MusicFest to honor Doc and Rosa Lee Watson

Doc & Rosa Lee Watson MusicFest 'N Sugar GroveFollowing the loss of both Doc and Rosa Lee Watson in 2012, the organisers of MusicFest, a celebration of Appalachian music and cultural heritage, has chosen to honor them with a change of name for the event, to the Doc & Rosa Lee Watson MusicFest ‘N Sugar Grove.

MusicFest has long had a close association with Deep Gap, NC native Doc Watson since its inception in 1997. The much admired flat-picking guitarist performed at the inaugural MusicFest and headlined many times in following years. Doc’s wife Rosa Lee was often in the audience.

Willard Watson, festival coordinator and Doc Watson’s first cousin, had this to say ….

Willard Watson - photo by David Holt“The whole reason we changed the name to the festival was to show appreciation for not just Doc, but also for Rosa Lee and all the hard work she did. She really was the rock of the Watson family. They were a very tight-knit and loving family.

The MusicFest family espouses many of the same values that Doc and Rosa Lee possessed, such as giving back to the community and placing a high value on local resources. MusicFest was created as a fundraiser for community development projects in the economically-distressed areas in Watauga County, North Carolina, and eventually went on to also fund the Doc & Rosa Lee Watson Scholarship Fund for students studying sustainable development at Appalachian State University.

Through receiving the blessing of Doc and Rosa Lee’s daughter Nancy, we will carry on their legacy of strong Appalachian values.”

MusicFest will continue to showcase the bluegrass and Appalachian music that Watson popularized, and performers will show their appreciation for the late musician, whose influence and contributions to traditional and cultural expression are known worldwide.

It remains an intimate, family-friendly event in a mountain setting. In addition to the main stage, the festival features a solar-powered stage with up-and-coming performers, musician workshops, a pickin’ parlour, the Doc & Merle Watson Folk Art Museum and local food and vendors.

Much of the audience have attended the festival several times to experience a one-of-a-kind celebration of community, music and Appalachian culture. Willard Watson said it has become a tradition for many music fans.

“It’s like a family reunion,” he said. “We have such a constituency that comes back year after year.”

The 16th annual festival will take place on July 12 and July 13, 2013, in the grounds of the historic Cove Creek School in Sugar Grove, NC.

The performers already booked to appear include bluegrass and Gospel group Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver, MusicFest favourites such as the Carolina Chocolate Drops, the Krüger Brothers and Doc Watson’s long-time friend Charles Welch and grandson Richard Watson.

 MusicFest ‘N Sugar Grove is presented by Cove Creek Preservation and Development and Appalachian State University’s Goodnight Family Sustainable Development Department.

All proceeds generated by the event are recycled back into the community, benefiting the restoration of the Cove Creek School buildings as well as sustaining the Doc & Rosa Lee Watson Scholarship Fund.

Tickets and more information are available at and

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About the Author

Richard Thompson

Richard F. Thompson is a long-standing free-lance writer specialising in bluegrass music topics. A two-time Editor of British Bluegrass News, he has been seriously interested in bluegrass music since about 1970. As well as contributing to that magazine, he has, in the past 30 plus years, had articles published by Country Music World, International Country Music News, Country Music People, Bluegrass Unlimited, MoonShiner (the Japanese bluegrass music journal) and Bluegrass Europe. He wrote the annotated series I'm On My Way Back To Old Kentucky, a daily memorial to Bill Monroe that culminated with an acknowledgement of what would have been his 100th birthday, on September 13, 2011.