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62. VIEWS See Jim Green’s concert photography



Meet No. 1

Photo by Deborah Griffin Bob Waters is proficient on a multitude of instruments, including the harp.



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Catching The mighty rockfish



Kyle Stephens

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Sarah Hodges Stalls Thadd White twhite@ncweeklies.com Creative Services Director Michelle Leicester mleicester@ncweeklies.com

71. MARK IT!


Learn about Father Aaron Bazemore


A look at the Great Dismal Swamp

Miles Layton mlayton@ncweeklies.com Deborah Griffin dgriffin@ncweeklies.com Editorial Contributors Leslie Beachboard Gene Motley

Layout & Design

Brenda Monty

Patrick Bryant

Sandy Carawan


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Photo Editor

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Jim Green

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Advertising Executives Lou Ann Van Landingham lavan@ncweeklies.com

74. PARTING SHOTS Words from our Editor

Jessica Mobley jmobley@ncweeklies.com

Eastern North Carolina Living Magazine P.O. Box 69, Windsor, NC 27983

Kelly Ayscue




Eastern North Carolina Living is published by APG Media Eastern NC, and is a subsidiary of the Bertie Ledger-Advance, The Enterprise, Tarboro Weekly and Rocky Mount Telegram.


MARTIN county

Influenced by the Greats While Making it Their Own

Martin County Ramblers record what they love right at home


riendship, a love of music and a

country music, blues, jazz and roots rock.

blend of influences – that’s where

As they have grown and evolved as a

it all began for the Martin County

group, the Ramblers have put their own



Story by Sarah Hodges Stalls Photos Contributed

stamp on their music.

A regular fixture at festivals and events

Justin Edwards of Bear Grass has been

locally and throughout the east, the Martin

in the band from the beginning. Initially,

County Ramblers’ roots are in a mix of

there were only two Ramblers – Edwards

and fellow 2005 Bear Grass High School graduate Kevin Harris. “We both played acoustic guitars, listened to a lot of older country, alternative country and bluegrass music,” Edwards explained. The pair got started in 2005.

“We would write songs together in Bear

harmonica and mandolin.

The band as a whole credits iconic groups

Grass and on my front porch in Greenville

In 2017, Jacob Vaughn came on board with

where we were both attending East Carolina

vocals and playing bass. Jody Andrews has


University,” he added.

been playing guitar with the Ramblers since

Revival, Lynyrd Skynyrd and Grateful Dead for


influencing their sound along with Tom Petty

Mike Poston and Steven Evans, who also

such as The Band, Allman Brothers Band, Tucker,



graduated from Bear Grass High School in

“We were halfway through recording the

2005, soon joined the band. Poston added

“Day in the Sun” album (2020) when we

and Neil Young. Justin Edwards’ songwriting influences

drums and Evans brought skills on bass guitar

realized we wanted flute on some tracks,”

include Ronnie Van Zandt, Toy Caldwell,

to the mix.

Justin Edwards said.

Robert Earl Keen and Guy Clark.

Around 2008 or 2009, according to

Alisha Cardwell recorded flute on four

The Martin County Ramblers have played

Edwards, the group made their first public

songs and sang background vocals. She is now

venues all over the east. Rocky Mount Mills

performance at a local restaurant.

a full-time member of the band.

has been one of their favorites.

The Martin County Ramblers pressed


“We were on the verge of disbanding in

pause while Edwards served in the U.S. Army

sometimes play live events or on recordings,

2016 when Scott Roberts heard us playing at

and regrouped in 2013.

are drummer Laura O’Neal and keyboard

Sylvan Heights and offered us some frequent

player B.C. Smith. Brock Brossman sometimes

gigs,” according to Justin Edwards. “We have

sits in on percussion.

a great working relationship with him and

When the group came back together, Edwards brought with him a saxophone player – his wife, Kathryn.




“The addition of B.C.’s organ, Jody’s Les Paul

“I learned how to play tenor saxophone

(guitar) and Laura’s drumming have sent us in

in middle and high school band,” Kathryn

a bluesy direction on our latest album, Day in

Edwards said. “I have always enjoyed playing

the Sun,” said Justin Edwards.

music and I found an outlet for it after marrying Justin.” Today, the band includes Kathryn and husband, Justin, who sings, plays guitar, dobro,

Julie Baggett who would book us for outdoor events at the venue in its early stages.” COVID-19 has put a damper on road trips for the time being.

Guitarist Andrews credits Warren Haynes,

“We used to love to take trips to Gaffers on

Joe Bonamassa, Lowell George of the group

Ocracoke,” Justin Edwards said. “We’ve played

Little Feat and Jimmy Paige of Led Zeppelin

once so far at their new location in Emerald

fame as his greatest influences.



The band has a special event

explained many of their original

- Pecan Jam – on the Edwards

songs have ties to eastern North

family front porch to pay homage


to the many pecans in their yard. Is there a performance they will never forget? “I






I had worked up but couldn’t fit

always for


instrumental that Jody, Jacob and



any lyrics to it,” Edwards said.


Then the lyrics came while he

Stampede in Williamston in

and his family were sheltering

2014,” said Kathryn Edwards. “The streets were full in what may have been a record number of people that year.” It’s all a work in progress, one the group is proud of. “I’d like to think we have been steadily evolving over the years,” Justin Edwards said. “I am very proud of our latest album, “Day in the Sun”.” This was the first to feature Andrews on guitar and includes one of his songs, “Nobody Knows.” Vaughn also handles most

during Hurricane Dorian. “I got to thinking about the people on Ocracoke and the lyrics came to me in a matter of minutes,” he added. “Headed to Weldon,” also on “A Day in the Sun,” was inspired by a friend’s trip with a metal detector along Gardner’s Creek, which




artifacts. The song is the story of a fictional soldier who died. Other songs may be about a neighbor, you never know. For more on the Martin

of the mixing on the group’s

County Ramblers, visit them



on Facebook. The band has a

group and improve just like the

link to their website and how to


purchase their music on ITunes,







Spotify and Amazon Music.

recording and producing in my house, but we have improved over the years,” he said. Edwards, who has called Bear Grass home for much of his life,


Sarah Hodges Stalls is a Staff Writer for The Enterprise and Eastern North Carolina Living.


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Story by Leslie Beachboard Photos Contributed


ayne Stoeckert says there was no specific reason as to why his love for playing the guitar, and eventually the bass, started at such a young age.

He didn’t come from a family of musicians, nor was there

a particular influence that sparked the interest. According to Stoeckert, it just happened. “I have no idea why I began to play guitar. I just gravitated towards it,” he added. Stoeckert was born in Buffalo, New York and grew up in a suburb called East Aurora just outside of the city. He started taking piano lessons when he was between 6 and 7 years old. But the lessons didn’t last long because he didn’t like it. “I hated it,”said Stoeckert. Several years laters, Stoeckert became interested in playing the guitar, and began learning to play when he was 11 years old. “I bought my first guitar. It was a silver-tone guitar from Sears. I paid $32.50 for it. I saved my money from working a newspaper delivery route to buy it. I beat on that one for years,” he said. Around the same time he began taking guitar lessons and he learned to read sheet music. “I found guitar lessons very frustrating. I learned certain songs could not be learned from reading sheet music. They had to be learned from listening to the song,” he said. “I liked Roy Orbison’s


songs. I learned these songs could not be learned from reading sheet music.” Stoeckert says he only had a couple of years of formal training, and the rest was self taught. “Most people today can easily learn new music from how to play videos and tutorials on the internet. I started learning from listening to records. You would listen, then you would listen to it all over again. Eventually you could learn from the radio, CDs or DVDs,” he added. “You would learn you would get a lot of the lyrics wrong when learning them because you would not be hearing them correctly.” Stoeckert began playing in bands when he was about 15 years old. He started playing in clubs in New York roughly a year later. “I was playing clubs in New York and I was underage,” he laughed. Stoeckert said he bought his first Gibson guitar when he was 16 years old. He said his driving point to buy the guitar was the Beatles performing on the Ed Sullivan Show in 1964. He continued to play in local clubs until his music career came to a sudden stop. When Stoeckert was between 17 and 18 years old he was drafted during the Vietnam


era. “This had the biggest effect on my music career. The momentum had been killed,” he added. Stoeckert said he was lucky because many were sent to Vietnam, and he was sent to Europe. “I was sent to Istanbul, Turkey. We did have some music on base, and would have small concerts. I had a friend from Texas that I would play music with when I could. The good thing was

we had access to instruments, he continued. “In the city, there were Air Force clubs with Turkish performers and USO bands.” Stoeckert said the majority of his performances stopped when he was drafted, but once he was discharged he went right back back to playing. He played with several trios. “I played with a band called Fat Rabbits and we played all up and down the east coast. I played the bass in another trio. We had someone play a 12-string acoustic guitar and someone play flute, mandolin and other instruments. I always wondered why we were so popular,” Stoeckert laughed. He said playing in New York was always different than playing anywhere else, including North Carolina. “After playing the bass for many years, I gravitated back into playing guitar,” Stoeckert said. “I always liked playing electric guitar, but as the years passed I learned to appreciate playing the acoustic guitar.”


“I had a friend who played for the Buffalo

He said his favorite is his Strat.

In 2020, his music seemed to hit another

Philharmonics. We would get together and

He has performed many different genres

play from time to time,” he continued. “I

of music including classic and progressive

learned classical music had introduced me to

rock. Most recently he has been playing some

“I hope we can all get back to normal. I am

a lot. I have always liked classical music. I take

pop country with influences like Keith Urban

anxious about 2021 and COVID-19 settling so

pride in my chordology.”

and Brad Paisley.

I can resurface into the music industry. I would

Stoeckert says one of his most memorable

“I spent about 15 years not being too

experiences was recording at Mercury Studio

creative. I moved to North Carolina about 12

in Nashville, Tennessee in 1974.

years ago with plans to retire,” Stoeckert said.

“This was the day when it truly was music row,” he added.

He has spent the last few years writing his own music.

hard time with the global pandemic caused by COVID-19.

like to see all musicians have a more dedicated attitude after COVID-19,” he added. Stoeckert has hopes of assembling a trio to play covers and his original music. He said there are plenty of places to play.

One of Stoeckert’s favorite places he

“I pick up my guitar and the ideas will just

Stoeckert says his wife, Phyllis Schute, has

performed was Tony Mart Club in Sommer’s

begin to flow. I began to do things for me. I

always been supportive of his music career.

Point on the New Jersey shore.

have played a wide array of music from the

Schute performed with a 66-piece choir in

1960’s until now, including songs I have

New York. She travelled throughout Europe

written,” he continued.

on tour.

