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bio & promo material

David Williams is a singer-songwriter, cartoonist, writer, and multi-instrumentalist, who plays a variety of string instruments.  His musical influences include everything from gypsy jazz to delta blues to bluegrass and folk.  As a singer-songwriter, he is known for his way with words and melodies, which conjure up the American musical landscape.  His songs and stories touch on everything from the difficulties of love to the people and places along old Route 66, or a carnival from his childhood, or swing tunes reminiscent of Tin-Pan-Alley—in a wide range of CDs and short stories released over the last 30 years.


David has also spent decades studying the passionate guitar work of the famed gypsy swing instrumentalist, Django Reinhardt, and his band, DECO DJANGO, specializes in this infectious music from the 1930s.  In the past, David has also recorded and performed with people such as Greg Brown, and he also studied and performed with the great mandolinist Jethro Burns, of Homer and Jethro fame.  In addition, David has played at many of the large folk music festivals in North America, such as Vancouver and Winnipeg, where he has been recognized as both a songwriter and instrumentalist.

A working cartoonist, who work appears around the world through Carlton Cards and Soultrader of London.David has published a number of children’s books with Alfred A. Knopf and Ghost Road Press, as well as short stories and poems.  He holds a Ph.D. in English, and he has been a writer in residence at a number of colleges and universities in the US in Writing.  He has written and recorded ALA and NAPPA award-winning albums for children, and he is currently the songwriter for the new PBS children’s show The Big Green Rabbit, for which he won an Emmy in 2009.  Videos of his songs on YouTube have over 80 million hits.


Record Albums:

2011  CHOCOLATE BAR.  14 new americana songs by David Williams, with David on guitars, banjoes, mandolin and vocals, Lauren Ashley Stovall vocals, Paul Kitteck on fiddle, Duane Webster and Ondrej Smarmak on bass.

2011  Wild Bear Nature.  24 new songs by David Williams for kids and animals of all kinds—songs about Colorado wildlife dedicated to the Wild Bear Mountain Ecology Nature Discovery Center in Nederland, CO.

2011  Rhino and Rainforest Animals.  17 songs by David Williams, this CD contains many of the songs that garnered 30 million hits on YouTube.  Millions of kids know these songs from PRB’s Big Green Rabbit, which won David an Emmy in 2009.

2007  Django Jazz.  17 songs in the gypsy jazz genre, with Deco Django.

2006  Joplin, Mo.  A compilation of original songs that act as a companion CD to the book of short stories, Indian Bingo.  The songs are in the old-timey and country blues vein and feature the Americana singer, Darcy Perez, on many of the vocals.  The album reflects the characters and landscape of the Ozarks.  See www.trapdoor-media for reviews.

2005  David Williams and Deco Django.  A live recording of tunes from the gypsy jazz repertoire in the style of the original Hot Club of Paris, first developed by the great Django Reinhardt and Stephane Grappelli.   David Williams on lead guitar, Bill Pontarelli on clarinet, Jerry Rudy on rhythm guitar, and Duane Webster on standup bass. See for reviews.

2003  Where the Dark Road Starts: Songs of Love.  

Studio recording done at Swallow Hill’s famed studio in Denver, featuring all original compositions in a folk, blues, gypsy jazz vein. See www.trapdoor-media for reviews.

2003    Rainforest and Tropical Animals.  A collection of original animals songs, many of which were commissioned by Chicago's Shedd Aquarium for their "Tropical Rising Exhibit.  Winner of a 2003 NAPPA Award. See www.trapdoor-media for reviews.

1995     Route 66.   Fifteen original art songs about people and places along the old Route 66 highway: blues, folk, and jazz melodies, recorded with a grant from the Illinois Arts Council in music composition.  Reviewed in the Chicago Sun Times Sept. 23, 1994; in The Maverick Report in October 1994; in Dirty Linen, August 1994; in the Icon, October 1994; in The 66 News, Summer 1994, and Route 66 Magazine in Spring 1994.  Featured as a news story on nationwide on National Public Radio and internationally on Monitor Radio, Spring 1994. See www.trapdoor-media for reviews.

1990   Oh, The Animals.

An American Library Association award winner, fourteen original songs for children.  Reviewed in Booklist December 15, 1990: 873.  Reviewed in The Chicago Tribune Sunday, August 19, 1990: Tempo Section 3. Reviewed in Dirty Linen February--March 1991:51.  Reviewed in The Chicago Sun Times June 21, 1991: 46. See www.trapdoor-media for reviews.

1990    Peach Faced Love Bird. Seventeen original songs about endangered species from around the world, featuring calypso, blues, folk, and jazz music.  Reviewed in Dirty Linen December, 1992. 

1985    Cowboy Time.  Recorded with help from a grant by the Illinois Arts Council, original Western songs covering the historical range of cowboy music.

1981    The Great Frontier.  Original folk songs, with a Midwestern theme.


Awards and Grants:

2009  Emmy winner in Composition and Writing for work on The Big Green Rabbit, PBS television program (for which I wrote most of the songs for the series).

2008  Band winner Denver Post Theater Awards for best musical band in Colorado for “Woody Guthrie’s American Song,” which was part of the 2008 Colorado Shakespeare Festival.

2008  Emmy Nomination in Songwriting for the PBS childrens’ show, Big Green Rabbit.

2002-2003  National Association of Parenting Publications Award, NAPPA, for children’s music, for the album Rainforest and Tropical Animals.

