David Holt

(Photo Credit: Daniel Coston)

David Holt was born October 15, 1946 in Gatesville, Texas and moved to the Western mountains of North Carolina, near Ashville, in 1973. He has won four Grammys for his recordings of traditional American music and southern folktales. Holt hosts Riverwalk, a jazz program on public radio and the TV programs Great Scenic Railway Journeys and North Carolina Treasures on North Carolina public television.

Holt graduated from the University of California at Santa Barbara with degrees in Biology and Art, and has an advanced degree in Education. Holt’s interest in traditional music and storytelling in the southeastern mountains led to his move to western North Carolina where he immersed himself in the folk culture, collecting songs, folktales, and true stories, which became part of his concerts.  

His concerts feature old-time music, ballads, and storytelling accompanied by him playing banjo, slide guitar, guitar, harmonica, bones, spoons and jaw harp. The songs and stories collected by Holt are part of the permanent collection of the Library of Congress. A grant from the National Endowment for the Arts allowed him to learn the unique music of Virgil Craven, the last traditional hammered dulcimer player. Holt’s performances outside the United States in Nepal, Thailand, South America and Africa have been sponsored by the U.S. State Department.

David Holt won two Grammys (as artist and producer) for the album Legacy with Doc Watson, which was awarded the Best Folk Recording in 2003. He also won two Grammys (as artist and producer) in 1997 for Best Children’s Spoken Word Recording for his album Stellaluna. He has been nominated for Grammys a total of eight times.

Holt was inducted into the Blue Ridge Hall of Fame in 2012, won the Uncle Dave Macon Heritage Award for promoting and preserving Old Time Music in 2011, was inducted into the National Storytelling Association’s Hall of Fame, and received the Razor Walker Award from the University of North Carolina for Individuals in the service of youth who have demonstrated. 

Holt founded the Appalachian Music Program at Warren Wilson College in Swannanoa, North Carolina in 1975, becoming the director. This program is the only one in the nation where students study, collect and learn traditional music and dance.

David Holt became a full-time entertainer in 1981; his vision, tenacity, sacrifice and courage: “Those who walk the razor’s edge.”

Holt has won the reader’s poll for Best Old-Time Banjoist from Frets Magazine three times and in 1984 Esquire Magazine selected him for its first Annual Register of Men and Women Who Are Changing America, a group that included Steven Spielberg, Sally Ride, and Meryl Streep.

Holt has released DVD’s that show how to play spoons, dulcimer and the five-string banjo as well as features on the Blue Ridge Parkway, the Outer Banks and Great Scenic Railway Journey. His books include Ready-To-Tell Tales, Ready to Tell Tales From Around the World, The Storyteller’s Guide, Spider’s in the Hairdo: Modern Urban Legends, and The ExplodingToilet: Modern American Legends.

Pretty Polly


Shady Grove with Doc Watson

Sugar Hill

The Train That Carried My Girl From Town

David Holt on Our State

David Holt Interview