Thursday, September 09, 2004 ... 3:14 PM

I'd had a turkey sandwich and some Jack Daniel's Old No. 7 about an hour before I went to bed, but does that explain it? Really?

A few nights ago I dreamed I was sitting in Doc Watson's audience. Not too far a fetch; I saw him a year ago here in Virginia, and last month in Newport, and if the wind blows right my beautiful Betsy and I will be seeing him again in a couple months in Charlotte. (He's unbelievable onstage -- he can still pick and yodel like no other motherfucker on the planet. See him if you ever get the chance.)

In the dream I was sitting stage right, about 15 rows back.

Doc was accompanied only by three backup singers, flanking him in a line on his right. They were stately black women in pressed black dresses. Gospel singers. I don't know if Doc has ever been backed by Gospel singers; he never has that I've heard, but it's no big leap across the subconscious void to get them on stage with him.

Here's where the leap:

The three gospel singers, at some point, they start singing something without Doc. They decide to sing something of their own. Maybe just fucking around at first, for their amusement while the old guy tunes up. Maybe away from the microphone, even, but it sounds good. And they pick up momentum, and they get in to it, and then they're doing it for the crowd. So when Doc speaks up, attempts to get things back under his thumb, these gospel singers just keep singing. He starts to say something, and they just sing right the fuck over him.

Doc Watson can't get a word in edgewise.

This is tense. It makes you nervous, uncomfortable. Sitting there watching this, you realize how easy it would be to fuck with Doc Watson. Who wants to think about this? But you're forced to now, so you think about it. It would be easy to fuck with Doc Watson. He's this very old blind guy. He can barely walk. He's a living legend the equal of which our world will never produce -- but how easy would it be to just brush him off like a crumb of pie crust?

Doc Fucking Watson. He is Grandpa on the Simpsons.

He is shouting now, frustrated. No -- pissed off. His bushy brow rolled down low. The women are still singing. Why doesn't somebody do something?

Then somebody does. Doc does. He leans forward over his guitar and swings his right arm and spanks the large stately black woman closest to him with his open hand. The three women scatter like kicked game pieces, their faces blank with shock.

In the dream I fall out of my chair onto the ground, laughing. You know all those inarticulate people on the internet who are always telling you "OMG ROFLMAO!!?!!" That was me.

Did he just fucking hit her? Did Doc Watson just spank a large black woman on the ass? Yes he did.

It doesn't tickle me as keenly conscious as it did in my sleep, and now I just wonder what the fuck it meant that I dreamt Doc Watson spanking a large black woman out of frustration.

Am I secretly misogynist? Racist? I mean, more than I already struggle with as a pretty politically correct fucking guy?

Do I perceive Doc as especially racist or misogynist? Does his music represent misogyny or racism to me? (Yes, some of it, though ironically Doc is very careful these days to censor the most offensive lyrics from his readings, as in Jimmie Rodgers's "T For Texas," from which Doc cuts the line where the speaker shoots his woman Thelma "just to see her jump and fall" -- my favorite fucking line of the song, incidentally (pertinently?))

Or do I have a genuine, however buried, feeling about an antagonistic relationship between black gospel music and white country folk music, though I've never thought about anything like that consciously?

Interpretations welcome.



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Making Notes: Music of the Carolinas
(Novello Festival Press, April 2008)
includes my essay, "Link Wray"


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