Olson, Ted 1960–

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Olson, Ted 1960–


Born 1960. Education: University of Minnesota, B.A., 1982; University of Kentucky, M.A., 1991; University of Mississippi, Ph.D., 1997.


Office—P.O. Box 70400, East Tennessee State University, Johnson City, TN 37614-1700. E-mail—[email protected]; [email protected]


Maryville College, Maryville, TN, adjunct professor of Appalachian studies and English as a second language, 1995-97; Union College, Barbourville, KY, assistant professor of English, 1997-99; East Tennessee State University, Johnson City, TN, associate professor of Appalachian Studies and English, 1999—, director of the Appalachian, Scottish, and Irish Studies Program, 1999-2004, and interim director of Center for Appalachian Studies and Services, 2002-2003. Seasonal naturalist at Burgundy Center for Wildlife Studies, 1979-1983; seasonal park ranger for National Park Service, 1984-1992; teaching assistant at University of Kentucky, 1988-1991, and University of Mississppi, 1991-95; Fulbright Senior Scholar at the University of Barcelona and the Autonomous University of Barcelona in Spain, 2008. Member of Citizen Advisory Panel, Tennessee Arts Commission, 2001-02.


Appalachian Book of the Year Award, Appalachian Writers Association, 2002, for From the Mountain, From the Valley: New and Collected Poems; Appalachian Book of the Year Award for nonfiction, Appalachian Writers Association, 2006, for The Bristol Sessions: Writings about the Big Bang of Country Music.


Blue Ridge Folklife (nonfiction), University Press of Mississippi (Jackson, MS), 1998.

(Editor) James Still, From the Mountain, From the Valley: New and Collected Poems, University Press of Kentucky (Lexington, KY), 2001.

(Editor) Sarah Orne Jewett, The Country of the Pointed Firs and Selected Short Fiction, Barnes & Noble Classics (New York, NY), 2005.

(Editor, with Charles K. Wolfe) The Bristol Sessions: Writings about the Big Bang of Country Music (nonfiction), McFarland (Jefferson, NC), 2005.

Breathing in Darkness: Poems, Wind Publications (Nicholasville, KY), 2006.

(Editor, with Kathy H. Olson) James Still: Critical Essays on the Dean of Appalachian Literature (nonfiction), McFarland (Jefferson, NC), 2007.

Impossible Wind: The Formative Poetry of Robinson Jeffers (nonfiction), Edwin Mellen Press (Lewiston, NY), 2008.

(Editor, with Anthony Cavender) Tennessee Folklife: Selections from 75 Years of the Tennessee Folklore Society Bulletin (nonfiction), University of Tennessee Press (Knoxville, TN), 2008.

Editor of book series CrossRoads: A Southern Culture Annual, Mercer University Press (Macon, GA), 2004-2007.


Ted Olson has written scholarly works and poetry, edited the writings of other authors, and has served as a researcher and educator in the fields of American folklore, literature, music, and environmental studies as well as Southern and Appalachian studies. The first book that Olson edited, From the Mountain, From the Valley: New and Collected Poems, is an authoritative collection of the poetry of the late James Still, a noted writer from Kentucky. Olson has also produced his own book of poetry, Breathing in Darkness, and performed folk songs and ballads for more than twenty-five years, accompanying himself on dulcimer, guitar, and banjo. In 2008, he traveled to Spain in order to teach courses on multiculturalism and on film and literature of the United States. He also conducted research on the ways in which Spanish culture has influenced American culture in the South generally, and in Appalachia in particular.

Working with Charles K. Wolfe, Olson edited The Bristol Sessions: Writings about the Big Bang of Country Music. This collection of nineteen essays explores various aspects of a pivotal series of recording sessions arranged by Ralph Peer, a producer for the record company RCA Victor, in 1927 and 1928. Called the Bristol sessions because they were held in a warehouse in Bristol, Tennessee, these recordings are often considered some of the most significant examples of early commercial country music. They featured greater emphasis on vocal music in comparison to earlier recordings, as well as increased flexibility with melody, rhythm, and form. There is a tradition that most of the early country musicians were untrained, but The Bristol Sessions calls this belief into question, noting the professionalism of key participants such as Jimmie Rodgers and Ernest Stoneman. Reviewing The Bristol Sessions for the Journal of Southern History, Tracey E.W. Laird recommended it as a useful reference source for finding out facts about the music and musicians involved. Laird further noted: ‘A strong central axis helps sustain the less-focused essays or those that simply serve to fill informational gaps. In the end, the collection succeeds in arguing the significance of the Bristol sessions."



Choice, October, 2005, R.D. Cohen, review of The Bristol Sessions: Writings about the Big Bang of Country Music, p. 301.

Journal of Southern History, August, 2006, Tracey E.W. Laird, review of The Bristol Sessions, p. 703.


East Tennessee State University Web site,http://www.etsu.edu/ (June 28, 2001), ‘ETSU's Olson Serves as an Advocate for the Arts"; (August 16, 2007), ‘Dr. Ted Olson receives Fulbright Award to Teach in Barcelona, Spain."