Watson was born on March 3, 1923, in Deep Gap, North Carolina, to a banjo-playing father, General Watson, and a mother who sang traditional secular and religious songs, Annie Watson.
Blinded by an eye infection as a toddler, he learned to play the banjo first, then taught himself the chords to "When the Roses Bloom in Dixieland" on a borrowed guitar at age 13, his managers said.
He picked up some chords from a fellow student at the Raleigh School for the Blind and began to incorporate music he heard on the radio with familiar Appalachian melodies.
Watson became a full-time professional musician in the 1960s and played everywhere from folk festivals to Carnegie Hall.
For much of his career, he toured and recorded with his son, Merle Watson, who died in a tractor accident in 1985. Doc Watson's most popular recordings include the songs "Tom Dooley," "Shady Grove" and "Rising Sun Blues."
"There may not be a serious, committed baby boomer alive who didn't at some point in his or her youth try to spend a few minutes at least trying to learn to pick a guitar like Doc Watson," President Bill Clinton said when he awarded Watson the National Medal of the Arts in 1997.
Watson is survived by his wife, Rosa Lee Carlton Watson, and their daughter Nancy Ellen, his grandchildren Richard Watson and Karen Watson Norris, several great-grandchildren, and his brother David Watson.
Intellpuke: You can read this article by Reuters correspondent Jane Sutton in context here: entertainment.msnbc.msn.com/_news/2012/05/29/11943479-folk-musician-doc-watson-dies-at-age-89?lite