Dock Boggs- Country Blues
Moran Lee “Dock” Boggs was born in Norton Virginia in 1898.
A coalminer by trade but he learnt to play the banjo as a child, so when representatives of the Brunswick recording label visited Norton in 1927 Dock did a test and they took him to New York to record 12 sides. Dock’s recordings had some local success but the onset of the depression combined with his wife’s ill health forced him to quit his ambitions as a musician and return to the mines.
Boggs would hock his banjo and not pick up another for 30 years. Dock had a unique way of playing the banjo which involves using 3 fingers to pick the strings in an upward direction similar to the method employed to fingerpick a guitar (especially blues musicians).
In fact the method used by Dock is so different to the Earl Scruggs bluegrass clawhammer technique that Dock’s method is referred to as “the other way” by banjo players.
The other notable thing about Dock’s music is that it is rooted in black blues (whom Dock no doubt observed around his local area) and is definitely not bluegrass.
In the mid 50’s Dock was forced out of mining by mechanisation but in 1963 Mike Seeger tracked Dock down in Norton and convinced him to pick up a banjo once more. Dock recorded 3 albums which although do not have the vibrancy of his 20’s recordings, give an unique insight to his music and the musician (he also recorded interviews with Seeger).
Here is a clip from Docks’ prime (and probably his most famous recording, country blues.