Michael Conen - [PROOF] Merle Watson, Cliff Miller, Michael Cole
Merle Watson, Cliff Miller, T. Michael Coleman & Arthel “Doc” Watson

This post is a brief one, as I only took a few frames at this performance, a few months after I first purchased my warhorse, the Canon AE-1. I had not yet worked out that if you wanted to get good sight lines at club shows, you had to get there very early, in order to get a good table. As a result, all of my snapshots of this performance by Doc Watson, his son Merle, and two recent additions to their touring band, Cliff Miller on guitar, and T.Michael Coleman on electric bass, were taken, off to one side of the club, nearest to Doc, of course, but with a great view of Merle, as well.

It was always very difficult to find a good, unobstructed angle to shoot from, each time I would see a show at this fine venue. During the year of 1977, I would also attend performances by John Lee Hooker [photos to come], as well as the Jazz trio of Larry Coryell, Alphonse Mouzon & Miroslav Vitous [no photos allowed].  The following year was when I saw Townes Van Zandt perform at the same venue “Where Were You?” Townes Van Zandt photos.  As I think back on it, I am trying to remember how it was possible for me to enter the club, since I was not yet 21….. perhaps they were also serving food, so I could get a non-alcohol ticket, or was it just because I knew someone who could help me get in [and whose name would be long lost to the ether, at this point in time]???

No matter: I was thrilled to be able to attend such shows, locally, instead of always going to the larger gigs at the local sports arenas, where the sound was always a toss-up.  Between being exposed to “classic” country music at home, thanks to the parents; “underground” music via local FM radio; and the wider musical tastes of a few friends I had made at university, I was much more interested in checking out such performances, whenever possible, in these more intimate clubs, like the one I had been going to with long-time friends, in Cincinnati – at Bogart’s.

Living in Louisville, you could not avoid being exposed to Bluegrass music, as well as the varied traditional folk music and country forms, and while attending university, it just so happened that there were several new releases by older practioners of these music forms, on the Tomato Records label; including reissues and new recordings by several of the aforementioned artists, that had alerted me to their monumental talents [Watson, Hooker and Van Zandt in particular] A very brief description of Tomato Records on Wikipedia, as there is little else to link to, that is useful. The title, “The Elementary Doctor Watson!” was the release that hooked me on his music for life. I still dig it out, nearly every year, to listen to his honey-coated voice, and quicksilver string playing.

A quick introduction to Arthel “Doc” Watson:

Blueridge Heritage link on Doc Watson

Michael Conen - [PROOF] Merle Watson, Cliff Miller, Michael Cole
A second frame of Merle Watson, Cliff Miller, T. Michael Coleman & Doc Watson

Even all of these years later, I still own [compact discs] of several of Doc Watson’s catalog, from his earliest recordings, right on through those made with his late son Merle, and with his grandson, Richard Watson, before he left this plane of existence. It was through Doc, that I heard Clarence Ashley, and Vassar Clements, amongst others – also great talents, in their own right.

Here is a very useful link to much of Doc Watson’s discography:

Doc Watson discography [partial]

As I only snapped 5 frames for this show, it is plain that I was bound to listen, more than fuss with taking pictures in that crowded room.  However, I did take one picture of the opening performer, a local singer/songwriter, whose name, I’m assured by my best friend Gary, is Mickey Clark…

Michael Conen - [PROOF] Mickey Clark opening for Doc Watson LG [
Mickey Clark, a Louisville singer/songwriter, who opened the evening’s proceedings

One final image, before ending this particular post; this one features Merle Watson on banjo. It appears to be the traditional 4-string model, but I cannot be sure, since a microphone is blocking a clear view of the headstock. Also, for Louisville natives, it would appear that “Doc” is wearing a Doo-Wop Shop t-shirt?


Michael Conen - [PROOF] Merle Watson, Cliff Miller, Michael Cole
Merle Watson on banjo, Cliff Miller on guitar, T. Michael Coleman on bass, and Arthel “Doc” Watson on vocals and acoustic guitar

Doc and Merle Watson review [8-5-77]


While many of you who arrive here, to look at these photographs may get turned off to my use of watermarks [thinking they ruin the image], let me explain why I choose to do this.

No one paid for my camera equipment but me. No one paid for the film I used to take these photographs.  On occasion, when I free-lanced for a free monthly newsletter, and they published a photo of mine, the payment for each photograph barely paid for the fuel to get my vehicle to the show [when I *did* have a vehicle], and the film I used on that night. 

Not too many of my photos were published, at the time, because the artists I chose to capture images of, were not hugely popular then.  Hence, the old dictum, “Supply and Demand”; I had the supply, but the demand [pre-Internet], was not there. You can argue the relative merits of the quality of my work, and that is precisely what a blog offers:  a venue for discussion.

Back to the watermarks: no one is subsidizing my time to scan and then clean up the images I am presenting here. Start to finish, each negative will take approximately an hour-and-a-half to reach “proof” quality – which is what you will see here.  This is my labor of love, and until there is some measurable return on my efforts, what you see is what you get.