2000  Grant from MSCD for writing time in the summer months, $3,000.  This grant allowed me to begin work on a collection of short fiction.

1997  Award of $500.00 from the Illinois Arts Council in music composition,

performance (vocals, guitar, violin, & mandolin), and songwriting for Who Let That Django Jazz Into the Room?

1995-1996  Included in the "State of Illinois Authors Poster," presented by the State of

Illinois, honoring 113 Illinois authors, past and present who have made a contribution to American literature.

1994  Designated as a participant in the 1995-1996 Arts-Tour Program through the

Illinois Arts Council.  The Arts Council will pay for twenty-five percent of the fees for all public appearances by David Williams made in the State of Illinois over the next two years.

1994  Artist Assistant Grant for promotion of the CD Route 66, from the Illinois Arts

Council: $500.00

1993  Award in Song Writing for Route 66, from the Springfield Area Arts Council, in

conjunction with the Illinois Arts Council, and the National Endowment for the Arts: $500.00.

1992  Award in Literature for the short story, "A Living That Means Something," from

the Springfield Area Arts Council, in conjunction with the Illinois Arts Council, and the National Endowment for the Arts: $500.00.

1991  Grant from GTE for a production of the play Oh, The Animals at the Egyptian

Theatre in DeKalb, Illinois, $1,500.00.

1991  Literature award in the short story from the Illinois Arts Council for "Nerves,"

which appeared in Karamu, $1,000.00.

1991  Notable Award in Children's Music, the top audio honor from the American

Library Association (the organization which confers the Caldecott and Newberry Awards) for Oh, The Animals a cassette tape of fourteen original songs, on Trapdoor Records.

1991  Illinois Arts Council's Illinois: The State of Writing Reading Series award winner.

Chosen as one of twelve Illinois fiction writers and poets to read in the first official state sponsored reading series.

1987  Literature award from the Illinois Arts Council in the short story for "Indian

Bingo," which appeared in Farmer's Market, $1,000.00.

1987  A collection of short stories, The Bingo Bus, was a finalist in the Drue Heinz

fiction competition at the University of Pittsburgh Press.

1986  Judson Q. Owen Prize in Literature, from Sigma Tau Delta, $1,000.00.

1985  J. Hal Connor Award for Creative Prose from Northern Illinois University.

1984  Lucien Stryk Award in Poetry, Northern Illinois University.

1983  Illinois Arts Council Fellowship in Music Composition, $1,000.00.

1978  Folk Music Apprenticeship Grant from the National Endowment for the Arts for

study with a master musician, $1,000.00.



“Williams works magic. . . . he describes commonplace events with uncommon grace.”
Newsweek magazine


“David Williams hits you like high beams from a big rig. . . . the record [Route 66] is about more than an old road.”
The Chicago Sun Times


“David Williams’ songs teach as well as entertain.”  

The Chicago Tribune


“I’ve seen a lot of singer-songwriters pass through over the years; most of them quickly forgotten. But every once in awhile, someone rises up with a real talent for lyrics, and such a talent is David Williams.”
Come For To Sing


“You will be knocked out by Williams. . . reminiscent of Ry Cooder and Leon Redbone. A totally terrific collection . . . .” The Chicago Sun Times


“There are few artists, as performer and writer, who can synthesize the core elements of a specific influence and make it their own. In college, that was a skill we were encouraged to develop. David Williams does it with ease on Django Jazz — a collection of songs centered around the style and writing of Django Reinhardt & Stephane Grappelli, that extends itself into the trad sounds of Billie Mayhew, Fats Waller and others. David’s quartet not only understands the core imagery and emotionalism that exists in the songs, they infuse a modernity that doesn’t sound like just plain stylizing for the sake of style. It simply sounds real — whether covering a classic, or performing an original. One of my favorite and most aired releases from 2007 on The Colorado Sound.”
Chris ‘goat’ K. – Host of the Colorado Sound on KRFC, 88.9FM, 5PM-7PM (mountain) Rating: 5 of 5 Stars! [5 of 5 Stars!]


“Route 66 is a musical journey from Chicago to the Ozarks, down the fabled highway David Williams traveled as a child. His songs are full of interesting characters, in settings ranging from roadside diners to the crowded streets of Chicago to a barren farm in the middle of nowhere, all connected by this trail of tarmac. It’s a mix of styles: blues, folk, rockabilly, all complemented by Williams’ warm, rich vocals. A highlight is “Flood Water,” whose bitter, scathing lyrics are sung to, of all things, an old timey country tune. This is a Midwestern anthem. Crank down the windows and take a ride.”
Dirty Linen


“It’s as though Williams has peeled off a chunk of worn asphalt from the “old road” like it was a genuine slice of life, and treated it with the loving attention of a museum curator in order to preserve it for as long as possible.”
Jefferson County Journal—Tennessee.


“His songwriting has that same, wonderful sense of the bizarre [as Gorka]. Like Gorka, he even writes great songs about cows and pigs. This is the definitive animal song tape. . . this tape is a gem!”
Dirty Linen


“In this superb oral history, Williams gathers together the “prairie stories” told by his Grandmother.”
Publishers Weekly


“The voice is quietly upbeat, remembering the adventure and the safety of the family wagon against the wild outside. Precise details evoke the hardship as well as the hope.” Booklist

“We’re In The Mood For This!”

Iain Anderson, BBC Radio Scotland (after playing Chocolate). 2011

“Lovely—well wortch a listen.” – Frank Hennessy, BBC Radio Wales. 2011

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