Dan Holder, the son of missionary parents, spent his childhood at the mouth of the Amazon River in Brasil (that”s how they spell it), and it’s where he first learned to play guitar. A local folk singer, Orlando Texeira, taught Dan how to hold it, tune it, strum it, and a few chords to get him started. Living in a very musical environment helped, too. Both parents were accomplished musicians, and Dan’s sister, Dianne, had mastered seven instruments, including flute. The Holder family performed often, and as Dan improved his guitar skills he also participated, singing duets with his sister or accompanying her as she played the flute. Dianne had perfect pitch, meaning she could accurately sing any note from memory; Dan often tuned his guitar to her, then checked it later on the piano, always finding it precisely in-tune.
After returning to the U.S. in the mid-1960s, Dan continued to play and sing, but now added songwriting to his activities. This era also exposed him to American folk music, bluegrass, country, jazz, and rock-n-roll. These styles greatly enhanced his repertoire and he began experimenting with Christian songs set to “unconventional” mixes of styles.
Dan played in numerous bands all through high school and college, and began receiving invitations from recording artists to help them with their studio projects. This music hobby soon became a “music habit,” and he dreamed of playing professionally.
In 1975, Dan met another guitarist, Al Pierce, at Starrett Recording Studio in Southern California. Al was one of the best guitarists Dan had ever seen. Al had once been Eddy Arnold’s personal guitarist, and had played with the likes of Johnny Cash, Glen Campbell, Waylan Jennings, and with the Grand Ole Opry stage band. The two found a quiet room at the studio where they could have a jam session, and they realized that their picking styles complemented each other in ways they hadn’t imagined.
Over the next few months, Al and Dan jammed almost daily, working up songs they both had written, and recording rough demos to fine-tune their sound. It wasn”t long before the duo was invited to perform at local churches, schools, and as guest artists with other more-established bands. This chain of events led to introductions in the Gospel Music industry. In 1976, after performing on stage with Heritage II, Max Mace (founder of The Heritage Singers) offered to assist Dan and Al form a band and record some of their music.
The result of that collaboration was the band, Tranquility, and a record album of the same name. The band signed a contract with Tempo Records, which had spun off a new contemporary Christian label called “Chrism”. Tranquility immediately hit the road to promote their album, performing hundreds of concerts over the next three years. During that time, the “Tranquility” record hit the top 5 on the Christian charts, receiving extensive radio play, and it remained in the top 20 for approximately 18 months.
After a European tour in the Spring of 1978, Tempo Records closed their doors (due to losses sustained during a flood in the Kansas City area), leaving many bands (including Heritage Singers) without a label or a source of royalty income. Tranquility broke up shortly thereafter, with Al Pierce remaining in Europe for a while to pursue various recording studio projects in Germany and the UK. Dan returned to the States and attempted to fulfill Tranquility’s concert obligations as a solo artist.
In 1979, Dan began recording a new album of his latest material, entitled “Nevermore Alone” (see Gallery for session photos). The sessions included live orchestra and some of the top musicians in the industry, including Al Pierce, Fred Petry, Butch Lacy, Gunnar Biggs, Scott Parrish, and Dave Williamson (who arranged the orchestra parts and played sax on a couple numbers). This project brought together all those diverse song styles Dan had been experimenting with throughout his career. The sessions ended in early 1980, and just prior to performing the final mixes, the recording studio accidentally bulk-erased one of Dan’s 24-track master tapes, wiping out the two biggest production numbers on the album. This studio error was a financial disaster for Dan, since he had mortgaged everything he owned, and had borrowed from friends and relatives to help finance the project. The San Diego-based recording studio shut its doors and filed bankruptcy to protect itself from Dan, and since he had no further resources to re-record the erased productions, he lost everything.
Dan continued to perform a few concerts after that, did studio work whenever possible, and continued to write songs, but he stopped touring. In mid-2009, Dan learned that Al Pierce had passed away. Al was one of the best guitar players on Planet Earth, was a brother to Dan for many years, and Dan’s playing skills were magnified exponentially because of Al.
But enough of the past! Here”s what”s happening lately…
Dan currently lives in Texas, where he assists performers and businesses with media productions. He continues to write songs, play guitar, do studio work, and perform in churches of all denominations.
Best of all, the digitally-remastered CD edition of the original Tranquility album was released by Adagio Music Company in the Spring, 2011.
In May 2012, Dan Holder’s long-awaited Nevermore Alone project was released through the LarkinSong label – fully restored with the lost songs rerecorded.
In January 2014, Dan released his third CD, titled Stormy, which offers ten original songs in many styles, including Dan’s well-known Christian ballad, country, jazz, and Brazilian (bossa nova). The project took 15 months to complete and was recorded completely with live musicians (no digital samples or synths).
In February 2023, Dan retired from his day job (technology consulting), and by August had released an all-digital EP of five new songs, with the hope he will release five more every year from now on! The new release is titled Little Bitty Boat.