No history of American folk and country music would be complete without a mention of blind guitar wizard Doc Watson, who has died at the age of 89. His rapid-fire flatpicking style influenced generations of musicians, and helped elevate the guitar to lead instrument status in the country music of the '50s and '60s, AP notes. Watson—who grew up in a corner of North Carolina that has produced countless folk musicians—lost his eyesight when he was just a year old, and was playing the banjo by the time he was five.
His serious music career only began when he was in his 40s and was discovered by a folklorist—but he went on to record 60 albums, seven of which won Grammy awards. He founded the Merlefest music festival in 1985 after the death of his son, who toured with him for many years. Watson, who enjoyed touring right up until the end of his life, changed folk music forever by adapting fiddle tunes to the guitar, notes Nashville guitarist Pete Huttlinger. "Doc, he set the bar for everyone," adds Huttlinger. "He said, 'This is how it goes.' And people have been trying for years to match that."