoyed this book and I recommend it to anyone interested in music and biographies.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Tom Schulte

    An amazing, persona, and insightful journey into the life of master musician Doc Watson. From growing up blind in rural Appalachia to being swept into the folk revival, Gustavson ably invites us to see what life was like in becoming the remarkable Doc Watson. Watson's professional career with his son Merle and after Merle's death is the high part of an arc that descends into reclusion as an elder statesman of flatpicking with annual appearances at MerleFest and, almost mercifully, this work ends An amazing, persona, and insightful journey into the life of master musician Doc Watson. From growing up blind in rural Appalachia to being swept into the folk revival, Gustavson ably invites us to see what life was like in becoming the remarkable Doc Watson. Watson's professional career with his son Merle and after Merle's death is the high part of an arc that descends into reclusion as an elder statesman of flatpicking with annual appearances at MerleFest and, almost mercifully, this work ends just prior to Watson's May, 2012 death. Hear my conversation with the author: Sunday, February 17, 2013. http://www.facebook.com/OutsightOnRGW...

  19. 5 out of 5

    Ava Abbott

    Heart warming, inspiring and sometimes heartbreaking biography. I had a hard time putting this one down. Doc was everything like I pictured him and more. This book did repeat things a lot but the subject is good enough to keep it from being annoying. The first part of this book was my favorite, his life in the mountains growing up, meeting his wife. Really endearing. The loss of his son, Merle is a sad story, sometimes I felt the way the theories of his death were handled were a little insensiti Heart warming, inspiring and sometimes heartbreaking biography. I had a hard time putting this one down. Doc was everything like I pictured him and more. This book did repeat things a lot but the subject is good enough to keep it from being annoying. The first part of this book was my favorite, his life in the mountains growing up, meeting his wife. Really endearing. The loss of his son, Merle is a sad story, sometimes I felt the way the theories of his death were handled were a little insensitive. If you like Doc Watson and his music, you will love him after this book. Nice to read about a musician who isn't the typical story of women, drugs and rock n roll. Not at all. Just a good man.

  20. 4 out of 5

    John Hudson

    Much as I admire, appreciate, enjoy, what-have-you Doc Watson's music, this isn't the kind of book I'd ordinarily pick up. I have it because it was a complimentary copy for contributing photography to the book (mine is the endplate; darn good photo taken 30+ years ago in Boone, N.C.). The writing is definitely a (well-deserved) hagiography. Meticulously researched and attributed by a folkie Ph.D. musicologist. Interviews with all kinds of celebs. I'd recommend as a buy.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Tom Hamrick

    good detail of his life although it gets a bit preachy about how his faith (which was very important to him) kept him going. I felt the author stated the facts but then get on his own christian agenda that was more about what he wanted to believe than Docs words. But if your a fan of Doc its good history

  22. 4 out of 5

    Natalie

    As I flip through the pages and read, I can almost see Doc sitting there. A very good picture of how he was in his life comes to my mind, everything from his boyhood growing up and going to school (and eventually dropping out for understandable reasons) to his performance in October in 2009. Very well written - if maybe occasionally repetitive but not in a bad way.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Mscout

    Really good from a biographical/informational standpoint, but just too repetitive. Gustavson ostensibly uses a linear framework, but jumps around from time period to time period repeatedly, and it just seems like he is telling the same story over and over.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Rick

    Good account---much of it told through interviews of folks who knew Doc and worked with him over the years. He certainly was one of the premier pickers ever to pick up a guitar. The book discussed his life and career well, and the loss of Doc's son and musical partner, Merle. Glad I read it.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Ed

    I learned a lot about Doc, Merle, their musical history, and their lives in this book. I have admired these guys for many years, and I would recommend this book for anyone who attends Merlefest, who plays a guitar, or who enjoys North Carolina treasures like Doc and Merle.

  26. 4 out of 5

    John

    I found this book to be very enjoyable and entertaining. I was slightly familiar with Doc's music but did not know any of the details of his life. I think anyone interested in the history of recent music will enjoy this book.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Michael Tweed

    a treat.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Gretchen

  29. 4 out of 5

    Christopher

  30. 5 out of 5

    Marko-Michael

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