The night club featured major recording artists, two stages, six bars and two dance floors. “Tony Mart’s was a musical mega. We were the house band for four months. We

Since moving to North Carolina, Stoeckert has played with several different groups from Washington and Greenville.







accomplishments,” he said. Stoeckert’s oldest son, Greg, is an online

got to play on the main stage. The club has

He said one of the struggles of playing with

changed names over the years,” he continued.

groups is some bands don’t want to put in the

Alex, his youngest son, occasionally will

“Tony Marts was in one of the scenes from the

homework to prepare. This causes practices

play the piano, and Stoeckert said he is

movie ‘Eddie and the Cruisers.’ It was neat to

not to run as smoothly.

extremely creative.

watch the movie and know I had played on the stage in the background.” Stoeckert’s love for music also became a love for guitars. He has acquired quite a collection of the years. He has a variety of brand names including Martin, Ibanez, Fender, Les Paul and Epiphone.


“Some of the groups I have played with have been successful, and some have not,”

radio hip hop DJ known as “DJ Heat.”

“I know for sure that I regret nothing, and I love to perform,” he closed.

Stoeckert added. During his time in North Carolina, Stoeckert

Leslie Beachboard is a former News Editor

has performed for Arts of the Pamlico at

of the Bertie Ledger-Advance and a regular

Turnage Theatre, and performed a successful

contributor to Eastern North Carolina Living.

duet with Vail Rumley.

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GATES county

The Love of Teaching


Story by Leslie Beachboard Photos Contributed



or Leigh Morgan it was not about just performing music, but teaching it too. Morgan was born in Morganton, but when she was four years old her family moved to Corapeake. “My dad’s family is from there, and they are farmers in the area,” she said. According to Morgan, she started piano lessons in first grade. “Elizabeth Barnes was my first piano teacher. I would take lessons after school,” she said. “I went to a school that offered piano lessons during the day too. I also took those. The teacher would pull you out of class for 30-minute lessons,” said Morgan. Mary Leigh Taylor was Morgan’s second piano teacher. “I really enjoyed playing the piano. Our parents made me and my two siblings learn how to play,” she added. As Morgan entered middle school, that is when she began to have an interest in playing in the school band. She started sixth grade at T.S.Cooper, and joined the band. Morgan decided to play the flute. “I loved it. My family was very supportive. I was selfmotivated so I found it easy to learn to play. Challenges didn’t bother me,” she said. Band and playing the flute did not stop in middle school. Morgan continued playing throughout all four years at Gates County High School, including in the marching and concert bands.

According to Morgan, she participated in many competitions and events in high school. “We would participate in events in Roanoke Rapids and Washington. We would also perform at the Edenton Peanut Festival each year,” she added. When the time came to start thinking about college, Morgan knew she wanted to teach music. “I come from a family of educators - college professors, school administrators and teachers. It was really important to me to go to school for music education. My dad tried to talk me out of it. He tried to talk me into being a math teacher or have a backup plan,” Morgan said. She graduated from Gates County High School in 1998. In the fall of 1998, Morgan started college at Western Carolina

“THERE IS MUSIC IN EVERY CHILD. THE TEACHER’S JOB IS TO FIND IT AND NURTURE IT.” -FRANCES CLARK University in Cullowhee studying Kindergarten through 12th grade Music Education- instrumental music. According to Morgan, music education degrees can be broken down with emphasis on many smaller categories. There is a degree for elementary music and secondary music, which is middle and high school. Music degrees can have emphasis on instrumental education, string or choral. “If you went to school for all of it and didn’t choose an emphasis, you would be in school forever,” she laughed. While at Western Carolina University, Morgan performed with the “Pride of the Mountains Marching Band.” “This band has grown and become a large band now. I take pride in knowing I was a part of the band even before it grew and became popular. We got the opportunity to perform during the Super Bowl Halftime Show. I am always proud that little me from Gates County had the chance to perform on the big stage,” said Morgan. After two years at Western Carolina University, Morgan had to come back home to Corapeake due to ongoing trouble from developing carpal tunnel syndrome. “I had to have surgery and therapy. It slowed me down from a

semi-professional level. I still wanted to play, but I really wanted to teach music more than to play. I began to look at my options,” she added. Morgan said she contacted Chowan University and talked with the school officials about her wish to still teach. “Chowan University faculty were so supportive. They supported the dream that I still wanted to teach,” she continued. Morgan spent the next two years living on campus at Chowan University. She still performed in the concert band. She said she enjoyed the smaller classes and learned more indepth which helped her more with teaching. She was a member of Alpha Sigma Tau sorority. “I was part of a philanthropic sorority, and we did a lot of giving back to the community. I got to have fun, meet new people and help others,” she said. Morgan graduated in 2002. She completed her student teaching at John A. Holmes High School in Edenton under the direction of its band director, Lynn Hale. Morgan said she was terrified when she started her student teaching.


“Lynn did such a good job with his students. He helped me ease into it a little at a time. He would teach a small piece and I would teach a small piece. He would watch me teach my piece,” she added. “I learned a lot from Lynn. I got to experience taking a class to band camp with him. He helped me get my first job.” Morgan said she learned to hold her own during her student teaching. After she finished her student teaching, she continued to come back and help with Hale’s band camp. She was able to watch the students grow from freshmen until they were seniors. “It was a supportive environment. Lynn helped me feel comfortable taking on the position. There were some struggles, but it was great to watch the program grow. After several years the program grew larger enough to hire a second band director for the school system,” she added. Morgan spent the next several years building the number of students enrolled in band, helping bring excitement to the children and encouraging more competitions. “We would go to competitions just for the judges to rate us. We would learn our mistakes, and work on improvements. We would then perform the song again,” she continued. “I was laid off from my position. It was the year of the big teacher layoffs. The district decided to only have one band director


position. The other teacher had tenure. The Human Resources department was very helpful. They knew Gates County Schools would be looking for a band director after the hiring freeze so someone sent them my resume.” Morgan said Gates County was home, and she wanted to go home. She has been there since 2009. “I was very proud to get the position. I wanted to instill in my students to be proud of where you come from and the importance of traditions. We brought back the idea of students in band having letter jackets.” said Morgan. “I wanted to have more of a competing band. I had to build it up because I only started with three students,” she continued. Morgan started a piano class, a guitar class and a choir. She said she wanted to find ways to reach out to other students who might not be interested in being in the band. “I learned to play guitar on my own, not in college. I stepped out of my comfort zone,” she laughed. Morgan has been at the middle school for the last two years. “I thought I would only enjoy teaching high school because you get to make music. I have learned I really enjoy teaching the students from the beginning. There are so many

moments where you see the lightbulb come on. It is more rewarding than playing pieces at a higher level,” she said. Morgan has been teaching band class virtually since the beginning of the school year. She said she only had six beginners this year, which was a big decrease from 36 last year. In her spare time Morgan still plays for fun. She also plays for weddings and funerals when asked. She likes to take her students to play with her when she can. “I want my students to have a love for music and enjoy it. I want them to learn to work to be good at something. I want them to know it’s not hard, there can just be some challenges. I want them to make good memories,” she said. Morgan and the Central Middle School Band created a virtual Christmas concert due to COVID-19 restrictions. The link to the concert is posted on the CMSVikingsBands Facebook page for viewing. Leslie Beachboard is a former News Editor of the Bertie Ledger-Advance and a regular contributor to Eastern North Carolina Living.

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Earl Carawan: A Defined by Mu Story by Sandy Carawan Photos by Sandy Carawan & Contributed


hile he sits in his den cradling the neck of his Seagull guitar in one hand and the other finger-picking “My Old Cottage Home” (1889), one of his grandfather’s favorite songs, photographs of adored family members adorn the walls — images of those who were not only instrumental in encouraging Earl Carawan’s development in music, but family members who also played alongside him. At 81 years old, Earl, a third-generation musician, has enjoyed a life defined by music. More than seventy years ago, a variety of influences were steering him in his own direction. Life in rural, coastal communities of eastern North Carolina, some areas hindered by isolation due to water boundaries, marshy land masses, few reliable roads and limited transportation, often shaped one’s way of living. The Carawan family not only overcame such obstacles by making their living working off the land and water, but also found other ways to enjoy life by playing music. Family lore holds Earl’s great-grandfather, Alpheus Carawan (1837-1913), as the family patriarch who encouraged music in his family. Back and forth across the Pamlico Sound between the counties of Hyde and Pamlico during different moves, Alpheus would hold regular square dances at his homes in which he and his two sons, Timmie (1865-1954) and Rufus Carawan (1877-1968), played music. Within the early decades of the twentieth century, Earl’s grandfather, Rufus, also encouraged music among his children. Earl’s father, Mack Carawan (1911-1979), continued the tradition of playing music not only in the home and community, but across North Carolina for many years. While Earl grew up being exposed to a variety of musical influences, he credits his family as his primary influence. He recalls times when his large family would get together during weekends and other family events in which his grandfather, father and uncles played music on guitar, banjo, fiddle and mandolin. “They played in the house between the kitchen and the living room about three or four hours; it was just according to who was dancing,” Earl Carawan said. For a short time during the 1940s, Earl and his older brothers John, Mackie and Leland lived with their grandfather, Rufus. “Once in a while Granddaddy would break out the ol’ banjo. He played the fiddle, too. I remember he’d squeak sometimes,” Earl recalled. But Earl recalls his grandfather’s old tabletop radio in which he’d tune in distant stations such as Nashville’s WSM and Wheeling’s WWVA. “Once in a while Granddaddy would tune in if his battery was right and you might hear a little bit. He’d made a rocking chair out of deerskin,” he said. “He’d sit there like he was going to attack that radio, just listening and laughing. You had to have a good ear to hear it. You’d see him grab hold of that knob turning the volume down because he thought it was draining that battery.” Earl’s mother, Teresa, also encouraged her children to play music.



He recalls learning to play the guitar at about age seven or eight, shortly after World War II, when his mother bought him and his brothers a Sears and Roebuck Silvertone guitar. “John played awhile and he’d get tired and hand it down,” Earl said. Eager to learn, Earl recalls, “The strings were so high off the frets your fingers would bleed out. “I was interested in listening to Granddaddy, Daddy and all of them play,” he continued. “Of course, Daddy didn’t have any time to teach us any chords. So, you really had to pick it up on your own and watch other people. But I always played by ear.” Though he didn’t try to imitate his father’s style of playing and singing, he imagines that some of his father’s style rubbed off on him. Aside from being influenced by his family members, listening to the radio and records also encouraged Earl to learn and play a diversified collection of folk and country tunes as well as ballads and contemporary songs. In developing his own style of playing, which, chuckling, he adds, “I didn’t know I had a style to tell you the truth,” he not only retains the old-time sound played by his family, but a style that has its origins in the old-time style of Jimmie Rodgers as well as the more modern style of picking made popular by Merle Travis and Hank Snow. When it comes to vocalists, he prefers Jimmie Rodgers, Hank Williams, Hank Thompson and Jim Reeves. “I do more or less finger-picking. Sometimes I use my thumb for the bass string. Most of the time I keep my hands down below. I work with all of my strings when I’m picking,” he explains. “I use a fingerpick. I used to pick with three and then I lost one and wound up with two.” His style includes wearing a fingerpick on his thumb, the same way his father played. Earl’s style, perfected through years of practice and innovation, often lends to the effect of more than one guitar being played, depending on the nature of the song, with his rhythmic guitar breaks ranging from loud and raucous to soft and mellow. Earl admits that it wasn’t until the early 1990s when he felt he was truly a better musician, but still always trying to improve upon what he had taught himself. “I tried to do a little more down the neck picking,” he explains. “Before, I’d done all around the front of the neck. Later on, I played down the neck, or both ends of the guitar. Humbly, he admits, “A long time I was learning by myself and with nobody to play with I would sit there and mess. I just figured I’d get a little better with age.” “I like to move on and on until I find something different,” he adds, and this desire has challenged him to learn new music and to play different instruments. He plays the harmonica, by itself and with the guitar. He can also play the mandolin. “But I didn’t want to play that with the strings being too close together and my fingers being too big,” he laughs.



