Ted Olson

Ted Olson


Award-winning musician/storyteller Ted Olson presents programs that illuminate and celebrate cultural connections between the Old and New Worlds by combining music, stories, and history. His large repertoire includes traditional and contemporary ballads, songs, tunes, blues, stories, and poems.


Should you require additional information about Ted Olson's programs beyond the information included herein, please contact Ted Olson via phone (423) 439-4379 and/or via email olson@etsu.edu

For more than 25 years, Ted Olson has performed folk ballads, songs, and tunes from the U.S.A.(particularly from Appalachia and the South), as well as from Ireland, Scotland, and England. He has appeared at a wide variety of educational and entertainment venues, accompanying his singing on guitar, banjo, and dulcimer, with spoken introductions to each ballad/song/tune to establish the historical context.

Over the years, Ted Olson has opened for, or has played in the same concert series as, a number of well-known musicians, including Mary Chapin Carpenter, Steve Young, Southern Culture on the Skids, Donald Davis, Waddie Mitchell, Michael Martin Murphy, the Kruger Brothers, Sparky Rucker, and Steve Forbert. Olson has appeared as a folk music performer and scholar in several documentary films, including _Scotland's Music_ (BBC Scotland) and _The Appalachians_ (PBS). Additionally, he served as co-chair of the curatorial committee for the 2003 Smithsonian Folklife Festival's "Appalachia: Heritage and Harmony" exhibition. He has received awards for his singing, his instrumental performances, his storytelling, and his writings on various cultural and historical subjects.

Olson is a widely published scholar of the cultural connections between the Old World and the New World. He holds the Ph.D. in English (1997) from the University of Mississippi, the M.A. in English (1991) from the University of Kentucky, and the B.A. in English (1982) from the University of Minnesota. Presently Associate Professor of Appalachian Studies and English at East Tennessee State University in Johnson City, Tennessee, he has served as Director of that school's Appalachian, Scottish, and Irish Studies program and as Interim Director of that school’s Center for Appalachian Studies and Services.

Olson is the author of several books, including _Blue Ridge Folklife_ (University Press of Mississippi, 1998) and _Breathing in Darkness: Poems_ (Wind Publications, 2006). He has also edited numerous books, including an award-winning poetry collection by author James Still entitled _From the Mountain, From the Valley: New and Collected Poems_ (University Press of Kentucky, 2001); _James Still in Interviews, Oral Histories and Memoirs_ (McFarland & Company, Inc., 2009); _CrossRoads: A Southern Culture Annual_ (Mercer University Press, 2004, 2005, 2006, and 2009); and Sarah Orne Jewett's _The Country of the Pointed Firs and Selected Short Fiction_ (Barnes & Noble Classics, 2005). Additionally, he was the music section editor and associate editor for _The Encyclopedia of Appalachia_ (University of Tennessee Press, 2006) as well as the co-editor (with Charles K. Wolfe) of the award-winning book _The Bristol Sessions: Writings About the Big Bang of Country Music_ (McFarland & Company, Inc., 2005), the co-editor (with Kathy H. Olson) of _James Still: Critical Essays on the Dean of Appalachian Literature_ (McFarland & Company, Inc., 2005), and the co-editor (with Anthony Cavender) of _A Tennessee Folklore Sampler_ (University of Tennessee Press, 2009). Olson is the author of many articles, essays, encyclopedia entries, record and book reviews, oral histories, poems, and creative nonfiction pieces published in a wide variety of books and periodicals.

Olson is also presently serving as Poetry Editor for _Rapid River_, an Asheville, North Carolina-based monthly periodical with a circulation of 35,000 copies, and as Book Series Editor of the Charles K. Wolfe American Music Book Series for the University of Tennessee Press.


Appalachian Lecture Series (Maryville, TN)
Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts (TN)
Autonomous University of Barcelona (Spain)
Balsam Mountain Inn (Balsam, NC)
Big South Fork National Recreation Area (KY)
Blue Ridge Parkway (NC/VA)
British-Appalachian Festival (Rugby, TN)
Burgundy Center for Wildlife Studies (WV)
Cades Cove Storytelling Festival (Townsend, TN)
Casa de Cultura (Neda, Spain)
Cataloochee Ranch (Maggie Valley, NC)
Center for Study of Southern Culture (Oxford, MS)
City Lights Summer Music Concerts (Sylva, NC)
Cumberland Falls State Resort Park (Corbin, KY)
Cumberland Gap National Historical Park (KY/VA)
Cumberland Island National Park (Brunswick, GA)
Daniel Boone Festival (Barbourville, KY)
Emory University (Atlanta, GA)
First Saturday Festival (Oxford, MS)
First Scots Presbyterian Church (Charleston, SC)
Food for Thought Restaurant (Washington, DC)
Frontier Nursing Service (Wendover, KY)
Great American Dulcimer Convention (Pine Mt., KY)
Great Smoky Mountains National Park (NC/TN)
Golden Gathering (Maggie Valley, NC)
High Country Music Fair (Boone, NC)
Inn at Blackberry Farm (Walland, TN)


_Workin' on the New Railroad: Folk Songs of the Blue Ridge and the Great Smoky Mountains_ (Balsam Records, 1992).

Set List

My sets can be tailored to specific audiences and functions; most of my programs appeal to people of all ages. I can perform within a wide range of time-slots (slots from 10 minutes in length to 2 hours in length). Some of my sets incorporate material linked by a theme. Specific information regarding my repertoire is available upon request.