Ted Olson, PhD

Professor of Appalachian Studies, East Tennessee State University

Ted Olson 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 Professor of Appalachian Studies at East Tennessee State University, he served in 2008 as Fulbright Senior Scholar in American Studies at the University of Barcelona and the Autonomous University of Barcelona in Spain.  Olson was President of the Tennessee Folklore Society in 2003-2005, and in 2003 he co-chaired the curatorial committee for the Smithsonian Folklife Festival’s “Appalachia: Heritage and Harmony” exhibition, attended by an estimated one million people in Washington, D.C.  In 2019 Olson was the committee chair of “Tell It To Me: The Johnson City Sessions 90th Anniversary Celebration,” which won Northeast Tennessee Tourism Association’s Pinnacle Award for Event of the Year.  The author or editor of a number of books as well as poems, creative nonfiction pieces, articles, essays, encyclopedia entries, reviews, and oral histories published in a range of books and periodicals, Olson has researched and written many scholarly works exploring the history and culture of Blacks in Appalachia and the South.  He has also produced and curated documentary albums of traditional Appalachian music, including three box sets from Bear Family Records focused on telling the full stories of influential pre-Depression Era music recording sessions in East Tennessee (the 1927-1928 Bristol Sessions, the 1928-1929 Johnson City Sessions, and the 1929-1930 Knoxville Sessions) and also four CDs for Great Smoky Mountains Association featuring music from Great Smoky Mountains National Park.  For his work as a music historian, Olson has received a number of awards, including seven Grammy Award nominations.  He recently began co-producing and co-hosting (with Dr. William Turner) a podcast series for Great Smoky Mountains Association entitled Sepia Tones: Exploring Black Appalachian Music.

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