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He explains that Ivy O’Neal, a barber in Engelhard during the 1960s, taught him how to play the bones. “I would go out with T. Etheridge at night and we would ride around and play the bones,” Earl says. “We had two sets of bones. The barber gave T. a set and gave me a set.” He also plays the spoons, which he learned by watching other people. “When you ain’t got enough instruments to go around, you find anything you can to play with,” he said. Through the years, Earl and his brothers have performed under the names of the Spindrifts and the Carawan Brothers, playing locally and regionally. While Earl has performed for numerous community events, he has also performed for different regional festivals such as the Scuppernong River Fest, Belhaven Bluegrass Festival and the Ocrafolk Festival. Earl and brothers Max and Leland have not only recorded their own albums on CD, but have been featured on the albums Homemade Pocosin Jam: Finger Pickin’ Good (2000) and Coastalfolk: Music of Coastal Carolina (2002). In March, 2004, the North Carolina Folklore Society awarded Earl and his brother Max the Brown-Hudson Folklore Award for their exceptional contributions to North Carolina’s cultural heritage. Then, in June and July, 2004, Earl and his brother Leland performed several days in the program “Water Ways: Mid-Atlantic Maritime Communities” at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival at the National Mall in Washington, DC in which they and their musical tradition were documented. Through his love of family and music, Earl has not only helped to preserve his family’s musical tradition, but he has also contributed to the rich heritage of Hyde County. It is this larger meaning of the culture that stems from the traditions kept and continued in families as they move forward, but remember and honor the past. Today, Earl still plays his guitar. And when his brother Leland comes home, they play music together and reminisce about the good ol’ days. Sandy Carawan is an English Language Arts teacher at Mattamuskeet Early College High School in Swan Quarter and a regular contributor to Eastern North Carolina Living.

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‘Guitar Doctor’ can fix them all Hale also has ability to play guitars Story by Brenda Monty Contributed Photos


ob Hale of Snow Hill is an accomplished bass guitarist, having played with numerous successful bands and musicians over his musical career spanning decades, including local bands such as The Main Event and East Coast Rhythm and Blue bands. However, it is Hale’s talent as a technician that has earned him the title Guitar Doctor. He owns and operates On the Bench Guitar Shop and String Instrument Repair from his home on Middle School Road in Snow Hill. “I’ve been privileged to work with Johnny Paycheck (“Take This Job and Shove It”) and Gary Stewart (“She’s Acting Single While I’m Drinking Doubles”),” Hale said. He has also played in Las Vegas with eastern Carolina artist Don Cox, as well as many others successful in the music industry in Nashville, Tenn., such as Paul Pace and Julie Reeves.


Hale still keeps his equipment warm playing in a variety band known as The Konnection Band. He is also putting together a country band with a few Greene County musicians called The Jake Sutton Band, featuring their original music. Hale grew up with a guitar in his hand in the Detroit suburb of Southgate, Mich., and Flatwoods, Ky. As a teenager, he was a member of a popular garage band known as Steel Mountain and played at community events and local teen hangouts. “Growing up in Detroit, I’m an old Motown boy,” Hale said. He emulates the styles of his three favorite bassists – the late James Jamerson, Bob Babbitt and Rocco Prestia. Jamerson and Babbitt were members of the Funk Brothers, Motown Records studio band, in the 1960s and 70s. Jamerson is famous for the iconic bassline on the 1964 hit by The Temptations, “My Girl.” Master of



fingerstyle funk, Prestia played for 30 years with The Tower of Power band. “Those three gentlemen are my heroes. They are who I play like,” Hale said. In his younger days, Hale’s day job was service manager at car dealerships. In 1979, he married Greene County native Pamela Edwards. They moved back and forth from Kentucky to North Carolina before settling in North Carolina about 10 years ago. Like other musicians, Hale tried to balance his love of music with the need for steady employment. “Playing music was always in my mind. I have played full-time and at other times part-time,” Hale said of his career as a traveling musician. He learned to repair his own instruments along the way, honing his skills through working at music stores, reading books and the internet. Bob and Pam ran a music store in Kentucky from 2006-2009 until the Great Recession forced it to close. After moving to North Carolina, Hale worked as a repair tech in area music stores until he opened his own business several years ago. “I love doing repairs just as much as I do playing,” Hale said. From replacing strings to total rewiring, Hale’s skills have been sought after by serious guitar collectors and dozens of professional and amateur musicians. Just like classic cars, the make, model, age and previous owner of an instrument adds to its value. For example, a 1958 Les Paul can be worth $100,000. “I’ve worked on $10-20-30,000 guitars,” Hale said. “It made me a little nervous to work on these older, high-dollar guitars at first. “What I do is a lot like surgery. When you are drilling and routing holes in wood, you get one shot. It’s nice to know that people trust me to work on their classic guitars,” he added. Hale has customers that come from the Outer Banks, Raleigh, Morehead City and Wilmington. “I’m real convenient because my shop is here at my house. So people drop off guitars at all hours. I’ve had as many as 15 guitars in here at a time needing repairs,” he said. “I try to keep parts for just about everything in here. I have more parts than all the music stores in Greenville. If I don’t have it, I can order it.” Hale replaces nuts, strings and complete guitar setups, saddles and bridges, output jacks and pickups. He also takes on unique repairs for a couple area music stores and pawn shops. However, he admitted his ability to fully restore a vintage or broken guitar is limited. “I can repair a broken head stock, but I do very little finish work. I don’t paint,” Hale said. Even so, he has been able to preserve or recreate cherished memories for many musicians through his work.


In late 2019, Hale helped Gina Schmidt of Greenville plan an emotional Christmas surprise for her husband, Christopher, who was living with seller’s remorse after giving up a classic Jackson Dinky guitar he had in high school. “We looked for years to no avail,” Gina said in a Facebook post about the experience. “So we started collecting parts here and there.” Through a serendipitous meeting with Hale’s wife at a store in Greenville, Gina learned Hale was just the man who might be able to make her husband’s dream come true. “He had the body and a neck and wanted someone to get the other parts and put it together for him,” Hale said. Gina added, “With a little magic from (Bob) Hale, my husband’s childhood guitar is once again in his hands.” Hale said, “You can bring me a guitar in pieces in a box or broken

in two. If you think it’s beyond repair, let me take a look at it. I have more than 35 years of experience repairing violins, guitars and bass; anything with strings.” For all of one’s string instruments repair needs, give Hale a call at 252-288-7469 or look him up on Facebook at “Robert Hale Sr. (Guitar Doctor).” Brenda Monty is a retired Staff Writer for The Standard and The Enterprise and a longtime contributor to Eastern North Carolina Living.


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Story by John H. Walker Photos by Rocky Mount Telegram Staff & Contributed

’ve met kings and queens and emperors and I’ve traveled the globe three times, and it’s all because of Him,” Milton Bullock said as he pointed a finger toward the heavens. Now 81, Bullock, known these days as “The Golden Platter,” reflected on his music career which began as a youngster singing in the Macedonia Baptist Sunday School Sunshine Band and culminated as a member of The Platters from 1964 to 1970. For the uninformed, The Platters were one of the most successful vocal groups of the early rock-and-roll era and had four No. 1 hits among 40 singles that charted on the Billboard Hot 100 between 1955 and 1967. “My mom sang in the adult choir and I held her songbook,” he recalled of his early days in music. “If I sang flat I got an elbow (from her). Doing that, I wound up developing as a first tenor.” He said he grew up listening to performers that would be called “greats” today — people such as Count Basie and Cab Calloway —


because his father loved their music and played it regularly. “I didn’t know who they were, but I knew they were somebody because of their bus,” Bullock said. Bullock said name musicians would play at a Rocky Mount club named the “Merry Couples Club” and would wind up staying in Princeville because there was no place to stay in Rocky Mount. As a result, Bullock’s love of music continued to grow and his talents continued to develop, but he had restless feet. He remembered going to stay with his grandparents in Pactolus in rural Pitt County, where he discovered farm work was not to his liking. “We got up when the moon was still up and we came in (from the fields) when the moon was still up,” he recalled. “It was hard work.” Looking for other options, Bullock asked if he could go stay with an aunt and uncle in Brooklyn, where the uncle managed an

