Michael “Badhair” Williams remembers that the first time he told a story for an audience, he was a fourth-grader in his hometown of Boone. His class had received a visit from Richard Chase, the preeminent collector of Jack tales and an important figure in American storytelling, and afterwards the children themselves learned and recounted folktales. For Williams, this lesson tapped into an art form that he’d been exposed to all his life, in its most elemental setting—the family. Some of the family stories that he heard growing up are part of his repertoire today.
Williams’ career as a professional storyteller dates to 1975, when he was a member of Appalshop’s Roadside Theater ensemble. Later, while studying TV communications at the University of Tennessee, he began telling stories in the Knoxville schools. More than forty years later, he especially enjoys telling stories for children, who are his main audience.
Williams’ storytelling performances have carried him all over the United States, to venues and events from the World’s Fair to the Kennedy Center and Smithsonian. Through storytelling, and sharing his own Appalachian heritage, Williams aims to teach kids about history, and to be proud of who they are and where they are from. Also, he says, “It’s just a lot of fun.”
Michael “Badhair” Williams is available for performances.