Guitarist Stanley Watson

(Listen to Stanley on the radio in 1973 in an interview and discussion about several pieces.)

(Hear Stanley - Live - the concert recordings.)

(Read a letter a letter from Stanley’s brother Richard about Stanley’s life before coming to America.)

(Read Remembrances of Stanley Watson from other musicians and individuals.)

On Friday March 30, 1990 at Nazareth College Performing Arts Center, I presented a concert of music by the late guitarist and composer, Stanley Watson. It had been over 15 years since I had last seen him, and preparing for that show rekindled a lot of great memories. Stanley had been my guitar teacher and sometimes mentor in Rochester, NY during the mid 1970’s, and though I only studied with him for a little over a year, that year made a big impression and in many ways has kept me going ever since.

 Originally from Canada, Stanley grew up in England. He then went to Spain, Italy and around Europe in the late 1950’s in search of guitar instruction, music, folklore and adventure and found it wherever it presented itself. His first and favorite teacher in Spain was a man who was a potato farmer by day and a guitarist at night. Later Stanley worked with other teachers, including Andres Segovia. Along the way Stan attended master classes with cellist Pablo Casals to help develop left hand techniques, and in France he followed Django Reinhardt around to learn jazz and right hand flat picking methods. Along the way he worked with dancers and artists in Paris and traveled to Portugal and Greece to soak up the music and culture.

By the time he had made his way to Rochester he had married, started a family, was deeply immersed in composing, and had endless stories of his travels and thoughts about life to tell. He embarked on a teaching and performing career in Rochester where he came in contact with Chuck Mangione and others in the local scene. He can be heard on Chuck’s Mercury Records albums Friends And Love, and Together. Stanley frequently played at local concert halls, clubs, coffee houses and on radio and television. I’ll never forget Stanley opening a show to a packed house at the Rochester War Memorial for John McLaughlin and Frank Zappa! Frank sang his praises. Stan seemed to be at home anywhere.

“He often said that if he hadn’t been a musician he would he would have been a painter.”

His teaching was focused. You had his undivided attention. His music was transporting, vivid, personal. While traveling and living in America Stanley kept a kind of musical journal of people and events that touched him or seemed important *. He often said that if he “hadn’t been a musician he would have been a painter.” Stylistically his music was neither classical nor popular, rather a peculiar combination of both and more, uniquely his, drawing on earlier studies and experience.

By 1976, Stanley had left Rochester, continuing his travels. Sadly, in 1978 he died from injuries suffered in a car crash on Rte. 95 near Portland, Maine. He is sorely missed, and is still remembered in music circles in Rochester and in England.

 Learning and presenting his music for that March 1990 concert was a high point for me. At the time the Guitar Society of Rochester was up and running. Its 1989-90 concert season included Leona Boyd, Carlos Barbosa-Lima and Gene Bertoncini, George Van Eps, Alice Artzt and Berit Strong. I felt privileged to be included in this lineup and would like to thank all the board members and people behind the scenes for helping make that concert of Stanley Watson’s music happen.

Stanley’s brother Richard has written about Stanley’s earlier life in England. It can be found here. Also there are some wonderful remembrances from friends and students you may want to read. Also I encourage you to listen to the radio shows and live recordings at the links at the top.

Peace. KN.

*Stanley made only a few recordings. One of them, a song called “Pages From A Journal On America”, can be found on an early Chuck Mangione album called Together (Mercury Records). “Songs From The Valley Of The Nightingale” can be found on Chuck’s first LP Friends And Love (also on Mercury). The Friends And Love concert is also available on DVD from Dynamic Recording Studios. Two other pieces, “Lullaby To An Unborn Child” and “La Danza Los Ninos”, can be found on Bat McGrath and Don Potter’s Introducing LP (on Epic Records). You will have to do some searching as these records are out of print. Noted fingerstyle guitarist Davey Graham (author of “Angie”) recorded Stanley’s “La Danza Los Ninos”. This can be found on an album of Graham’s called The Art Of Fingerstyle Guitar. “La Danza Los Ninos” is part of Stanley’s larger work “The Churianna Suite” which is on Kinloch Nelson Plays Stanley Watson.

Stylistically his music was neither classical nor popular, rather a peculiar combination of both and more, uniquely his…

Mid 1970’s interview with Stanley at his farm outside Rochester, NY

Stanley performing his “The Inside-Outside House”

Stanley performing his “Portrait”

Guitarist Stanley Watson
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