Doc Watson's Ol Hoss

Doc Watson's Ol Hoss

Guitar Gavel Lick Of The Week with a super special guest - Marc Stamco, Blues in E

Marc breaks down a classic blues lick in E. And he knocks it out of the park! Thank you Marc for sharing your time, treasure, and talent.

An unsolicited endorsement - Marc has an amazing YouTube channel filled to the brim with original music, @marcstamcosoundscapes3834. Please check it out and support Marc by subscribing.

From a man who couldn’t play a guitar to the hands of Doc Watson, J.W. Gallagher was a furniture maker turned guitar builder.

J.W.’s initial foray into the instrument business was creating the guitar production line for Slingerland Drum Company when they briefly had a facility in Shelbyville, TN in the early 1960s.   

Being a proud wood craftsman, adept at fine carpentry, the guitars he was helping produce were budget grade and this did not suit J.W. (The guitars were branded “Shelby”)

He left in 1965 to make his own guitars with his son Don- J.W. Gallagher & Son 

Three years later J.W. Don left Tennessee and headed to North Carolina to promote their guitars at the Union Grove Fiddler’s Convention. They brought with them a rosewood model G-70 and a mahogany G-50, both dreadnoughts.

The G-50 had a superficial crack on the side from the production process, with no intent for more than a “show and tell” they brought it anyways. 

Doc and Merle Watson mural in Boone, NC

After a chance meeting with Doc Watson and his son Merle pickin’ under a shade tree at the Fiddler’s Convention, Doc fell in love with the cracked G-50.

A deal was brokered and Doc kept the guitar, but J.W. made him promise to return it when he was done playing it. He didn’t want a cracked guitar floating around potentially tarnishing the young company’s reputation.

Well Doc held onto that guitar for six years, nicknamed it Ol Hoss, and recorded with it on the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band’s album, “Will The Circle Be Unbroken”. After returning Ol Hoss in 1974, Gallagher built the “Doc Watson” model for him. It had a 1- ¾” neck with jumbo frets upon request from Doc because he had years of experience playing a 1953 Les Paul Standard in a rockabilly band.   

Original 1968 Gallagher G-50 specs: Honduras mahogany back and sides, Mahogany neck, rosewood fretboard, sitka spruce top, ivoroid binding, bone saddle, rosewood bridge

The Doc Watson statue is located in downtown Boone, NC, which is about 15 minutes from Watson’s childhood home. The guitar he’s playing is a cutaway “Doc Watson” model Gallagher.


Thank you for the kind words JP! REALLY- much appreciated!


These stories of provenence are so amazing. It is almost like serendipity how some companies and instrument reputations are formed/created. Thank you for the terrific gavel.

JP Pierre Moatti

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