Folk music fans, mountain residents remember Doc Watson
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BOONE -- Doc Watson said he just wanted to be "one of the people."
"He never forgot who he was or where he came from," said Ted Hagaman director of the MerleFest music festival.
And the people loved Doc Watson.
"People fell in love with him and the music," said Boone folklorist Mark Freed.
In downtown Boone, fans covered Watson's statue with flowers -- remembering the man and the way his fingers would just fly across the strings.
"He invented styles of playing on the guitar, flat-picking styles, that were hugely influential on bluegrass musicians and folk musicians," Freed said.
Many of those musicians would show up to MerleFest, a weekend music festival Watson sponsored every April in Wilkesboro.
Wednesday, the stage was empty, except for a small memorial and one young fan.
"His music is just something different and it's something unique and it's something you don't hear," said Keith Norris, 18.
People came to MerleFest from all across America to hear big names like Willie Nelson and Dolly Parton -- music Watson called "traditional plus."
"We said, 'Well Doc what does that mean?' And he said, 'It's traditional Appalachian music and anything else we want to play,'" Hagaman recalled.
But mostly, the people came to hear Doc and his flat-picking.
"It's weird to think of him not being here next year," Hagaman said.
To North Carolinians, Watson was more than a musician. He was an indelible part of the Appalachian culture. Part of home.
"He really makes you feel that way," Freed said.
Folks here said they will miss Doc. And they'll miss his music.
But they said he's not completely gone. Because Doc Watson is part of Appalachia -- a fixture here like the mountains themselves.
"Nobody's going to fill his void," Freed said. "You can't fill shoes like Doc Watson's but the influence he left is going to carry on for generations."