18-story building. “My job was to polish the floors and brass,” he said. “There was an echo in the lobby and I would sing to myself, but I never knew someone was outside, listening. After about three days, this lady came in and said, ‘You have the most melodious voice. Have you ever heard of The Platters?’” “I told her I had and she told me she knew them and asked if I would like to meet them. I told her, ‘Oh, my yes.’” That woman, Sylvia Bloom, was a tenant in the building and took an interest in Bullock and, while it took time, she made sure that Bullock connected with the Platters and eventually became his manager. “They (The Platters) had gotten in trouble in Cincinnati and wound up going to Paris,” Bullock recalled. Indeed, The Platters began to lose favor with the public after 1959, when the four male members were arrested in Cincinnati on drug and prostitution charges. There were no convictions, but their reputations were damaged. Bullock recalled that they went to Paris after radio stations pulled their music from playlists. It was about that time that tenor David Lynch began having trouble with his lungs. “I met them and bonded,” Bullock said. “(Group founder) Herb (Reed) told me that eventually, they would have to replace David.” Bullock, who was working as a letter carrier, went to Wildwood, N.J., with Bloom where he auditioned for Reed. “I thought by knowing Herbie, I had an inside track, but there were 50 other people there,” he said, shaking his head. “They asked if I knew ‘My Prayer’ and I said I did. My daddy played the Ink Spots and they did ‘My Prayer.’” Bullock said Buck Ram was playing the piano for his audition



and there were nods in the affirmative as he sang. It was Ram, Bullock explained, who was brought in to help elevate the group. “Up until then, it had been an all-male group. Buck brought in Zola Taylor. I joined them in Wildwood,” Bullock said. “We went to Montreal and then to Vancouver. We did the Johnny Carson Show and I got to talk about Princeville.” He said he had two weeks to learn the group’s music and choreography. “It was kind of overwhelming at times, but Herb told me to learn how to look out of the corner of my eye and to keep my feet moving. I had a record player and an album and that’s how I learned it all,” he said. The times weren’t all good, however. In Athens, Ga., the group had a sawedoff shotgun laid on the table in front of them. “Zola wanted to argue with him, but I told her to come on and get out of there,” Bullock said. At Chowan College, Bullock’s family was to attend a performance and had reserved


seats. “They were late and had trouble getting in,” he said. He also said that while the group was on stage, he saw the unwinding tail of a roll of toilet paper as it headed their way. “I hated it for my family,” he said. These days, Bullock performs as The Golden Platter. He performs at the Rocky Mount train station a couple of days a week and, before COVID-19, served as a North Carolina Train Host on Amtrak’s Piedmont and Carolinian trains. “I’ve been getting a lot of calls from fans, wanting to know what I’ve got going on,” he said. “I want to get back into the studio to record some of Jackie Gleason’s music ... you know, he had a great singing voice.” Bullock has served his community as a Princeville town commissioner and founded the Do It For The Children Foundation with the late Muhammad Ali. He truly believes in public service and continues to work to ensure the recovery of his community from the latest flood. A native of Edgecombe County, he attended Princeville and Patillo schools

while growing up and graduated from Newport News (Va.) High School. He later attended Stratton College in Wisconsin and was inducted into The Twin County Hall of Fame in 2006. In addition to his music, he has appeared in Home Alone 2, Prelude to a Kiss, Straight Talk, Gladiator, Folks and Angel Street. Bullock, who turns 81 on Feb. 13, is concerned about his health as COVID-19 continues to rage, but he has battled cancer and other illnesses and is still going strong. “It’s all because of Him,” he said, again pointing skyward. “My life has been a blessing and God has looked upon me with kindness and grace.” Anyone interested in booking Bullock may do so by calling him at 252-8131758 or contacting him by email at miltonbullock1758@gmail.com. John H. Walker is a Staff Writer for the Rocky Mount Telegram and a regular contributor to Eastern North Carolina Living.




Story & Photos by Jim Green


eroy Bland can’t remember why he got into music at such a young age.

“Who knows why I started?” said Bland, wearing a navy blue shirt with guitar notes that spelled out the word PEACE. “All I know is I was tickled to death when I got to fifth grade and joined the elementary school band.” His love of music – and the clarinet in particular – eventually led to a long and fruitful career as a band director, first at Creswell High School and then at Plymouth High School, until he retired in 2003 after putting in nearly 30 years in the field. Bland has enjoyed music since he was a young boy. Growing up in Robersonville and Everetts (his 98-year-old mother still lives in Robersonville), Bland liked to sing and performed with his First Baptist Church choir “since he was knee-high to a grasshopper.” Bland’s father bought his son his first clarinet when he was in the fifth grade at Robersonville Elementary School, and later, purchased another one when his son was in the ninth grade. When the family moved to Everetts for a time, the elementary school he attended did not have band. Upon returning to Robersonville, Bland joined the high school band in eighth grade. By the time he was a junior, Bland was first chair for clarinet. His love deepened for the instrument when he got to perform a solo with the band backing him during a spring concert that year. “I just loved that,” he said. “Mr. Peters (the band director) pushed me on the clarinet – he knew I could do better than what I was doing. He got me better and put me on that solo. I am standing up there in front of this audience and I fell in love with it, so I kept working at it. He really got me involved in liking the clarinet.” Bland joined the Air Force after high school in 1961 and spent four years there. He took online classes for general college credit and worked for several years before he was finally able to attend East Carolina University, graduating in July of 1974. Two months after graduation, Bland started a band at Creswell High School and remained its director for seven years. “They wanted to start a band there and wanted me to take it,” he said. Most of the band’s performances were for football games and spring concerts. Bland’s band played in a parade at the inaugural Edenton Peanut Festival.


“The first year I was there, we had 19 kids. The next year it was 48,” Bland said. “There were only about 215 kids in the whole school.” Bland became the Band Director at Plymouth High School in 1981. During his 22 years there, Bland had his group perform in multiple competitions in the region as well as at Disney World in Florida many times. “We won a lot of trophies during my time there,” he said. “We had a few first-place ones but a lot of seconds and thirds.” Tragedy struck on July 30, 1997 when a group of band students and others were killed in an automobile accident on N.C. 45 about two miles from town. Bland identified seven of the 10 students (nine band members and one former band member) who died. Parents identified the other three. “It was pretty tough,” Bland said. “I remember unwrapping one kid and I didn’t

“For a long time, there was no black and white here,” Bland said. “That accident brought everybody together for several years.” In 2017, the town and the band parents put together a memorial to commemorate the 20th day of remembrance. Bland doesn’t believe his legacy is necessarily associated with the tragedy. “Many know me as the (Plymouth) band director who took the band to all of these competitions,” he said. “A lot of people (now) don’t realize we lost 10 kids in that accident – they just know this was a band which had been to Washington, D.C., Florida and Nashville for competitions.” After more than two decades with the Marching Vikings, Bland retired in 2003. He has done a lot of fishing, held several part-time jobs, played in the orchestra for Martin Community Players’ spring musicals and was part of a local jazz group, Average

And he continues to play the clarinet, saxophone and guitar in his free time. The secret to Bland’s longevity in his career? “You have to be confident in yourself because kids can read you like a book. When you talk, you have to know what you’re talking about,” he said. “You tell the students it will be fun but a lot of work – that if they aren’t willing to work hard, then don’t pick up the instrument, because it’s not going to play itself.” Bland,77, still hears from many of his former students about the impact he’s made on their lives. “All of the kids here are the ones who worked hard and made the bands successful,” he said. As for regrets? There are none. “Not one day have I regretted going into that field (music),” he said. “Even when I had

know who he was because his face was messed up so bad. I could only ID them when they were all laid out at the hospital.” The accident made state and national news and is still considered one of the worst in North Carolina history, according to the Raleigh News & Observer. After several days of funerals, it was Bland who faced the gut-wrenching decision of how to reconfigure the now-68 member band – considered one of the school’s most cherished possessions by the community — just days away from its debut. “The band director in Washington (Joe Sizemore) was a good friend of mine,” he said. “He knew we would have to completely redo the show, so he, his wife and the assistant director helped us put the show back together the week school started. “The remaining kids were the ones who stuck it out. I let them make the decision about what to do,” Bland added. “The ones who remained were honoring their friends and fellow bandmates.” Band members and Bland all wore memorial blue and gold arm bands for the emotional performance, the Vikings’ rendering of the theme from “Mission: Impossible.” They marched behind a banner with the 10 band students’ names (they were dubbed the ‘Band of Angels’) and received a standing ovation from the packed stands at Foster Field.

Yearly Progress (AYP) with middle and high school teachers as well as former Williamston band director Mike Stephens and former Martin County Schools Superintendent Chris Mansfield.

bad days, I knew it would get better.” Jim Green is Interim Editor of the The Enterprise in Martin County.

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Minister of Music

Ahoskie musician is widely traveled with his ‘praise ministry’. Story by Gene Motley Contributed Photos


ou could make a strong case that Wendell Gatling’s life was

in Illinois. Nine years later he was back in North Carolina applying a craft

affected by ‘divine intervention’ not once, but many times.

he had actually learned since childhood: piano playing.

Gatling currently serves as the choir director/organist –

or Minister of Music as it is called in many African-American Protestant

“My Dad had a piano in the hallway of our home and I started picking at the keys when I was about five or six,” Gatling recalled.

churches – at Calvary Missionary Baptist Church in Ahoskie. It’s his

From there he began to ‘play by ear’ – an ability where one is able

second tour at that post having served in a similar capacity in the late

to hear a song and then translate it to their own performance. Piano


lessons in Gumberry with local school band director Thomas Cooper

The Northampton County native graduated high school and enrolled at N.C. State University in the late 1970’s to study Computer Science, but left after just one year. “They kept telling me I had to go Wolfpack, so I headed off to Raleigh,” he acknowledged. “I wish I had studied music.”

followed. “In elementary school I started playing along to songs on the radio,” he related, “and then after taking lessons was when I knew I had a gift.” After returning home for family considerations in the late eighties, Gatling attended community college and to earn extra money was

His sojourn to the capital only lasted a year before his first

playing piano at a revival service for the late Rev. Lycurgus Harrell at

intervention, leaving his studies to join his family’s mortuary business

Sandy Branch Baptist Church in Roxobel. It was there one night when a


pair of revival attendees happened to take a seat behind the piano near

of EZ Praise, a duo consisting of himself and vocalist Linda Ballance

where he was playing.

Simmons. He has also recorded with two more popular local musicians,

“They were just smiling and marveling at my playing. They told

the Ruffin Brothers: Tyrone and Johnnie.

me they were with a musician search committee,” Gatling said, “And

“Johnnie took over for me when I left Nebo,” Gatling says proudly.

after service they invited me to their church, First Baptist Aulander, and

Gatling, who puts his age in the sixties, predicts he has about eight

that’s what really started my whole career as a church musician.”

or nine more years, and hopes Calvary will be his final stop.

After taking over for the retiring musician in Aulander, Gatling turned

“God leads, man,” he emphasized. “I’ve been all over the country

their choir into one of the most popular and sought-after in the West

playing, and it was my mother’s vision that brought me back to North

Roanoke Missionary Baptist Association and beyond.

Carolina. Once I settled on gospel it’s where I’ll stay. I guess it’s just in

“A lot of that was because I was a younger musician and I have this

my blood.”

gift that if I hear something, I can turn around and play it.” he noted. As word of Gatling’s musical proficiency spread across the region it wasn’t long before he received offers from other churches.

Gene Motley is a retired Sports Editor and Sports Director and regular contributor to Eastern North Carolina Living.

