Guitar enthusiast and collector Doug Watson of the Flagtown section of Hillsborough has been playing the guitar since the Beatles made their first appearance on “The Ed Sullivan Show” in 1964.
Born an Army brat to Master Sgt. Artice Virgil Watson and hairdresser Jenny (Jean) Delcielo Watson of the Somerset section of Franklin, Doug was influenced by the power of music from an early age.
Though he plays, writes and listens to a diverse selection of music, Doug attributes his love of the history of American music to his “daddy,” a Texas transplant who exposed his son to the old-time country music of Hank Williams, Carl Perkins and Johnny Cash.
Country music was and still is the staple in the Watson family collection, and the history of the tools of those masters has always intrigued Watson. He has more than 25 stringed instruments, ranging from a student cello to a mandolin-banjo autographed by Pete Seeger.
His love for all things stringed began in the backyard shop by grafting the old headstock of his demolished Epiphone guitar to the body of a rather clunky rectangular cigar box. His pretty successful first attempt got him started on designing and creating new stringed instruments from found objects.
This dedication to perfecting his own style led Watson, as well as friends and family, to start searching for interesting cigar boxes, cookie and pie tins, and other odds and ends.
In his effort to create something a little different from the usual wooden box body instrument, his latest project incorporated a highly polished Mrs. Smith’s pie tin, a brushed aluminum ice bucket bowl, a hand-carved poplar wood neck and the “S” from another pie tin. Watson commandeered his wife’s vintage 1950s ice bowl — thus the name for the piece: “Jan’s Ice Bucket Guitar.”
After visiting their sons out West, Watson’s wife, Janet Cantore-Watson, encouraged him to approach the Musical Instrument Museum in Phoenix to see if they would like to add one of his pieces to their worldwide collection of instruments.
Watson noted that the MIM was lacking old Americana instruments, specifically the lack of any cigar box guitars. So the duo made the trek to Phoenix carrying two of his best handmade instruments. As they approached the museum’s atrium, they were met by curator Frank Gonzales and Assistant Registrar of MIM Jennifer Rogers. The instruments were now in their white-gloved hands for review.
After a few months of anticipation, the Watsons received a confirmation letter from Jennifer Rogers, assistant registrar at the mim, which stated:
“Dear Mr. Watson,
Thank you so much for your patience with the completion of our donation review process. I am delighted to let you know that your Ice Bucket Guitar has been accepted by the President of MIM for our collection.”
The MIM staff has continued the work of updating exhibits in the North American Gallery, and now that Watson’s guitar is part of the MIM’s collection, patrons soon might find “Jan’s Ice Bucket Guitar” in its new home.
Watson; his sons Mike, Jon, Tony, Dean and Joey Rae; his grandsons Kaya and Tyler and granddaughters Jolie and Danica; his wife, Janet, and daughter-in-law Lauren plan to celebrate Doug’s 60th birthday by visiting the museum in October.