Contemporary banjo player and storyteller David Holt is devoted to keeping old-time music and stories alive. Best-known as the host of TNN's Fire on the Mountain and The American Music Shop, he also records children's albums. He was born into an established Texas family and began playing the family's traditional instruments, the spoons and bones, at age ten. When he was a teen, the family moved to California where he began playing the drums and gained experience in several rock & roll and jazz bands. His budding interest in traditional music bloomed after hearing an inspiring 78 rpm single by cowboy singer Carl T. Sprague, whom he traveled to Bryan, Texas to see. Sprague taught Holt to play harmonica and encouraged his interest in old songs.
In 1969, Holt and his college buddy, banjo player Steve Keith, visited the southern Appalachians, where they immersed themselves in the local musical traditions; Holt learned the clawhammer banjo style straight from the sources. Soon after receiving his teaching certificate and degrees in biology and art from the University of California, Holt moved to Asheville, North Carolina to learn more about mountain music. For many years he interviewed and taped traditional musicians and convinced them to play at local festivals. (Much of the research and the recordings has been placed in the Library of Congress.) Moffatt also founded and helmed the Appalachian Music program at Warren Wilson College in Swannanoa, North Carolina in 1975.
Holt began his own recording career on the June Appal label, and decided to become a full-time performer in 1980. With his trademark white fedora, Holt soon became a major figure in traditional music and won the Best Old-Time Banjoist in Frets magazine's Readers' Poll three times. He founded his own label, High Windy, and has released many albums. He also developed shows such as Banjo Reb & the Blue Ghost to bring the music to wider audiences. He continues to tour and has appeared on Hee Haw, Nashville Now, and the Grand Ole Opry, where he has the distinction of being the first performer to play a paper sack on stage. In addition to hosting TNN shows, Holt has produced the seven-part series Folkways for PBS radio. He also hosted and starred in American Public Radio's Riverwalk: Live from the Landing, which was broadcast from San Antonio. In 1992, Holt released the Grammy-nominated Grandfather's Greatest Hits, featuring Chet Atkins and Duane Eddy. Two years later, he issued an album called I Got a Bullfrog: Folksongs for the Fun of It. ~ Sandra Brennan