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Originally published: 2014-04-28 09:00:33
Last modified: 2014-04-28 09:04:04

MerleFest artists salute Doc Watson

by Jeff Eason

The spirit of Doc lives on. 

The 27th annual Merle Watson Music Festival in Wilkesboro this weekend has featured dozens of musicians and other performers with a close personal connection to Watauga County's Doc Watson, his wife, Rosalee, his daughter, Nancy, and his son, festival namesake Eddy "Merle" Watson. 

"We had just moved to North Carolina and were playing in front of the Boone Drug Store to make some busking money when Nancy, Doc Watson's daughter, heard us play," said Ketch Secor, lead singer of Old Crow Medicine Show. "Nancy said, 'I bet my daddy would love your music.' She brought Doc to downtown Boone to hear us, and I guess he liked what he heard because he helped us get our start." 

Old Crow Medicine Show has enjoyed success since that chance meeting with the Watsons in downtown Boone in the late 1990s. They've recorded one of the biggest hits in Americana music, "Wagon Wheel," and were inducted into the Grand Ole Opry Hall of Fame. 

Boone native and popular entertainer Arthur Grimes wowed the crowd with his traditional buck dancing on the Watson Stage, while Old Crow Medicine Show performed on Friday evening.

Grimes also performed the night before with The Carolina Chocolate Drops. 

"I remember when I first heard Doc Watson's music while we were still living in Switzerland," said Uwe Kruger of the Kruger Brothers. "We became big fans and it is one of the main reasons that we moved to Western North Carolina." 

The Kruger Brothers helped kick off MerleFest 2014 by performing at one of the festival's MerleFest outreach program shows. The program sends musicians performing in the festival to elementary and middle schools in Wilkes County for hourlong shows for the students. The Krugers Brothers performed for sixth-, seventh- and eighth-  graders at Central Wilkes Middle School in Moravian Falls on Thursday afternoon. 

"We've been performing at MerleFest outreach shows for the past 18 years," said Jens Kruger. "I always get a kick out of playing at Central Wilkes Middle School because that's where my daughters went to school."

The Kruger Brothers performed "People Get Ready," "Mole in the Ground," "St. James Infirmary" and "Carolina in the Fall," among other tunes, for the students.

Pictured: Boone's Arthur Grimes shows off his buck dancing skills on the Watson Stage Friday night during MerleFest in Wilkesboro. Grimes performed with the Carolina Chocolate Drops the night before. Photo by Chad Casterline, courtesy of MerleFest