Jack Lawrence has been playing guitar side-by-side with folk music legend Doc Watson for almost 30 years. Through the decades, Jack and Doc have developed a wonderful guitar partnership, capitalizing on their individual musical strengths. But there's more to this journeyman guitarist than just his sideman skills.
While most people know Jack Lawrence only as Doc Watson's guitar-picking partner, the North Carolina native has also had his own career. It includes stints playing with two of the best known progressive bluegrass bands - The Bluegrass Alliance and The New Deal String Band - as well as time spent playing other musical styles. The songs on his new CD, I Don't Need the Whiskey Anymore, reflects that varied musical history. It's a good mix of traditional songs and a few that aren't found on your typical bluegrass release, like the Allman Brothers' Blue Sky.
Lawrence: I remember going to the YMCA, to a "sock-hop."
Cole: You're dating yourself by saying that. We'll translate "sock-hop" to "a young person's dance."
Lawrence: The band was the Allman Joys, the predecessor to the Allman Brothers. I always thought that Blue Sky would translate well to acoustic music. It's one of my favorite Allman Brothers songs, and it gave me a chance to play a little mandolin, that I don't usually do. I'm a closet mandolin player.
Jack Lawrence is also a fan of old-time country music and bluegrass music, especially Grand Ole' Opry favorites Flatt and Scruggs and Bill Monroe. Jack's new CD even includes a version of Grandpa Jones' hit Eight More Miles To Louisville.
Cole: And the Grandpa Jones stuff...You were talking on stage about what a fan you were.
Lawrence: Any of those guys. My Dad was the sound technician at a music hall back in North Carolina. And I got to see and hang out backstage with a lot of different people. The Stanley Brothers, Flatt and Scruggs came through there, Ernest Tubb, Marty Robbins, Porter Wagoner, you name it. All the country music stars and bluegrass stars on their way up, and the ones on their way back down. And everything in between. On Sundays, there were southern gospel sings. Once or twice a month, there was R&B [rhythm and blues] night. So I was exposed to a lot of different music. And was able to hang out backstage. There was never, from the time I was about 14, there was never any doubt what I was going to try to do with the rest of my life.
Jack Lawrence has done just that, making his living as a guitar player ever since the day he graduated from high school in 1971. He'll spend the next few months touring the U.S. with Doc Watson. Jack's next solo tour will take him to Ireland in October, and he hopes to tour Japan in early 2003.