Doc Watson bio published

Blooming Twig Books has published Blind But Now I See, the first comprehensive biography of seminal flatpicking pioneer Doc Watson, written by Kent Gustafson.

The book follows this acoustic music sensation from his time growing up blind in the rural south to his achieving star status on folk and bluegrass festivals, and through the loss of his beloved son Merle and his quiet life of semi-retirement. It includes quotes and remembrances from many of the artists who have worked with or been influenced by Doc, like Sam Bush, Béla Fleck, Peter Rowan, David Grisman, Don Rigsby and many others. Gustafson also interviewed longtime Watson sideman Jack Lawrence for the book.

An excerpt of the book can be read on the Blind But Now I See web site.

We will publish an interview with the author and more information about this long-overdue work shortly.

Share this:

About the Author

John Lawless

John had served as primary author and editor for The Bluegrass Blog from its launch in 2006 until being folded into Bluegrass Today in September of 2011. He continues in that capacity here, managing a strong team of columnists and correspondents.

  • Tad Gilster


    According to an email to Flatpick L from Doc’s management/booking agent, Mary Katherine Aldin:

    “Doc Watson actively discouraged the recently released biography, which proceeded against his express wishes. We find it surprising that the author did not see fit to respect (or reveal) Doc’s wishes as he approached interview subjects.

    And despite the image on the cover, Doc is not a left-handed guitarist.”

    Your information that the biography is “authorized” doesn’t appear to be accurate.

  • kentgustavson

    To Tad and all others reading this post.

    I am the author of Blind But Now I See. The book is not in any way “authorized” or sanctioned by Doc Watson or Folklore Productions.

    Blind But Now I See is an unauthorized biography of Doc Watson, and I believe, a very fair and reverential telling of his life. I have always believed that his story is worth telling, and will inspire musicians and readers to live their lives in faith and fellowship, and make wonderful music.

    I don’t have any desire to bring the discussion of whether it is “correct” or not to publish the biography of someone who wishes their biography would not be published (Doc Watson has on many occasions said that he doesn’t want ANY biography of him written EVER). I will simply say that I believe the world of music deserves to read about the exemplary and extraordinary life of acoustic music’s greatest ambassador. That is my personal belief, and that is clearly at odds with the staff at Folklore Productions and possibly Doc Watson himself, though I’ve personally heard only from Mitchell Greenhill and through this post, from Mary Katherine Aldin about it.

    I welcome all criticism, but I do invite all critical parties to read the book, and then judge me for whether I have told the story of Doc Watson fairly. I believe there are things in the book that will endear him to all of the legions of fans who already look up to him as a good man and an incredible musician. Yes, he is fallible, like all of us, but he has given all of us a wonderful gift, and what I’ve tried to do with the book is to reveal what a gift Doc’s music and life are for us.

    Also a couple of simple points in address to Tad’s comment:

    1) The image (as you can see in the blogpost above) is now corrected. It was reversed in the first version of the cover sent out to the media a year ago, but has long since been corrected, and was printed correctly in the first edition and printing that is out there now.

    2) The biography is not authorized. Tad is correct. I believe that unauthorized biographies are necessary in the world of music alongside authorized biographies, and I understand the resistance of Folklore Productions to the biography project, but I was very respectful of Watson in the book. Please read it before making judgments about the content. Then I will field all comments with pleasure.

    3) We did approach all subjects interviewed for the biography openly and honestly, and obtained releases from each and every interviewee. When I personally interviewed around 70 people for this book, I answered each and every question each participant had about the book, and my intentions were always honorable.

    I welcome comments, and please contact me personally if you would like to speak about the book or about any issues surrounding it. I’m available through my website at and I’ll get back to each and every person who contacts me.

  • Sorry for the confusion on this – my bad.

    I read on Kent’s site that the book was the “first comprehensive biography of music legend Doc Watson,” and in my haste to post something this morning, completely misrepresented that statement as “authorized.”

    The post has been edited to reflect the correction.