By Chip Chandler — Digital Content Producer
Storytelling first got into David Holt's blood as a kid, when he was sitting on his back porch at his childhood Texas home, listening to the grownups spin tales.
"If your family came from Texas, as you well know, there are probably some really wild stories in there about gunfights, anything you can imagine," Holt told me this morning. "I think that's what probably set my ear for storytelling."
Today, Holt — the headliner of the 2016 West Texas A&M University Storytelling Festival on Friday — is a longtime host of public radio and television shows, including Great Scenic Railway Journeys, Folkways and David Holt's State of Music. Legacy, his 2002 album with folk music legend Doc Watson, won two Grammy Awards, and he has appeared on such shows as Hee Haw and Nashville Now, as well as a musician in O Brother Where Art Thou.
But long before that — and long before he knew there was such a thing as a professional storyteller — until he started collecting traditional mountain music and performing in schools in the late 1960s and early 1970s.
"I realized I could entertain kids for three minutes with a song, but I could hold their attention for 15 minutes with a story," Holt said.
Kids then and now were used to seeing stories played out for them on screens, Holt said: "The don't really visualize things for themselves, and I think they crave it."
Now Holt — a professional entertainer since 1981 — melds music and tale-spinning in his performances.
"A lot of my stories are either about a song or leading up to a song or have music within them," he said. "That's my unusual take on storytelling."
He'll share his stories during at a 7 p.m. Friday concert in the Branding Iron Theatre in WT's Sybil B. Harrington Fine Arts Complex, joined by several graduate students enrolled in the Art of Storytelling seminar. The festival also will include kids concerts at 10 and 11:15 a.m. in the theater and a workshop with Holt at 2 p.m. in Room 176 of the Fine Arts Complex.
Admission is free. Call 806-651-2800 for information.
While he's in the area, Holt said he'll also dig into his family's ties to Amarillo. Great-grandfather Joseph Joplin Holt lived here in the early 1900s and owned Amarillo Sash and Door Co., Holt said.