Remembrances of Stanley Watson

I stumbled on your site and your tribute to Stanley Watson and it brought back a flood of memories. I don’t know why Stanley took me on as a student. I was more of a composer than a guitarist. Nonetheless, we struck up a friendship. He would teach me some guitar, and then we’d retreat to the backyard to see what was growing. He’d talk to me endlessly about cosmic mechanisms and laugh at my dark view of the world. Sometimes he’d tell me stories about Segovia and how, he, the imp that he was, would go to the concerts and yell out "can’t hear you" since the master rejected electronics. Segovia ended up buying some guitars from one of the locals (I think his name was Heinz Rosner). He loved Bat McGrath and Don Potter. Stanley’s wife and his two young children were always around. But it was those conversations and the vibrant colors of his backyard before he moved to Penn Yan where I helped him set up his new house that still linger. His intellect and creativity always pushed the boundaries of conventional thinking. I always felt privileged to know him. His concerts were always mesmerizing. His energy was intoxicating. His lyricism on the guitar was unparalleled. His compositions painted pictures in the air that enveloped the listener and transported them to a better place. And he did it alone without the need of a band or electronic overdubbing. Thank you for keeping his memory and his music alive.

Steve Bellafiore

Browsing the internet for music of Stanley Watson, I came across "Songs from the Valley of the Nightingale" and was lulled by the memory of hearing it live in the Eastman Theater. I had known of his music and teaching through some friends. His intimate performances truly resonated. I studied with Stanley in the summer of 1971. I am an artist, and was a student at the time at RIT. His lessons with the classical guitar were the backdrop: while I learned a bit about guitar, I learned more about life and creativity in that brief period than I could have imagined, and I still carry this with me.

Sam Tibulio
Nevada City and Napa, California

I still have the books I used with Stan as well as a couple of the pieces he copied for me like "Se Io M’Accorgo" and other Renaissance pieces. I’ll never forget the first time I met him. He asked what I would like to learn and of course the Beatles were at the height of popularity. He told me to turn my back and he proceeded to play a Beatles song. I thought 3 guitars were playing. He played lead, rhythm everything. I said " yeah that’s what I want to learn and he said "well if you let me teach you classical, you could play anything, and better". He said he worked with a couple of the Beatles when he lived in Liverpool and helped them with learning the guitar. I was so impressed. I was also very proud I took lessons from him when he performed at the first Friends and Love concert with Chuck Mangione. He was with Don Potter and Bat McGrath at their farm at the time I was taking lessons (a long time ago!) I went off to college that fall and received the news that he died in the car crash. I was devastated and still miss him. He was a great person. I was so happy to see his history and some of his playing on the internet and on your site.

Steve Nicholas

I took my kids to see Leo Kottke a couple weeks ago. My connection to Leo Kottke goes back to when I was 19 and living on Mulligan Farm. I became friends with Stanley Watson and spent a lot of time at his house near Mulligan Farm and one night he said, "Do you want to go see my friend Leo Kottke?" He’s playing near here, opening for a band called The Eagles that I’ve never heard of. We went to see Leo, hung out back stage with the Eagles and had a generally good time. Leo came back to Stanley’s house for the night and we hung out in the living room talking and listening to them play guitars. Stanley was in his 50s and had a wife and 2 kids. They had a housekeeper who was my age and very interested in Leo Kottke. She adamantly insisted on giving Leo a massage, right there on the living room floor, including running up and down his back with a rolling pin. It was one of the funniest scenes I can remember from those times.

I have seen Leo play quite a few times since then. I talked to him once about 20 years ago when he played here in Corales but didn’t make much of a connection. After the show I took the kids backstage and asked them to tell Leo a friend of Stanley wanted to say hi. We were immediately sent backstage and ended up talking with Leo for the better part of an hour. It was a great visit to the past.

Rick Thaler

Thanks so much for posting about Stanley....and the video clips!!! I had the honor of studying with him during my junior and senior years of high school (‘70-‘72)....and he was definitely a major influence in my life....he wasn’t just interested in teaching guitar, he was interested in teaching how to live as well...I remember one lesson when we went out on to the farm property and collected mint to make mint tea....as a kid, not that many people seemed interested in me as a person....he definitely was!

