“Playing music,” says John Watson. “That’s the story of my life.” John has been playing fiddle since 1940, and he remains active in local bluegrass and traditional music circles.
He grew up in Dobson, in Surry County. “My dad played banjo like Grandpa Jones,” he recalls, “the old clawhammer style.” John started playing fiddle when he was nine years old, learning tunes like “John Henry,” “Old Joe Clark,” “Walking in My Sleep,” and “Lonesome Road Blues.” “I just learned tunes playing with different guys in the community,” he says. “We used to go out on the back porch and play.”
John drove trucks for Roadway Express for thirty years before he retired. Later, he worked for Yadkin County Schools driving busses and working in the cafeteria, before retiring for the second time. Throughout both of his careers, he has played music regularly in the evenings and on weekends. “I’ve really enjoyed my music over the years,” John says. He has played with many musicians from the Surry and Yadkin County areas, including Cullen Galyean, Jim Holder, Roy McMillian, and Larry Richardson, with whom he also did some recording.
“These days I like to listen to Doyle Lawson and Quicksilver and IIIrd Tyme Out,” John says. “In the old days, I liked to listen to Bill Monroe, Flatt and Scruggs, the Stanley Brothers, Reno and Smiley, and those groups.” A fan of bluegrass, John also likes the old-time music from his home region. “I play old-timey and bluegrass tunes,” he says. He also plays weekly at his local church service.
Outside of church, John performs with Sweet Holler Bluegrass with Steve Tise on banjo, Caroline Hutchins on mandolin, Wayne Underwood and Darrell Jester on guitars, and Lester Pinnix on bass. John plays fiddle with the group, and he enjoys singing lead and baritone harmony parts. The group performs at area churches and nursing homes, and they performed weekly at Porky’s Barbeque for several years.
John Watson plays regularly at area jam sessions and weekly at his church. He is available for performances with Sweet Holler Bluegrass.