“I stayed at Aulander for about 10 years before I had a chance to move to Mt. Olive Baptist (near Lewiston Woodville) and I stayed there for about seven more years,” he said. “The (Mt. Olive) preacher was actually at Aulander when I first got there after he started preaching at First Baptist Colerain,” he continued. “He was a young minister, the Rev. Franklin Williams, and he invited me to Lewiston. Following seven years more years in Bertie County, the late Rev. Robert Holloman was able to pry Gatling away and he moved on to Mt. Nebo Baptist Church. But his stay at the Murfreesboro church would be a short one as he first landed at Calvary in 1992. “I was there for seven years before I left again, this time to return near home at First Baptist Severn under Rev. Elijah Barnes,” Gatling revealed. “But I came back to Calvary because of their pastor, Rev. Jerryl Moody. We also formed the J.V. Moody Inspirational Choir, the Sensational Senior Choir, along with a Men’s Chorus. “I can’t really say which of my choirs has been my best,” Gatling confessed. “Just about everywhere I’ve been I’ve been blessed with just a dynamic group of folks who have just been anxious to sing.” Trained on piano, Gatling says it was during his first mission at Calvary that he learned to play the organ. “It was a Hammond, which is one of the better known (church) organs, so I said I better learn how to play the organ,” he explained with a laugh. “Things just have a way of working out.” Gatling says one of his early musician mentors was Anthony Cherry. “When I would go to his house he would show me some of the ‘tricks’ he has mastered on the organ,” he said. “Whatever comes on the radio is what I try to pick up right away because that’s what helps develop my ear. Thanks to that, my greatest influence is just about everybody. I’ve picked something up from all of them.” Gatling also cites several secular musicians as influences: the late rock musician Billy Preston, Larry Dunn of Earth, Wind & Fire, and, of course, Lionel Ritchie. “I turned secular music loose when I came back down here before my Mom passed,” he related. “I kind of re-dedicated my life to God, and now I’ve just played straight gospel music since 1999. I love all music and I’ve played my share of just about all of them.” Gatling has recorded several gospel CD’s under the group name


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109 S. King St • PO Box 69 • Windsor, NC 27983 Phone: 252-794-3185 • Fax: 252-794-2835

history meets adventure

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NASH county



Story by Amelia Harper Photos by Rocky Mount Telegram Staff


atsy Gilliland has had a tremendous impact

vocal instruction. She sees music as a ministry and a

on the musical community in Nash County

form of connection for all the lives she touches.

for the past 40 years.

“I have loved mentoring people in life through

She is a founding board member of what is now

music,” Gilliland said. “Music is a beautiful means to

known as the Tar River Orchestra and Chorus and

someone’s heart. I love helping them discover and

has directed the Tar River Children’s Chorus for 28

develop their gifts.”


Under Gilliland’s leadership, the Tar River

In addition, Gilliland has influenced the lives of

Children’s Chorus has blossomed. She personally

many children, teens and adults through her private

auditions members of the choir and works with them to produce beautiful songs that many would consider too difficult for young performers. “We mainly sing uplifting, wholesome music that is mostly classic with some forays into pop music,” she said. “Being a vocal instructor is my calling. I love training students and getting things out of them that they did not know they could do. This process instills confidence in children. It is really exciting to sing in a chorus that sounds great.” Gilliland’s efforts have clearly paid off through the years. Under her leadership, the Tar River Children’s Chorus has competed against some of the finest youth choruses in the Eastern United States and has won numerous awards and accolades. Many of her students have graduated from the chorus and gone on to pursue music as a career. For example, four of the five seniors who graduated from the chorus last year are now either majoring or minoring in music, she said. Two of her former students are now teaching in music programs nearby. Mary Beth Cameron teaches music at Rocky Mount Academy and former student Kaitlyn Davis went on to ECU to major in music education and now teaches choral music at Rolesville High School. Gilliland’s musical mentoring has also been noted in the performances she has inspired from young women. “I have been involved around 25 years in the Junior Miss program that has now become the Distinguished Young Women program. Out of my local voice students, 14 have won locally and four have won the North Carolina title in 1995, 2006, 2018 and 2020. The last two were awarded the talent award for their singing at the National Distinguished Young Women. It is such a privilege for me to be able to equip these young women to be the best they can be in every way,”


she said.

In 1975, the couple moved to London, where she had the

Gilliland is well-equipped to prepare these young women. As a

opportunities to sing professionally for British Independent Television

young single woman, Patricia Johnson, as she was then known, was

and BBC Radio and Television. She also gave a solo performance at the

crowned as Miss Raleigh and then as Miss North Carolina in 1969. Her

Royal Festival Hall.

vocal talents not only helped her win that title but also allowed her to

She has performed in opera, oratorio, musical theater, concert,

be named as a Non-Finalist Talent Winner in

radio and television in the United States,

Miss America Program 1970.

Europe, Africa and Asia. During her life, she has

The experience she had serving as Miss North Carolina was a life-changer. “I took off a year of school and traveled around the state. That was a pivotal experience for me and made me who I am today,” she said. “I saw myself as God’s ambassador in that role. I wanted to teach everyone that you need to love your neighbor no matter their color. We all need to respect everyone. I think that is a lesson the world could still stand to learn.” After that year, Gilliland had many

also performed on the “Tonight Show Starring


Johnny Carson” and at the 50th anniversary of the Miss America Pageant. The Gillilands moved to Rocky Mount in 1981. Since that time, she has shared her vocal talents with the community as a teacher, choral director and music worship leader. “I learned how to use the gift that God gave me by singing God’s praises and God’s truth,” Gilliland said. In recognition of the impact she has had on

opportunities to showcase her talents in North

her community, Gilliland was named in 2016 to

Carolina and across the globe. In 1970, she

the Twin County Hall of Fame.

performed for U.S. troops in South Vietnam as part of the Miss America-USO Show. After graduating from Meredith College in 1972 with an undergraduate degree in voice performance, she went on to earn a master’s degree in music from Indiana University. It was there that she met Peter Gilliland, the man she married.


Amelia Harper is a Staff Writer for the Rocky Mount Telegram and a regular contributor to Eastern North Carolina Living.

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BERTIE county

From childhood, Hoggard has loved music Story by Thadd White Photos Contributed


ark Hoggard Jr. first sang in front of a small church in the Northampton County crossroads of Faison’s Old Tavern. He was seven or eight

years old, even he can’t remember. Since then, he has sung all over the Atlantic Seaboard, written songs that made the Southern Gospel charts, and sang in front of thousands. Despite his success, Mark Hoggard still calls the rural roads of Bertie County home, and still returns there after every time he takes to the road to sing – now with the world renown Harvesters. Mark grew up in a house where music was a fact of life. Both parents – Mark Sr. and Mary Lou – loved music and were good at singing. “I guess I started singing as early as three or four years old,” Mark Jr. said. “Daddy sort of persuaded me to sing and then I first sang in front of people about seven or eight.” Mark Hoggard Sr. was one of the region’s best-known and most beloved singers and performed with the Lighthouse Family Singers, Trinity Quartet and the Sounds of Joy before leading the Laymen quartet for many years. Mark Jr. made his debut with the Sounds of Joy, but soon began “Helping out” wherever his day was singing music. As a youngster, Mark learned to play the drums and then picked up the bass guitar around 14. His contribution to the




Laymen was at bass guitar for the majority of his teen years.

quartets in the industry.

always enjoyed singing more.

When Mark joined the group, they were

His influences include his father and

“At 19, I started singing lead with the

touring and committed to approximately 130

mother along with the late Scarborough

Laymen and continued to do that until I was

dates per year – most on Thursdays through

White and the late Harry White. He also

25 years old,” Mark said. “After that, we took a

Sundays. Unfortunately, COVID-19 has put a

counts major gospel artists such as Gold City

few months’ hiatus and when we reformed, I

stop to many of the shows and last year the

and the Cathedrals as influences.

switched to singing bass.”

Harvesters were only singing together about

Singing bass was not only what Mark Jr.

20 times.

“My daddy was the biggest influence on me for sure,” he said. “He kept wanting me to

wanted to do, it came with big shoes to fill at

“I’m looking forward to life after COVID-19

do it and encouraged me.”

the time – those of his father. Mark Sr. took

and hopefully getting back to the kind of

Such was his dad’s support that – after

time off from singing because of his health –

dates we were doing before the pandemic,”

Mark Sr.’s passing – his son developed and

he had his second heart surgery that year.

Mark said.

organized the Mark Hoggard Memorial Sing,

For the next few years, Hoggard would

Although he loves working with the

which brings groups to Williamston’s First

sing just about every part in the quartet – lead,

Harvesters and singing bass, Mark admitted

Pentecostal Holiness Church to remember

tenor, baritone and bass.

there is one part of the industry that isn’t his

his father’s legacy and enjoy singing Southern

favorite – travel.

Gospel music.

When all was said and done, he settled in at bass and has been singing that part in quartets ever since.

“I love to do it, but the biggest problem for

While he’s grateful for his dad, Mark Jr.

me now is I don’t like to travel like I used to,” he

says his mom played a huge role in his life in singing as well.

“To me, I always loved singing bass, even

said. “We sometimes leave on a Wednesday,

when I was young” he said. “Playing the bass

do several shows and get back the following

“Mom was always supportive of the group,”

guitar all those years, you’re basically singing

Monday at 6 a.m. and I have to go to work.

he said. “She loves singing as much as we did.”

the same notes I was used to playing.”

Travel isn’t all that much fun anymore.”

Hoggard said singing in general, and bass in particular, is a craft that must be honed. “It is one of the hardest parts and you have to work at it,” he said. “Singing is a craft you

Before the pandemic, the Harvesters spent a good amount of their time in Virginia and South Carolina while making an annual trip to Indiana and two trips each year to Florida.

Mark Jr. added that his wife of 33 years, Amanda, has always been supportive of his ministry. “When you have the support of your spouse, that’s half the battle,” he said.

have to work at all the time. There are those

“I still enjoy meeting people,” Mark said.

Mark Jr.’s daughter, Briana Cottle, joined

few who can just say ‘let’s go sing today’ and

“It’s a lot of fun to me to sing and meet people,

him singing with the Laymen to fill in, and his

do it well, but most of us have to work at it.”

and then the guys in the group have a good

son, Trey, understands and enjoys music but

time together as well.”

isn’t likely to join his dad on stage.

For the better part of 35 years, Mark spent his time honing his skills with the Laymen. He

In addition to his work singing bass, Mark

When the pandemic is over, Mark said he

sang, played and managed the group over

was a songwriter back in his earlier years. He

hopes those in the region will take time to see

those three decades plus. The Laymen were

said he penned 25-30 songs, several of which

the Harvesters play.

favorites in all of the southeast, and especially

were in the Southern Gospel charts.

in eastern North Carolina.

The song to do the best is called “Our God

Mark stepped away from singing for a few

is Leading the Way” which made it into the

years when he began coaching basketball at

top 50. He also had a No. 50 hit “Keep Going

his alma mater, Bethel Assembly Christian

On” which was sung by the Laymen and has

Academy, where his son, Mark III or “Trey” was

been recently rerecorded by the Harvesters.

a standout player.

wrote that charted, reaching as high as No. 72.

basketball, the Harvesters contacted me

“Some people can just sit down and write,

about filling in singing bass for them,” Mark Jr.

but that never was me,” he said. “It’s not the

said. “After a while, the gentlemen who I was

easiest thing to do. I have to be in the right

filling in for decided he couldn’t return, and I

mode and when I am, God gives me the

joined the group.”


