Bobby grew up a shy child in North St. Louis with a debilitating stutter. Son of an elevator operator and confectionery clerk, Norfolk's future was hazy as a poor black kid surrounded by violence and gangs in the inner city. As a youth, Bobby wondered “What could a discouraged kid from the low-rent blocks of St. Louis do with the rest of his life?” Norfolk's path toward storytelling and success began in 1961 when he suddenly overcame his stutter when performing in a fourth-grade poetry recital. From that moment, his teachers helped him grow both as an individual and a performer.“They saw things in me I didn't see in myself, which is the mark of a master teacher, to see inside the student with low self-esteem (who) hasn't found his or her gifts,” Norfolk said in a recent interview. His teachers put him in drama class, glee club, poetry recitals and talent shows. “Whenever I performed, I wouldn't stutter.” he said.
His career began as a stand-up comedian in 1975 at local St. Louis comedy clubs and as an actor with The St. Louis Black Repertory Co. Concurrently, he worked ten years at the Gateway Arch in St. Louis as a National Park Service Ranger. In 1979, Bobby made his first appearance as a storyteller at the St. Louis Storytelling Festival, and discovered that through storytelling he was able to combine his theatre and stand-up comedy background to become a “story-performer. Along the way, he discovered too that the human brain is just naturally hardwired for storytelling.” After a Scott Joplin performance at a school in Ladue, MO three teachers said: “Mr. Norfolk, we’ve been talking and we decided that you remind us of a clean Richard Pryor!” In television, Bobby won three Emmy awards as the host of the CBS TV show “Gator Tales” and also hosted the Emmy nominated series “Children’s Theater at Bobby’s House.” Both shows were based out of St. Louis and promoted themes of character education, literacy, and storytelling.
Many people describe Bobby as an adventure story come to life! His high energy performances combine lively animation, unique sound effects, amazing facial expressions and laugh out loud humor to engage, entertain and educate audiences of all ages. His performances promote literacy, cultural diversity, living history, music and character education. Truly, Bobby is a gift for your imagination!
University of Missouri, Bachelor of General Studies - US History & Journalism (2004)
Touring Storyteller International (1987 – Present)
Presents storytelling, living history and musical performances nationally and internationally.
Keynote Speaker International (1987- Present)
Offers keynotes to conferences, schools, museums, libraries & corporations.
Teaching Artist & Workshop Leader International (1987-Present)
Leads workshops on diversity, literacy, storytelling and cultural diversity.
Author (2003 to Present)
Including several award-winning books on storytelling, reference guides, a biography and several children books.
Arts Educator – Springboard to Learning – St. Louis, Mo (1987 – Present)
Writing and performing school shows under the auspices of Young Audiences (Inc.)
TV Host & Storyteller – Gator Tales, KMOX-TV St. Louis CBS/Viacom Affiliates (1988-1992)
Live TV show featuring puppets and storytelling lessons for children.
TV Host – Children's Theater at Bobby’s House, City Cable TV St. Louis, MO (1987)
Storytelling with children. (Nominated for Emmy Award)
Other Notable Arts Education Engagements:
Richmond (VA) Public Library - Touring Artist
Sharing the Fire Storytelling Conference, Harvard, MA - Keynote Address
Surabaya International School, Surabaya, Indonesia - Teaching Artist
Starlight International School, Taichung,, Taiwan - Teaching Artist
1996 Summer Olympics, Atlanta, Storyteller
Jimmy Carter Presidential Library, Atlanta, GA - Storyteller
New Orleans School District - Touring Artist
Louisiana State Library System - Touring Artist
Telecom Japan International, Japan - Storyteller
Smithsonian Institute, Washington DC - Storyteller
Busch Stadium, St. Louis, MO - Storyteller
St. Louis Symphony, St. Louis, MO - Storyteller
Boston Symphony - Boston, MA - Storyteller
Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona - Teaching Artist
Anchorage Library System - Alaska - Touring Artist
The University of Hawaii - Hawaii - Storyteller
Indianapolis Children's Museum, Indiana - Storyteller
And so much more……...
Beyond the Border Storytelling Festival, Cardiff, Wales, UK
International Storytelling festival, Derry, Northern Ireland
Vancouver International Folk Music Festival, Vancouver, Canada
African Arts festival, Ghana, West Africa
The National Storytelling Festival – Jonesborough, TN
Las Vegas Storytelling Festival - Las Vegas, NV
Colonial Williamsburg VA Storytelling Festival - Richmond, VA
Timpanogos Storytelling Festival – Orem, UT
Brandywine Storytelling Festival – Wilmington, DE
Mariposa Storytelling Festival – Mariposa/Yosemite, CA
Cave Run Storytelling Festival – Morehead, KY
St. Louis Storytelling Festival - St. Louis, MO
Timpanogos Winter Conference – Provo, UT
Ojai Storytelling Festival – Ojai, CA
Bay Area Storytelling Festival – Berkley, CA
Kearney Storytelling Festival – Kearney, NE
Tejas Storytelling Conference – Austin, TX
Cape Girardeau Festival – Cape Girardeau, MO
Front Porch Storytelling Festival – Florence, AL
Sweet Pea Festival – Bozeman, MT (x2)
And many, many more…
Dunbar Outloud! (2004)
Anansi Time (1999)
Why Mosquitoes Buzz in People's Ears
Baby Hawk Learns to Fly & Other Stories
Storyteller in a Groove
Bobby Norfolk LIVE!
(Recorded on stage at The Children's Museum of Pittsburgh)The Children's Museum of Pittsburgh.
Eye to the Sky: Storytelling on the Edge of Magic! (2016)
The Virginia Giant: The True Story of Peter Francisco (2014)
The Moral of the Story: Folktales for Character Development (2013)
Anansi and the Sky Kingdom (2012)
Anansi and the Pot of Beans (2012)
Anansi and the Tug o' War (2012)
Anansi Goes to Lunch (2012)
CAREER ACHIEVEMENTS AND OTHER HONORS
University of Missouri -Doctor of Humane Letters Honoris Causa in Education (2019)
National Storytelling Network – ORACLE: CIRCLE OF EXCELLENCE (2013)
Gold & Silver Parents Choice Awards for Literacy (1999- 2003)
Gator Tales CBS TV Show - Three Emmy Awards (1987-1999)