McClurg Jam

McClurg Jam

Friday, April 30, 2010

Flatpicking , the Prophet ariseth

Most point to Doc Watson as the beginning of flatpicking style guitar playing. However, it does go back a bit further. There were others who used that style before him. A few in playing fiddle tunes even.

There is no dispute that it was Doc who brought it to the fore. His playing of the old timey tunes on his guitar found ready acceptance and delight in the early folk music revival in the sixties. He made playing flatpicked fiddle tunes sound like something ancient when in fact it was a kind of novelty.

It was not long before others took up the work of putting fiddle tunes to flatpicking style and off we went toward a revolution in guitar playing in country music.
Because the music was such an obscure relic that had lain forgotten in the Appalachians and Ozarks for so long, few had any clue that Doc was an innovator. We all just thought it had always been that way.

It wasn't always that way. Because of this, folks nearly quit trying to play like Lester Flatt in the Bluegrass world, copied Jimmy Martin who was using a pick and the flatpicking wave just swamped over it all.

To make matters "worse", the guitar was a real late comer to the scene so the whole question of "old timey" gets muddy anyway!

It really gets to the whole question of music as a living breathing thing. It tells me "Old Time" music is very much alive and not just frozen into time as a mere relic of the past. It is a thing that is animated with new life everytime someone tries to play it.

Here is a clip from a BBC feature with Doc.



This clip is a prime example of flatpicking par excellance



Finally this last youtube clip which is primarily audio, has Doc and Norman and Tony Rice playing. Nice juxtaposition on style.



However, let me always be clear. I love Doc. Tony Rice...well..."I'm not worthy!!" But as I said, let me be clear....my favorite is Norman Blake.

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