MerleFest and Stringbandology

Steep Canyon Rangers Acoustic GuitarThis event—held in the tiny town of Wilkesboro, North Carolina—would come to be known as MerleFest, a folk and bluegrass showcase named in memory of the late Merle Watson, the guitar-playing son and musical partner of flat- picking guitar legend Doc Watson. The younger Watson had died tragically in a tractor accident three years earlier.

“It was intended to be one time, one show, one night,” says original MerleFest executive director B Townes, a horticulture instructor at the community college.

Townes had no idea how popular the festival would be for music fans starved for acoustic sounds rooted in tradition. What began as a way for Townes to raise money to improve the campus gardens—now called the Eddy Merle Watson Memorial Garden for the Senses— today attracts nearly 80,000 people a year to see up to 100 acts play on 14 stages.

Read article from Acoustic Guitar Magazine by Mark Segal Kemp