Beverly 'Guitar' Watkins On The Blues And Dr. Dax On Graffiti

Apr 1, 2017

On this edition of “Two Way Street” we have portraits of two entirely unique George artists.

First up is Beverly “Guitar” Watkins, who this month will turn 78 years old. Her name may not ring a bell for you, which is probably why a magazine writer once called her the greatest living blues guitarist that no one has ever heard of.

Beverly’s entire life has been devoted to playing the blues. She grew up in Commerce, Georgia, and began taking the guitar seriously in high school. By the 1960s, she was playing back up on records that were embraced by young white artists who wanted to play rock and roll. On tours in the United States and Europe she played on the same bill with legends like James Brown and Ray Charles.

She never got rich playing the blues but she never stopped playing, and to this day she has a following, especially here in Atlanta where she makes her home.

I thought about Beverly this week because it was just about one year ago that producer jenny ament and I were invited to watch her celebrate her 77th birthday by playing a show at Northside Tavern, an Atlanta dive bar that’s a spiritual home for blues lovers. She was still holding her own with players half her age…and still executing one of her favorite stage tricks – playing slick riffs on her guitar while holding it backwards and over her head.

And so as she gets to celebrate another birthday, it seemed like a good time to share with you a show we recorded with her last April when she brought her old battered guitar to the “Two Way Street” studios.

She started by telling us a story about her early life: she remembered being a little girl sitting and listening as her sharecropper grandfather would play fiddle and invite the family to join in signing gospel songs in the evening after work in the field was finished. And then one day, she was presented with an instrument of her own…

Beverly playing at Northside Tavern at her 77th birthday party:

A much younger Beverly:

Later in the show I talk with Dax Rudnack, one of the stars in the world of graffiti here in the Southeast.

When Dax first came into the “Two Way Street” studio, his visit made me realize that there are far too many moments in my life when I look but I really don’t see.

As I drive and walk across Atlanta, I often pass  walls covered with graffiti, see it on bridges and freight trains and so many other outdoor spaces.  But I’ve never really stopped to see it, let alone thought much about who put it there and why. Well, one of the people who puts it there is Dax Rudnack, or as he’s known in the world of graffiti writers, Dr. Dax.

He started his spray-painting adventures when he was a teenager growing up in Atlanta. But like the street artists of New York – who began as vandals and ended up becoming the darlings of the art elite – Dr. Dax can now fetch up to five figures for one of his spray-painted canvases.

He came into the “Two Way Street” studio last May to talk about his career in graffiti and about the fascinating culture that surrounds the graffiti writers.

Dr. Dax stands atop a freight car decorated with his work.
Credit DIWANG VALDEZ