Donald Davis’s life has carried him far from his native mountains, but his storytelling draws on the lore of his family, who occupied the same land in Haywood County for two centuries. Though there were many storytellers in the family, Davis’s Uncle Frank Davis and his Grandmother Walker were his primary influences. Both had a large repertoire of Jack tales, and they approached them in different ways. While his grandmother told many classic “wonder tales,” stories with ancient heroes and eventful plots, Uncle Frank’s stories focused on dilemmas and problem-solving, situations that happened, in his stories, to occur to Jack. Uncle Frank, who was “a man who talked in stories,” taught Davis to “capture the real and daily adventures of life.”
Folklorist Joseph Daniel Sobol, in a 1994 North Carolina Folklore Journal description of how Davis’s style developed, writes “he began to consciously reweave the Uncle Frank stories, story fragments and true-life incidents that he could recall from his boyhood. He would elaborate on some of the taller tales after his own creative inclinations. In the development of his own repertory, Donald felt inspired and supported in this creative, improvisatory approach by Frank Davis’s own practice.”
College at Davidson, divinity school at Duke, and the stewardship of various parishes as a Methodist minister, have carried Davis all over North Carolina. His career as a storyteller has carried him all over the nation and world. He has been a featured storyteller at the Smithsonian, and at the 1982 Worlds Fair in Knoxville; he has told stories at festivals and concerts throughout the world. He has also been Chairman of the Board for the National Storytelling Association.
Donald Davis is available to tell stories in concert and at festivals and other venues.