Mark said he is proud of working with

Two of Mark’s favorite songs are slower

the Harvesters, who have a long and storied

songs – “Let Me Tell You About My Friend

history in Southern Gospel music. They began

Jesus” and “Shepherd Became the Lamb.”


us,” he said. “We appreciate people.” He also has a word of encouragement for those struggling during the pandemic. “During this time of uncertainty, draw closer to the Lord,” he said.

“Strike the Rock” was the first song he

“Toward the end of the time I was coaching

singing in 1953 and are one of the oldest

“If you get a chance, come on out and see

While he enjoyed writing, Mark said he

Thadd White is Editor of Eastern North Carolina Living and the Bertie Ledger-Advance.

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WILSON county

loves both music and home


Times change and you miss home, they say you don’t know what you’ve got ‘til it’s gone. Things ain’t as bad as they seem when you’re hard-headed and seventeen. You find out this world is crazy and there’s nowhere you’d rather raise your babies than the place you couldn’t wait to leave.

hose lines from the chorus of Mark Bunn’s new song, “Small Town American Dream,” were not written as an autobiography, but they could have been. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, he performed dozens of live shows each year. He recently released his second album of original songs. But, Mark doesn’t dream of touring the country or performing in sold-out arenas or moving to Nashville, because those dreams would take the Wilson resident away from home. As much as Mark dreams of pursuing music – singing, playing and writing – on a grander scale, he has never dreamt of anything that would separate him from his family. Married to Pam, a lifelong Wilson resident, Mark says, “My wife isn’t going anywhere!” The son of a father who played and sang in bands that performed up and down the east coast, Mark has never known a home without music. Yet, it wasn’t until he was 16 years old that a music spark ignited within himself. “My dad didn’t push it on me when I didn’t show interest,” he said. “In high school, some of my friends were getting into music and I wanted to join them. I could always go to my dad and he’d teach me as much as I wanted to learn, then he’d let me go work on things on my own until I came back for another lesson.” Even in those early years, music was secondary to family. “For dad, it wasn’t about me carrying on his legacy. Music was something we both loved, something we could enjoy doing


together,” Mark said. He also shared that his father, John, wasn’t all about music. “I started playing golf around age 13. He took up golf because that was another way for us to spend time together,” he recalled. Having been shown the value of family as a son, Mark has likewise labored to show his wife and children how much he values them. Mark and Pam first met in elementary school before Mark’s family moved to neighboring Nash County. The couple reconnected after high school when they were both hired to be on staff at a new restaurant in Wilson. A few weeks after the restaurant opened in 2003, they started dating and have been together ever since. They have been married for sixteen years and are the proud parents of four children. Mark’s day job is yet another reason for him to stay close to home. A rural carrier for the U.S. Postal Service, that income has allowed Pam to leave her job as a registered nurse to become a full-time mother and homeschool teacher. That sacrifice has been made without hesitation, and Mark is thankful for a hometown and an employer that affords such an opportunity. After his youngest children were born in 2009 (twins, a boy and a girl), music took on a more prominent role. “My dad had slowed down some and he was looking for the chance to perform. He had some recognition, so he didn’t have trouble getting gigs on the local restaurant and bar scene,” Mark

said. Those opportunities were the first ones for Mark to perform in public, though he wasn’t expecting them to turn into what they did. He explains, “Dad’s singing voice was kind of spent after years of the music lifestyle, so he had me do the lead vocals while he played the lead guitar and sang harmonies.” The father and son developed an identity and a following during those years, but even then, it wasn’t their love of music that motivated them. Mark fondly recalls that time spent driving to and from shows with his ‘old man’ was even more special than any song they played or sang on any stage. Although Mark started branching out three years ago to do solo gigs, he still carries his dad with him to every performance. “He gave me the guitar that I use at all of my shows,” Mark said. “It’s an old Gibson J45 acoustic guitar that he found in a pawn shop.” In addition to being a staple on the local music scene in Wilson and surrounding counties, Mark twice has had original songs featured on “Homegrown Country,” a weekly radio show broadcast by Raleigh country music superstation WQDR. An entry in a song-writing contest allowed him to make connections within the music industry that facilitated the release of his self-titled debut album in 2013. In December, his second album was released. An album of acoustic ballads, the title song is “Gettin’ Lucky” (a tribute to Pam for the good fortune he feels that she

is his wife). Mark Bunn loves music; it has been good to him and for him. “I haven’t gotten rich playing and singing, but it has helped put an extra Christmas present or two under the tree over the years,” he said. “And if nothing ever changes, if I never do anything beyond what I’m doing right now, if I retire as a mailman, then I’ll still be a blessed and content man.” Mark is ready for a pandemic to be a thing of the past, eager to resume playing and singing publicly on a more frequent basis. Even so, becoming a mega-star touring or recording artist isn’t his primary desire. “If there’s any dream of ‘making it’ in music for me, it’s as a songwriter,” he said. “So many folks are focusing on singing or playing cover songs. My focus has been to become a better songwriter.” Not coincidentally, that focus can be sharpened right at home. in Wilson. Learn more about Mark Bunn and listen to songs from his first album by going to www. BunnMusic.com. His second album, “Gettin’ Lucky” is available on all major music streaming platforms. Andy Cockrell has written dozens of academic papers as well as newspaper articles and weekly columns. In 2016, he wrote and published a novel. Now he is honored to check “magazine article” off of his writing bucket list. Along with his wife and two children, Andy resides in the home in which he grew up in Kenly.

Story by Andy Cockrell Photos by John Carlson/ Blue Yonder Media


TYRRELL county




hether performing on the nation’s most prestigious stage, or a humble, one-room historic church, Tyrrell County’s Bob Waters said music for him, “stirs emotions in a way nothing else can.” The multi-instrumentalist, who has toured with the National Symphony Orchestra and played in such renowned places as Carnegie Hall in New York City, was also a member of the Kennedy Center Opera House Orchestra in Washington D.C. Yet, he contends the acoustics in tiny, high-ceilinged, 300-year-old churches, such as Rohoboth Methodist Church in Washington County, are unbeatable. For Waters, music, “simply makes life better.” There is not usually a day that goes by Waters is not playing, practicing, researching or arranging music. “It would indeed be a rare day if it passed without music being a part of it,” he said. Waters, who is proficient on baritone, bass, tuba, banjo, hammered dulcimer, auto-harp and guitar, can also play many other instruments well, such as the piano, flute and organ. He traces his interest in music back to elementary school in Hagerstown, MD, where in fourth-grade his interest was piqued by the instruments and songs introduced to the class. “We had really good, inspiring music teachers,” he added. Waters was especially inspired by the songs of Stephen Foster. “I’m in my mid-60’s. When I was growing up, we sang a lot of his songs. It was just a part of what you did in elementary school,” he said. Last year, Waters applied for, and received an Artist Support Grant through the North Carolina Arts Council to write a one-act, one-person musical docu-drama on the life and songs of Stephen Foster. “I wanted to do something really different and stretch my ability beyond what I have in the past,” he said. Waters’ act is a type of quest to save Foster’s songs from being erased from the annals of history. Known as the Father of American Folk Music, and the first American Composer, Foster wrote his songs and music during a time in history (19th century) when minstrels were a highly accepted art form. These minstrels usually incorporated entertainers typically white actors with blackened faces – and featured songs, dances, and comic routines based on unflattering, stereotypical depictions of Black Americans. “What they were doing was wrong,” said Waters. “It is part of the conflict he had in his life. He wanted to sell music and at the time, what was popular were the blackface minstrels.” Waters said both white people and black people participated in these parodies. “It is how many musicians made money during that time,” he added. “But, some of the lyrics are not anything we would listen to today.” Waters hopes to protect the spirit of Foster’s music by


arguing that, while some of the language he used is not acceptable today, he was a man of compassion, inspired by the music of the African American community. He said Foster was inspired by the music of the Black church he attended at times, as well as the songs of Black laborers at the Pittsburgh warehouse where he sometimes worked. And, “he would go and sit at the waterfront where a lot of Black people worked as stevedores” (people who were employed to unload cargo from incoming ships), who would sing while they worked. “That got into his blood and a lot of these melodies that made him famous - that we sang in elementary school - were inspired by that,” he said. Foster wrote the music and lyrics of around 200 songs in his lifetime, the most famous of them being Oh! Susanna, Camptown Races, Old Folks Home (Swanee River), Beautiful Dreamer and Jeanie with the Light Brown Hair. “He did not have much formal training. People say that if he had, he would have written symphonies. But in my mind, I am glad he didn’t because he was able to connect with people through songs - no one else before him, or really after him, has been able to do,” Waters added. Waters wants Foster to be defined by more than the vernacular used in many of his songs. He plans to use 16 of Foster’s songs, six folk instruments and change offensive lyrics to more accepted terms, but keep the meaning of Foster’s message. Waters wanted the music to be as authentic to the way the artist wrote it as possible. “He often composed on what was called a melodeon, or a little pump organ,” said Waters. “I thought it would be good if I could find something like he had.” He searched for, and found, a 1904 portable organ, an instrument on which Foster often used to serenade people. The Estey portable reed pump organ he found on eBay was fragile and in need of repair. “It was in pretty rough shape,” he said. “I bought a couple of books, looked on the Internet and tried to figure out how to restore it so it would play. Luckily it does about 100 hours of work later.” The organ, which produces sound from pumping air (using foot pedals) through reeds (thin metal in frames), and pressing a key, has about half the keys of a traditional piano, and folds up like a suitcase for easy transport.


In his performance, Waters also plans to play a Native American flute, banjo, Celtic harp, auto-harp, button accordion and guitar. Waters is 75 percent finished with his play, but is not sure exactly when he will be able to perform the one-person docudrama, since COVID-19 restrictions have prevented many large gatherings and cancelled countless live performances in the state and across the nation. “I found out I got the grant right before Christmas. The deadline is June of 2021. I’ll be done before then, but COVID has thrown a wrench into everything. My goal in writing the grant was to be able to perform the act in some of the rural counties around here.” He also plans to perform at local art councils and historic churches throughout the region. Waters, has lived in Tyrrell County for over 20 years. He previously served in the United States Coast Guard as a helicopter pilot. Upon leaving the military, he earned his teaching degree and taught school for about 20 years - first in Maryland, then Manteo, eventually moving to Columbia to serve as director and teacher at the Alternative School. He finished his teaching career at Beaufort Community College, retiring in 2014. While teaching, he also served in the 440th Army National Guard Band in Raleigh, playing mostly the tuba and euphonium. Waters realized when he retired from playing professionally, he has a penchant for folk instruments.

