JOHNSON CITY – Dr. Ted Olson, a professor of Appalachian Studies and Bluegrass, Old-Time and Roots Music Studies at East Tennessee State University, has worked to make sure the world never forgets
legendary musician Doc Watson.
Last year, Olson co-produced the first-ever retrospective on Watson, known to music enthusiasts as “one of the most influential folk artists of all time.” That album, a four-CD/book box set titled “Doc Watson – Life’s Work: A Retrospective,” has been nominated for two 2023 Grammy awards. Olson is a solo nominee in the Best Album Notes category, while he and the project’s three co-producers (Scott Billington, Paul Blakemore and Mason Williams) are nominated in the Best Historical Album category.
“While Doc Watson lived just across the border in Watauga County, North Carolina,”
said Olson, “he performed during the early part of his career in a Johnson City band.
Although he toured the world, this was his home country. He is a legend to people
here, but these Grammy Award nominations illustrate that he is legendary everywhere.”
“Life’s Work: A Retrospective,” released by the Los Angeles-based Craft Recordings, features 101 of Watson’s recordings, including many that Watson made with a range of well-known artists, including Watson’s son Merle as well as Allison Krauss and Ricky Skaggs. Also included are Watson’s recorded collaborations with Bill Monroe, Flatt & Scruggs, Jean Ritchie, the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, Chet Atkins, Norman Blake and Tony Rice. Extensive liner notes by Olson are included in the 88-page book alongside never-before-seen photos.
As a child growing up in Washington, D.C., Olson had the opportunity to hear Watson perform at various festivals in the nation’s capital. Then, as an adult living in the Tennessee-North Carolina border country, he attended numerous performances by Watson with various accompanists. Today, a decade after Watson’s death, Olson is not only interpreting the musician’s life and recording career through this box set. He is also co-producing (with former Crooked Road Director Jack Hinshelwood) a special concert series titled “Doc at 100” (docat100.com), featuring some of Watson’s longtime accompanists, including T. Michael Coleman, Jack Lawrence and Wayne Henderson, to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Watson’s birth.
“This box set was a chance for me to commemorate a truly great Appalachian artist,” Olson said. “And it is gratifying that the Grammy nominations are reminding people far and wide of Watson’s profound impact on music nationally and internationally.”
The 2023 Grammys will broadcast live on Sunday, Feb. 5.