May 30, 2012 9:13:16 AM
CNN) -- Doc Watson, the bluegrass music legend from Appalachia who was renowned for his flatpicking and fingerstyle technique on the acoustic guitar, died Tuesday at a hospital in North Carolina, according to Mary Katherine Aldin of Folklore Productions, which represented the singer. He was 89.
Watson, a Grammy winning musician who was blinded after birth, had been struggling to recover from May 24 colon surgery and then a followup procedure two days later. The Winston-Salem Journal had reported that Watson's family was called to his bedside Sunday at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center after he took a turn for the worse.
The website of Folklore Productions, which is run by the singer's representative, Mitch Greenhill, had been providing updates on his difficult recovery.
Watson, who jumped onto the music scene in the early 1960s, is considered influential among folk musicians for his brand of bluegrass, blues, country and gospel music. He won seven Grammy awards and, in 2004, a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award. He was inducted into the North Carolina Music Hall of Fame in 2010.
"Watson's immense talent and spirit will be deeply missed, and our sincerest sympathies go out to his family, friends and all who were inspired by his music," said a statement from Neil Portnow, president/CEO of The Recording Academy, which awards the Grammys.
Watson, whose mother sang around the house and whose father was a banjo player and vocalist who led the singing at their Baptist church, was a fingerstyle player who used a thumbpick for bass and a fingerpick for the treble strings -- a "two-finger" style that was self-taught.
As a flatpicker, he used a traditional tear-shaped medium gauge nylon flatpick and was known for his speed, tone and precision -- with a little extra arm motion.
Born Arthel Lane Watson in Stoney Fork Township, near Deep Gap, North Carolina, on March 3, 1923, Watson was blinded from an eye infection as a baby. He toured with his son Merle before Merle's death after a farming accident in 1985, and continually played at an annual festival called MerleFest in his son's honor.
Watson got his nickname during a live radio broadcast.
"The announcer remarked that his given name Arthel was odd and he needed an easy nickname," according to a biography on the North Carolina Music Hall of Fame website.
"A fan in the crowd shouted 'Call him Doc.' The name stuck ever since."
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