“I guess once I stopped playing in a band, and didn’t play in a symphony anymore, I was drawn to folk instruments because of the simplicity of a lot of the tunes. They communicate thoughts and ideas in a very direct and simple manner - that a lot of people can understand,” he added. He enjoys playing acoustic and folk instruments, such as the autoharp, and hammered dulcimer - but his favorite is his Cajun accordion. Before the pandemic, Waters had led music at local churches and performed regularly at festivals and community events across the northeastern part of the state. He said that for musical performers, the pandemic has been particularly harsh, stripping them of their livelihood, as well as taking from them something extremely fulfilling. He admits to being somewhat discouraged by the restrictions imposed as a result of the pandemic. He hopes that possibly by the summer he will once again have venues at which to perform. For Waters, no matter how dark the world may seem, music is the balm. “I can’t imagine life without music, or a world without it,” he said. “There is no other medium that expresses emotion like music. Whether it’s for a celebration, or for something that is profoundly sad, music offers a comfort and a healing that goes beyond words,” Waters added. Deborah Griffin is a Staff Writer for The Daily Reflector and Eastern North Carolina Living.

It’s been another long shift. My heart breaks over another loss from COVID.

Wear a mask We need your help so we can continue to care for you and your loved ones. COVID-19 cases continue to climb and we need to work together to help stop the spread. We see the painful reality of this pandemic in the faces of Vidant team members on the front lines, every day. We see it in their dedication to one another, the patients and families they serve, and a region that depends on them for care. Please do your part to protect yourself and others— including those who provide care in eastern North Carolina. Remember to wash your hands, maintain a social distance from others of at least 6 feet, and wear a mask in public to help keep yourself, your family, and your community safe.

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Glimpses of Beauty Unveiled W

Story by Sarah Davis Photos Contributed

hen the Rev. Ricky Barnes, pastor of Lasker Baptist Church for the past seventeen and a half years, describes the church, he says it is “what a church should be,” “a foretaste of heaven,” “a place where people can come and get what they need,” “ a place of peacefulness and love.” When one hears the Rev. Barnes speak of the Lasker congregation and they of him, complimenting each other, it is obvious they also complement each other. Church member Joyce Sumner says, “What a blessing it is to have a Pastor who preaches, plays the piano/organ, and is gifted with a beautiful voice to sing and lead our congregation in song.” Echoing Sumner’s comments is fellow congregant Julie Emory who notes that Ricky “[carries] our small congregation when it comes to our hymn singing each week.” She also comments that he often favors them with solos. Barnes, who was ordained in 1982, has served churches from the mountains to the coast - or at least the swamp. Originally from Lasker, he has had pastorates in Bakersville and Roanoke Rapids before returning to the Roanoke-Chowan region, serving Cool Spring Baptist Church and Middle Swamp Baptist Church in Gates County and Bethel Baptist Church in Northampton County prior to assuming his current


bi-vocational role with Lasker Baptist Church. For the past twenty-six years he has been a Probation and Parole Officer with the North Carolina Department of Corrections. In addition to being what Sumner describes as a “teaching preacher,” providing Biblical instruction in each of his Sunday morning sermons, for the past few months, he has also taken the role of pianist while the regular pianist, his wife, Denise, recuperates from an eye injury. This is also a role he took for several years prior to Denise’s assuming the role when she married Ricky. Having graduated from Northeast Academy, within sight of the church, when Ricky became pastor, he was returning home. Denise, on the other hand, had come a long way before settling in Lasker. Originally from New York, she attended Campbell University and first met Ricky there in the 1970s. After two and a half years at Campbell as a music major studying piano, Denise transferred to East Carolina University, continuing her studies in music and drama. Following graduation, she returned to New York where she taught and directed musical theatre for students ages 9-18. Among her students are Jamie-Lynn Sigler, known for a role in The Sopranos, and Dan Domenech of both screen and Broadway roles, including Rock of Ages.

In 2004, Denise moved to Oak Island and reconnected with Ricky through social media. They were married in 2010, and she moved to Lasker. Her work with musical theatre is evident when she directs the music and presents a commencement program/play at the conclusion of Vacation Bible School each summer. Members of the congregation say they are amazed at the performances she coaxes from the youngsters, especially from such a diverse age group of 3-18. When Ricky and Denise speak of the church, both call the congregation wonderful, saying that all are involved participants. Discussing their Christmas Eve service, which was scheduled for 10 p.m., Dec. 24 of last year, they mentioned that each and every one attending would have a part. Ricky and Denise often lead a Christmas carol sing-along for the community, and Denise usually directs a Christmas concert/cantata. In addition to members of the congregation, who always look forward to the service, invited guests may also participate, such as pianist Dr. Charles Hulin, IV, of Southeastern University in Lakeland, Florida. Dr. Hulin’s father was pastor of Lasker Baptist Church from 19941999, and his mother, Laurie, was church pianist. Trained and educated at Peabody Conservatory of Johns Hopkins University and Julliard School of Music, Dr. Hulin established the Lasker Summer Music Festival, “an organization that supports Christian musicians in the integration of their artistic work and faith.” For a week each summer, Lasker and the surrounding community is afforded the opportunity to witness concerts by “some of the most gifted musicians [we] will ever have the privilege of hearing/seeing.” Assisting with the Festival not only as pastor and musician at the host church but as literal hosts, housing national and international musicians in their home, Ricky and Denise help spread a music ministry that begins in a small church in a little community but radiates throughout the world. Dedicated musicians, they insist on proper preparation for performances, as they share their talents in the community and beyond. Of them, Emory says, “We at Lasker Baptist Church consider ourselves very blessed to have them and their talents in our small, country church. I personally feel we would be very lacking musically without them and their leadership.” Sumner adds, “Ricky and Denise are a blessing to Lasker Baptist Church. They are a team. They have many God-given talents, and we are so fortunate to have them both. “ When asked about their role in the Lasker Summer Music Festival, Ricky and Denise, in their typical, self-effacing modesty, said they are simply part of the audience. They are more than simply spectators, but, even if they were not, Dr. Hulin has written “… the performer and the audience [come] together in a way that heightens our sense of being in that moment and also might open us to our own souls. So we share these spiritual movements together as performer and audience and, again, we do so as we lift up what it is to be human. And all of that amounts to an act of prayer.” Whether audience or musician, Ricky and Denise Barnes make the music of Lasker Baptist Church a prayer; performing in a place that is a “foretaste of heaven,” they help us all “glimpse beauty unveiled.” Sarah Davis is a retired librarian and regular contributor to Eastern North Carolina Living.


HALIFAX county

MAKING MUSIC AND BOURBON Story by Jim Green Photos Contributed



njoy bourbon, whiskey and other spirits? Like live music in an intimate setting for free? Weldon Mills Distillery may be just the place for you. Located just two miles off Interstate 95 on the Roanoke River, Weldon Mills Distillery is actually two venues located within walking distance of each other (or you may take the trolley for tours), at 100 and 200 Rockfish Drive. “We like bourbon and we love live music. We feel like they go hand in hand,” said Bruce Tyler, who along with business partner Michael Hinderliter opened the entertainment portion of the venues earlier this year with a New Year’s Eve performance by the Martin Terry Band. “Music has always been a part of culture, and if you don’t have places for musicians to showcase their talent, then you don’t have music,” Tyler said. “There is a lot of good musical talent – it’s shocking at how many good bands there are within a 50-mile radius of here. But with all that talent, there aren’t many places for these bands to play.” One of the things that makes the venues distinct is there is no cover charge to hear the bands. “We do not charge a cover,” Tyler said. “We pay the bands and hope our liquor sales will be strong. We want this to be a place where bands can get their name recognition out and continue chasing their dreams.” The distillery offers around 4,000-square feet of its 34,000-square feet for bourbon and other liquor production, and a makeshift stage area is set up for bands who may draw up to 300 people. The other building, located in what was a historic corn mill, is more of an event space inside (corporate functions, weddings, etc.) and features an outdoor patio where bands play to smaller crowds. “Bands love to play on the patio,” Tyler said. “There is something about the

atmosphere – the café lights strung out, the tiki torches going and people setting around the whiskey barrel tables.” Tyler, originally from California, has enjoyed music all of his life. When he was in the U.S. Army, he would go to shows as often as his schedule would allow. He has now called North Carolina home for 25 years. His partner, from Chapel Hill, is the entrepreneur, having started his first business from his parent’s garage while still in high school. “We’ve been friends a long time,” Tyler said. “We always knew we wanted to start a business together, and once he said yes, we just had to look at where we could start it.” Tyler, who currently lives in Rocky Mount, found the buildings on a historical preservation site and called the realtor to set up a visit. “I didn’t know much about this area, but once I saw the rocks poking out of the water, how clear the water was and how beautiful the overall site was, I couldn’t believe it was not being used,” he said. Tyler also learned through more research of the popularity of rockfish season and the traffic influx off I-95, which appealed to him from a business standpoint. “All of that played into why we chose this site, and the fact we could use both of the buildings together,” he said. Tyler and Hinderliter purchased the property in January 2019 and have made extensive renovations over the past year-plus. After obtaining their liquor license, they started booking bands on Friday and Saturday nights. “What we found out was that the local population couldn’t support us having music on both nights, so we went back to having live music on just Friday nights,” he said. On music night, bars are open and beer stations and food trucks are available, Tyler said. All types of music are being played at Weldon Mills Distillery: from bluegrass to country, rock, southern rock and blues. Past artists who have played either the patio outside or inside the distillery include Cooper Greer, R.T. Johnson, Eric Dunlow Band, Cuz ‘N Kirk Experience, Tim Cifers Band, Bill Lyerly and Matty Begs. Some artists booked to play in the near future are Running Shine, Bill Lyerly, Mikaele Buck Band, Fueston Brothers, Tim Cifers Band, Martin Terry Band, Boyd & Johnson, Scrapbook, Tanglewood the Duo, Willie Peebles Band and SCE. Tyler believes there is room for WMD as an entertainment venue in the region. “There are three other places around here that offer live music, and

we want all of them to do well,” he said. “We just wanted ours to be a little different. “I wanted our venues to have their own distinct character to them, like Cats Cradle in Chapel Hill and The Pour House in Raleigh,” Tyler added. “The distillery has that edge to it, that character, but we are adding modern elements to it.” For more on Weldon Mills Distillery and its schedule of events, visit their website weldonmills.com, their Facebook page or call 252-2204235. Jim Green is a Staff Writer for Eastern North Carolina Living and is Interim Editor of The Enterprise.



