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First Doc & Merle Watson Box Set Released

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 Never the Same Way Once – Live at the Boarding House – May 1974The Owsley Stanley Foundation is pleased to announce the release of Doc & Merle Watson: Never the Same Way Once – Live at the Boarding House – May “A legend recording a legend,” is how Doc Watson’s long-time bassist T. Michael Coleman describes these rare live recordings of the American bluegrass giant by counter-culture icon and concert sound pioneer Owsley Stanley (known as Bear to his family and friends). Doc & Merle Watson: Never the Same Way Once – Live at the Boarding House – May 1974 is kind of a long name for an album but, this isn't an ordinary album and, the material is a long list of tracks -- 7 CDs worth.

This set of exquisitely recorded live concerts of Doc & Merle Watson at The Boarding House in San Francisco is from 4 live shows recorded in 1974 by the legendary soundman Owsley Stanley. It contains 94 tracks, including several rare tracks and songs played for the first/only time by Doc & Merle. This is the first box set of live concert recordings of Doc & Merle Watson and is the first release created by the Owsley Stanley Foundation, a non-profit established to preserve and steward Owsley’s legendary recordings, which are renowned for their quality and clarity. These performances have not been heard since the nights they were played more than 40 years ago and have been preserved and restored to the highest audiophile standards. Each night is distinctly brilliant and equally captivating – reflecting differences in the playing, sound recording techniques, and the energy in the room.

Doc Watson was a legendary American flat-picking guitarist, songwriter and singer of bluegrass, folk, country, blues, and gospel music, who won 7 GRAMMY Awards and a GRAMMY Lifetime Achievement Award. He performed with his son, the multi-instrumentalist Merle Watson, for more than 15 years until Merle’s death in 1985. Live recordings from this peak period for Doc and Merle in the 1970s are rare.

The album debuted recently at the 30th anniversary of MerleFest, the premiere bluegrass festival, named after Merle Watson and hosted in Wilkesboro, North Carolina. It is available now exclusively at a target="_blank" href="https://owsleystanleyfoundation.org/product/doc-merle-watson-never-way-l...">OwleyStanleyFoundation.org as a 7 CD box set covering four nights of shows, with 32 tracks available for digital download. The box set features a 16-page booklet of liner notes including new work by Watson collaborators T. Michael Coleman and David Holt. A broader release, as well as audiophile format vinyl and analog tape releases of single nights from the run will follow on June 23.

1960’s counter-culture icon Owsley Stanley, known as “Bear” to his friends, was an audio innovator who helped create the first high-fidelity concert sound systems for rock and roll. As an early patron and first soundman of the Grateful Dead, he amplified, recorded, and influenced many other seminal artists in the psychedelic music scene of San Francisco and beyond in the 1960s and early 1970s, and was known for his focus on products of the highest quality. From the start, Bear recorded nearly every artist that played through a sound system that he built, trying to capture the music precisely as the audience heard it, using the recordings to help him improve his sound. The techniques he developed to create what he called his “Sonic Journals” resulted in recordings of unparalleled quality and clarity, capturing the sound of the room like no-one else.

“Bear had tagged these shows as among the gems in his Sonic Journal archive, in both the quality of the performances and the quality of the sound, which is why we chose them as the first project to develop since his passing,” said Starfinder Stanley, Owsley’s son and President of the Owsley Stanley Foundation. Owsley, who died in Queensland, Australia in 2011, left an archive of over 1,300 recordings covering diverse artists and idioms. Known as Bear’s Sonic Journals, they served as working tools as he innovated his live music recording and sound production techniques, still widely used today.

‘Never the Same Way Once’ was mastered by Jeffrey Norman of Mockingbird Mastering, a frequent Grateful Dead mastering engineer and one of Bear’s trusted friends and colleagues. State-of-the-art Plangent Process transfer techniques were used to remove subtle timing distortions created by the recording and playback devices (wow and flutter), resulting in the most accurate replication of the music, exactly as it was heard on the night it was played.

This 7 CD set is packaged in a 5.5 inch wide x 5 inch high x 1.75 inch deep box, featuring 94 tracks, including extraordinary flatpicking of a broad range of music, from bluegrass to swing jazz to rockabilly to gut-bucket blues, and contemporary folk. They will be available in stores on June 23rd, but can be purchased now at www.OwsleyStanleyFoundation.org.

The included 16 page booklet contains contemporaneous photographs of Doc & Merle as well as of “Old Hoss,” Doc’s first Gallagher guitar which he played from 1968-1974. Old Hoss was retired after this tour and is also featured in the cover art ??– an original poster by ?frequent ?Grateful Dead ?artist, Mike DuBois, based on a design by Bear’s son, Starfinder. Also included is a new in-depth interview with bassist T. Michael Coleman, who performs with Doc and Merle on these recordings, and an original essay by David Holt, 4-time GRAMMY winner and a longtime Doc Watson collaborator.

Future releases from this box set will be available on half-speed master, 45 RPM 180g audiophile vinyl and on reel-to-reel analog tape, both mastered directly analog-to-analog by Paul Stubblebine, who worked with Bear on the Big Brother and the Holding Company featuring Janis Joplin Sonic Journals album released by Sony in 2012.

The Owsley Stanley Foundation is a 501c(3) dedicated to the preservation of “Bear’s Sonic Journals,” Owsley’s archive of more than 1,300 live concert soundboard recordings from the 1960s and 1970s, including recordings by Miles Davis, Johnny Cash, The Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane, Fleetwood Mac, Janis Joplin, and more than 80 other artists across nearly every musical idiom. All proceeds from the development of the recordings further the continuing charitable purpose of preserving Bear’s Sonic Journals and perpetuating Owsley's legacy.

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