George Watson grew up in Rutherford County listening to shape note hymns and other traditional music. One of his neighbors played guitar and sang, and he showed George some chords to help him get started. “I learned everything by ear. I can’t read any music,” he said.
George started playing the fiddle when his older sister, a fiddler, got married. Around the age of ten, he started playing at local square dances with Dan Searcy and the Frog Creek Ramblers. George credited his sister, Dan Searcy, and Gurney Hutchins with teaching him to fiddle. He played for dances just about every Saturday night for many years.
Later on, George stuck to guitar, and he enjoyed singing old songs. He started learning his songs when he was a young boy, listening to hymns sung by family members and recordings on the family Edison phonograph player. “I’d stand in a chair [to reach the phonograph] playing those records,” he said. Some of his family members began to tally the songs in his repertoire, and they listed more than three hundred.
George helped inspire his own musical family. “All of my children play,” he said proudly. His daughter is a composer and classical musician, but she also includes traditional music in some of her compositions. His sons play guitar and bass, and his grandsons are multi-instrumentalists who have helped George make his recent recording. “We’ve always had music in our family,” George said.
In his later years, George played with local musicians every Monday and Friday at senior centers and retirement homes in the community.
George Watson passed away on November 14, 2013 at the age of 90.