Saturday, February 20, 2010

In Memory: Ernest “Doc” Watson

(June 2, 1932 – February 19, 2010)

“I like all kinds of music, but now I feel I owe it to myself and my musical heritage to keep this jazz going. Over the past twenty years, black musicians have more of an interest in preserving what we have done, and getting people to realize what we’ve done. We’ve contributed the only real American art form – jazz.
We shouldn’t change it every week, like pop music.”

At 77 years old, Ernest “Doc” Watson was the last surviving member of the old guard of The Olympia Brass Band, the enigmatic brass band led and popularized by Harold “Duke” Dejan and Milton Batiste. A musician all his life, Ernest started his journey as a French horn player with the Booker T. Washington High School Band. After switching to alto saxophone, he joined up with Ellis Marsalis in his early dance band, The Groovy Boys, before joining the service in 1952. It wasn’t until later, as a member of Little Millet and the Creoles, that Doc switched to tenor saxophone. Having spent much of the sixties playing with the Young Tuxedo Brass Band, Doc was approached by Harold Dejan to join the Olympia Brass Band as a replacement for David Grillier in the mid-seventies. He stayed through the group as long as it remained active, and continued to play weekly at Preservation Hall through the end of 2009.

He will be greatly missed.

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