“I’ve always been interested in stories,” recalls Doyle Pace. “My uncles and father told stories. They didn’t tell Jack Tales, but they always had some sort of anecdote to make their point.” Doyle’s interest in stories and folklore eventually led him to the mountains of Western North Carolina. Since his first trip to Watauga County in 1958, he made frequent extended trips to the area. He bought a house there in 1970, and he has made the area his permanent home since 2005.
Doyle’s father was a carpenter who worked for the Tennessee Valley Authority, and he spent his childhood living up and down the Tennessee River. “I loved reading Uncle Remus and fairy tales as a young child, and that led to an interest in folklore,” he says. “I read anything I could find on folklore and folk music, which wasn’t much at the time.” He attended college at the University of Northern Alabama, where he made friends with a banjo player who shared similar interests. “We had read the Jack Tales, and I had one of Richard Chase’s publications,” Doyle remembers. “It said on the back cover that he lived in Beech Creek, North Carolina, so we came up here looking for him. And we found him.”
Doyle made that first trip in 1958, and he returned every summer to stay with Richard Chase and learn more about the mountain culture and stories. He met Stanley Hicks, Buna Hicks, Tab and Marshall Ward, and Ray Hicks, the master storyteller. “That’s what brought me to these mountains and really got me interested,” Doyle says. “I used to sit and listen to Ray tell stories for hour after hour. He was truly one of a kind.”
Doyle has been telling stories in front of audiences since the 1960s. He has a repertoire of more than 100 stories, and has performed in schools, museums, nature centers, festivals, nursing homes, theatres, bars, and about every location where stories are told.
Living in Kansas City, Missouri, for several years, Pace was a member of the Midwest Storytelling Theatre and River and Prairie Story Weavers. Since moving to Watauga County, Doyle appears regularly at the Todd General Store, and now organizes the annual Tellabration event. He serves as the northern representative of the North Carolina Storytelling Guild.
Doyle Pace is available for storytelling performances.