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David Holt
Photo by Tim Barnwell

David Holt

Folk musician and storyteller Fairview, NC (Buncombe County)

David Holt is a four-time Grammy Award winner who has toured full-time as a folk musician and entertainer since 1981. He is among the most recognizable ambassadors of traditional Southern music and storytelling. Starting in 2015, David hosted David Holt’s State of Music which aired nationally on PBS for 36 episodes. In 2016, he was inducted into the North Carolina Music Hall of Fame. In 2021 he was presented the North Carolina Award, the highest honor given to a North Carolina citizen. In 2024, the University of North Carolina, Asheville recognized David with an Honorary Doctorate.

Texas-born, Holt moved to the North Carolina mountains in 1973 after finishing college, and began to learn traditional music and stories from such revered Carolinians as Doc Watson, Etta Baker, and Ray Hicks. His career has given him the opportunity to perform and to educate the public about folk traditions, both at home in North Carolina and around the world. In 1975 he founded the Appalachian Music Program at Warren Wilson College in Swannanoa, NC. He was Director until 1981. For twenty years, David hosted FOLKWAYS, a PBS production highlighting the traditional arts of the Southern mountains. Holt has reached international audiences as a State Department-sponsored touring musician, traveling to India, Nepal, Thailand, and countries in South America and Africa. He has also been seen by worldwide audiences as a musician in the movie O Brother, Where Art Thou?

Of Holt’s many recordings, Legacy, a three-disc duo with Doc Watson, won a Grammy Award, and Grandfather’s Greatest Hits (1992), was nominated for a Grammy. His 1997 storytelling album, Stellaluna: Bat Stories and Amazing Facts, won a Grammy, and Why the Dog Chases the Cat: Great Animal Stories (1992) was also nominated. His recordings have won many other awards, including Indies, the American Library Association’s recognition for Notable Recordings, and Parents Magazine’s first Parents Prize for Best in Children’s Entertainment.

Holt is the co-author of five books and a three-volume series of banjo instruction videos. In addition to hosting FOLKWAYS, he has hosted The Nashville Network’s (TNN) series Fire on the MountainCelebration Express, and American Music Shop. He has made more than twenty-six appearances on Hee-Haw, and has made numerous other guest appearances on TNN and UNC-TV programs.

In 2020, David retired from performing and is enjoying playing pickleball, walking in the mountains, and playing harmonica with his two grandsons.