Steve Haley

I had the pleasure and honor of spending time with my friend and spiritual mentor Stanley Watson when he lived in England. I have often thought of Stanley over the years and only found out at the end of last year that he had passed on. I met Stanley at Davina’s Place, a restaurant and chess club in the New Kings Road in Chelsea where his wife and he lived upstairs. She worked as a waitress there and at the end of the evening there were many musicians still in attendance. Davina would play and sing during the evening often accompanied my other musos. At closing time the door was locked and then the real fun began. Stan would come home from work and various musicians who then had finished their gigs in town would show up and a jam would ensue that went on into the early hours. Stanley and I became firm friends and he guided me on my way on my spiritual journey through this life. He once let me play his Ramirez, which for me was an honour as I am only a Rhythm and Blues and English rock guitarist and nowhere near the league in which Stan played. I was close to his wife and the children too and she and Stanley often trusted me take their son out on adventures. They all hold a precious and warm place in my heart, Stanley most of all.

Kind regards, Rodney Wyatt

Here are wisdoms I remember from studying with Stanley:

Every kind of music is fine if it is well done.

Music is sound.

The sound that makes you cry - that is music.

The sound is more important than technique - in the first place.

Nobody should give you pieces to play before showing you how to produce sound.

Pablo Casals knew as much about guitars as Segovia - though he was famous for his cello.

None of them - Segovia, Yepes, Bream show their students all they know. They tell something and do it different themselves.

Technical understanding.....has to grow like a plant. Don’t force it. Keep your hands and fingers relaxed. Try again and again. It will come.

5 minutes everyday- concentrated - is better than 2 hours once a week.

Maud Henne

Responses to the Stanley radio interview/concert and recordings

I have to say that I was astonished by Stanley’s playing. Truly amazing music in every way. I read your webpage about him -- too bad there is so little recorded legacy of his work. I’ll have to add his name to that ever growing list of brilliant musicians who never got widely known but should have.

Harvey Reid

Hi Kinloch,

Some friends and I had Davey Graham do a gig for us here in Cardiff (Wales, UK) back in 2000 and I kept in touch with Davey up until his death in 2008. I had guitar lessons with him 2001, but didn’t ask him about that tune - La Danze De Los Ninos, from The Churriana Suite - at the time as we were doing other arrangements of his. I was also friends with his sister Jill, who sadly died just over a year ago and am in touch with her daughter Cindy often.

Davey recorded that Stanley Watson piece twice, once on his 1969 LP titled ‒Hat– which was done on steel sting, with it being called Stan’s Guitar, and then he recorded it again on a nylon in 1979. For that he named the LP Dance For Two People, with it also being the first track on the LP. He credited Stanley in the sleeve notes on both. From what I’ve read, Davey had lessons with Stanley in his early guitar playing days and said he learnt it by ear from him. I remember a friend telling me that Davey was more proud of that and his instrumental Tristano than his famed instrumental Angi, I tend to agree!

Thanks and all the best,

Chris Fowler

Hi,

I’ve been meaning to write. I haven’t had time to read everything but I did listen. Jackie McLean - in the song "Jackie Mourning Gomez" - was, of course, a huge name in the jazz world, and his friend Robert Thompson was a very significant Black painter. I don’t imagine that there is music for this anywhere? It’s very quirky, but then again, it all is. I got a lot out of listening to his talking bout the songs, he obviously was very much an original as a person as well as musically. He must have been pretty inspiring to be around.

Best wishes, Duck Baker

Kinloch,

Seeing the picture of Stanley in happier times, when things were looking up, was very moving-it was such an exciting time of glowing promise-the guitar was a magic door to anywhere.

Ron Broida

Back to the Stanley Watson page

In the early 1950's Stan was playing with E.N.S.A. as part of Marion McPartland’s group of musicians entertaining troops in Europe.

He and his sister…would be invited in to some of the big houses and asked to entertain, usually standing on the table in the centre of the room…

Remembrances of Stanley Watson
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