David Holt shares stories behind songs

Jessica Fischer • Aug 13, 2013 at 9:16 AM

Grammy Award-winning entertainer David Holt will perform as Jonesborough’s next storyteller in residence, with concerts offered daily Aug. 13-17.

A veteran musician, Holt’s unique storytelling concerts will include original music as well as bluegrass and country tunes he’s collected over decades of archiving mountain music.

“I’ve really tried to hone my storytelling to fit into my music so it’s seamless,” Holt says. “To me that’s really interesting, to make a program feel like you’re talking on somebody’s front porch. I want it to be subtle and woven into this tapestry of music and story.”

Holt has been part of the storytelling world since the early days of the National Storytelling Festival. As he traveled over the mountains collecting old mountain music, he loved hearing the stories behind the songs. An old favorite was a story he heard from Fred Cockerham, a banjo player in Mount Airy.

“He was very droll,” Holt recalls, “but never really excited about anything. When he asked his wife to marry him, he said, ‘Would you like to be buried with my people?’ That was his proposal! I thought, yeah, I’ve got to tell the audience that. That’s just fascinating.”

Holt began incorporating these personal stories and folk tales into his performances soon after that.

“I realized there were a few people doing this for a living,” he says of storytelling in the 1970s. “There were 20, I guess, around the country, and the movement was growing. I was just lucky to be part of that wave of the storytelling revival.”

During Holt’s week-long residency, matinee performances will be held at 2 p.m. at the International Storytelling Center. A fluent multi-instrumentalist, Holt will accompany his stories with original music on steel guitar, banjo, harmonica and washboard.

Additionally, Holt’s residency will include a special evening concert, a tribute to Doc Watson that includes stories, songs and personal photographs. “Doc Watson: His Life and Legacy” is scheduled for 7:30 p.m., Thursday, Aug. 17. Tickets for this one-night-only event are $15 and are expected to sell out quickly.

A number of shops and restaurants in downtown Jonesborough will extend their hours Thursday evening before the concert. Shoppers can present their receipts at the International Storytelling Center to be entered in a weekly drawing for special prizes.

Holt’s uniquely positioned to share the story of his mentor’s life, not just as his friend, but as a collaborator on Watson’s three-album folk autobiography, which was released in 2002.

“I’m becoming one of the old-timers now. I’m 66, so a lot of the people whose music I really loved have passed away,” Holt says. “Doc was one of my main mentors from the time I was 18. “He lived a very rich life, going from a poor blind boy in the mountains of North Carolina to one of the world’s most recognizable musicians.”

Tickets for Holt’s matinee performances are $12 for adults and $11 for seniors, students and children under 18. Ticket holders for all matinee and evening performances will save 10 percent on same-day dining at The Olde Courthouse Diner, The Dining Room, Jonesborough General Store and Eatery or Main Street Café.

All concerts will take place in Mary B. Martin Storytelling Hall, an intimate theater in the heart of the International Storytelling Center. Shows are appropriate for all ages, and reservations are strongly recommended.

Holt is the latest storyteller to perform for the teller-in-residence program, which is curated by the International Storytelling Center. Also known as the Storytelling Live! series, the popular concerts attract a parade of world-class storytellers to Jonesborough through the month of October.

Information about all TIR performers, as well as a detailed schedule for 2013, is available at www.storytellingcenter.net.The International Storytelling Center is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Saturday.

Storytelling Live! is sponsored in part by Eastman Credit Union. Media sponsors are News 5-WCYB, FOX Tri-Cities, Tri-Cities CW, Johnson City Press, Kingsport Times-News, Herald & Tribune and Cumulus Media.

For more information about Storytelling Live! or to make a group reservation, call (800) 952-8392 ext. 222 or (423) 913-1276.

Recommended for You

    Kingsport Times News Videos