Taylor Sw

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Jon Bo

n Jovi

(Bon Jo vi)

Eastern North Carolina Living Photo Editor Jim Green is a well-traveled and award-winning concert photographer. In this edition’s Views, he shares hisphotography of some world-famous music acts he has photographed over the years. 62


Bono (U2)

Britney Spears

Paul Stanley (KISS)

Angus Young (AC/DC)

Garth Brooks

Lars Ulrich (Metallica)


Tom Petty 63


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biography •

Story by Thadd White Photos by Huntington Ingalls Industries

“I greeted the opportunity with open arms and the rest is history.” Nearly two years ago, Mabel Harris decided to call it a career. But, before she did, the Bertie County woman blazed a trail at the Newport News Shipbuilding. During her long career, Harris became the first woman at the shipyard to be qualified as a nuclear pipe welder and the first woman to be inducted into the “Top Gun” welding club, Component Fabrication and Assembly’s most elite group of welders. Harris began her career shortly after graduating, despite the fact she hadn’t intended to do so that quickly. “I had just graduated from school and was looking forward to spending downtime with friends before beginning the job search,” she told Yardlines, a publication from the Newport News Shipbuilding. “However, my mother wanted me to apply at the shipyard, so I did.” Harris interviewed, and 24 hours later had a job. She began as a shiftfitter before being promoted to crane operator. It was during her time as a crane operator


she became interested in welding. She told Yardlines, “Between crane moves, I would watch the welders below. The preciseness and attention to detail really sparked my interest. So, when the department asked for volunteers interested in learning how to weld, I was the first to raise my hand.” The Roxobel resident not only learned how to weld, she learned how to excel at her craft. For the next 20 years, she was a welder by day and a home school teacher at night. But, she continued to learn and do her best. “Those years definitely tested my strength,” she said. “In addition to learning the trade, I also home-schooled one of my children. “Every day I woke up at 3 a.m., rode a van two hours to work, welded all day and carpooled back home to assist with homework, work on lesson plans and grade papers,” she added. Harris was spread thin from her work, but she was excelling and was asked by a supervisor to weld pipes.

“I greeted the opportunity with open arms and the rest is history,” she told Yardlines. Harris was inducted into the “Top Gun” welding Club in 2010. “To know that I’ve made a mark in NNS’ history is an amazing feeling,” Harris told Yardlines. “The Shipyard has such a long history; it’s hard to believe I’m one of the first.” In fact, such was Harris’ prowess and her respect from her coworkers she earned the nickname, “Number One.” Harris is the mother of Shackacondia Razor

and Albert Harris Jr. and grandmother of Norman Razor Jr., Luonzay Razor and Elijah Harris. She retired from her position with Newport News Shipbuilding in June of 2019. Information from this story was gleaned from publications of Huntington Ingalls Industries/Newport News Shipbuilding. Thadd White is Editor of Eastern North Carolina Living and the Bertie Ledger-Advance.



Kitchen Sylvia Hughes with her grandmother, Bertie Dameron.

Thanksgiving and Christmas, with all the

Any time I visited her home, she heated us

hurry and work, is over. It is time to breathe

a cup of tea and we sat on her couch and

a little and enjoy some quiet time. It’s cold

talked about our craft projects or any happy

outside and the landscape is bare. This just

topic. We left our time together relaxed and

calls for us to pamper ourselves a little.

happy. I have her recipe and still make it

Often we get caught up in so many things that life becomes stressful. Most people are busy with earning a living, taking care of family and handling all the problems that come with those things. Now we are dealing with a pandemic and worldwide chaos as well. It takes a toll on our physical and mental health. We need to take time to be quiet and center ourselves. So take that time. Find a quiet spot. Sit down and play some soothing music or read

many times during the winter. My grandmother used to make this tea, but her recipe was lost over the years. I was so excited to find someone who still had the recipe and still made it. My grandmother made cookies to go with the tea but alas those recipes are lost too. I do remember the cookies she made were not very sweet which went well with this tea. So, sugar cookies, gingerbread cookies or

a book that takes you somewhere far away.

Russian tea cookies would work best if you

Sip on a cup of tea or coffee and maybe

want to make or pick up something to go

have a plate of special treats. Relax. Push all

with your tea.

problems from your mind and just enjoy a little down time. Years ago, I had a friend that kept Russian

Do not use the tea recipe that uses powdered ingredients. It in no way tastes like the tea you make from scratch.

Tea at the ready during the winter months.

Sylvia Hughes is a retired newspaper editor and columnist residing in Windsor. In addition to three sons, she has a gaggle of grandchildren, many of whom love cooking with her just as she did with her mother and grandmother.


Russian Tea Cookies

1 cup butter, softened ¼ cup powdered sugar 1 tablespoon vanilla or finely chopped walnuts 1 ½ cups ground almonds 2 cups all-purpose flour es Preheat oven to 350 degre gar together Beat butter and floured su Add vanilla and nuts Stir in flour Shape into 1-inch balls sheet Bake on a buttered cookie lor Remove at first sign of co

My friend Sara h’s recipe: Russian Tea 1 quart tea 1 cup water 1 cup sugar 25 cloves 1 stick cinnamon Boil together 20 minutes Remove from heat and add: juice of one lemon ½ cup orange juice Remove cloves and cinnamon stick



t’s only in the coldest winter months do we fish for the rockfish and yet we go out year after year to look for the elusive fish. They travel our waterways to hunt for forage and to spawn and we chase them up and down the rivers and tributaries in the hopes of setting the hook on a big fish, but we’re happy with a keeper no matter the size. I personally have spent thousands of dollars stalking the mighty rockfish and I don’t even eat fish. It is a challenge in most cases to find a pattern, color or location to find these fish, but once you have them figured out the fun starts with big runs and pulls that make any other fish jealous of their abilities. I have been fishing for striped bass most of my life from the Potomac River, Chesapeake Bay and the Pamlico Sound, and every place has its own challenges and rewards. The Chesapeake Bay has some of the biggest fish I have ever caught including a 35-pounder on my kayak. It also has my total numbers record with 52 fish in one day, also on the yak. Here in our area we have some of the best spawning grounds for the species and the fish come from as far as New York and Boston all


The Mighty Rockfish the way down the coast to the Oregon Inlet and up the rivers even as far as Roanoke Rapids to spawn. Then travel back out to the sound and up the coast by summertime. It is amazing that the striper can move all that way every year to the same places in order to help us catch fish. The funny thing about the cycle of life with these fish is they can be predictable with similar movements every year, so you can pattern them. The first big flurry of fish is found on the Mann’s Harbor Bridge when the locals say they stack up so thick you can walk on them. After that they move up towards the sound bridge near Edenton. This bridge is a staging point for fish all year, holding yearlings feeding up and getting bigger prepping for the migration, as well as the fish coming from the ocean. When they feel like the water is right they move up the Roanoke to spawn then reverse back and do it all over again. That’s why we have different rules for the Roanoke because it is such an important tributary for the entire east coast. Not all fish move up the Chowan though. We have fish that travel into the Perquimans, the Pasquotank and even some that move

through the Coinjock Canal and up into the Chesapeake Bay. There are hundreds of places for the fish to feed and each one fishes a little different. The Mann’s Harbor Bridge is a Rattle Trap bridge for the most part while the sound bridge loves stretch baits and umbrella rigs. Coinjock Canal loves the combination of traps and stretch baits, but with the stumps that line the waterway it could be an expensive trip out on the water. I have one log on that canal that I know has over $200 worth of lures on it that I have personally put there. The thing about fishing for our rockfish is that they are like ghosts where you have been looking for them the entire day with no luck then you pass by the same spot for the tenth time and limit out on them in ten minutes. That is what makes them such a great fish to go after and they will keep me chasing them till I just can’t fish anymore. Mike Sweeney is a regular columnist for The Daily Advance in Elizabeth City and a contributor to Eastern North Carolina Living.


County: Bertie Marker ID: A-91 Original Date Cast: 2018

FATHER AARON BAZEMORE 1881-1992 African American pastor. He founded in 1911 St. John, the first Church of God in Christ ministry in N.C. Grave 100 ft. W.

MARK IT! Title To Begin Here

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he Church of God in Christ, today headquartered in Memphis, Tennessee, and composed of over five million members, primarily African Ameri-

cans, is deeply rooted in the Pentecostal Holiness tradition. The first meeting took place in 1897 in Mississippi. The broader Pentecostal movement received a boost from the Azusa Street revival held in Los Angeles in 1906. The following year the COGIC denomination was organized. Aaron Bazemore, a Bertie County native born in 1881, founded what was initially known as St. John Church of God in Christ in 1911, with the initial meetings in the home of his father, John Bazemore. Its establishment came just four years after the formation of the COGIC organizational structure. In time Bazemore led others across eastern North Carolina, in Edenton, Greenville, and Washington, to found COGIC churches. Today there are over 150 in North Carolina. Bazemore navigated the racial divisions (black, white, and Indian) during the Jim Crow era, welcoming all comers to the church. Suspicious neighbors asked Francis D. Winston of Windsor, former lieutenant elected on a white supremacy platform, to check out Bazemore. Winston attended a service

N.C. 308 (350 Governor’s Road) northwest of Windsor REFERENCES Arwin D. Smallwood, Bertie County: An Eastern Carolina History (2002) LeRae Umfleet and Benjamin F. Speller, Jr., eds., Historic African American Churches, St. Luke’s Guide to African American History in Bertie County (series) (1997) Estrelda Y. Alexander, Black Fire: One Hundred Years of African American Pentecostalism (2011) Randall J. Stephens, The Fire Spreads: Holiness and Pentecostalism in the American South (2008) (Norfolk) Virginian-Pilot, April 14, 1992 (obituary) Church of God in Christ, Official Manual Bertie County Deed Books

and endorsed Bazemore’s work in spreading the Gospel. After initially leasing the land church members in 1918 acquired from W.S. Outlaw the tract upon which the church was built. In 1942 they renamed the church Cedar Fork and in 1980 Bazemore Temple COGIC for their founder. He died at the age of 111 in 1992 and is buried in the church cemetery.


ALL IN A Story by Lewis Hoggard Photos by Lewis Hoggard & Contributed A close drive away is a place that has a rich history and great natural beauty. Also, a place one can have fun hiking, biking, canoeing and kayaking. Dismal Swamp Canal Welcome Center and Dismal Swamp State Park are two facilities adjacent to each other and are both operated by the State of North Carolina that provide trails and rental access to bikes, canoes and kayaks. Along the border of North Carolina and Virginia lies the Great Dismal Swamp. Accessible in North Carolina off U.S. 17 and future Interstate 87 between South Mills, North Carolina and the Virginia line in Camden County. The swamp covers around 150,000 acres in Virginia and North Carolina, the majority of which is located within the boundaries of the Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge. The estimates of the original size of swamp vary, but some estimate that it was many times its current size. The size was reduced by draining for agricultural reasons and clear cutting for profit from the timber of the cypress and juniper trees. Before George Washington became President of the United States he served as a Major in the southern district of the Virginia Colony which encompassed the area from the James River south to the colony of North Carolina. In May of 1763, George Washington visited the swamp and appreciated its wonders. He saw value in the soil beneath the water became part of a group of investors who wanted to drain the swamp for farming. The name of one of the companies that he had partial ownership was the Dismal Swamp Company.

Draining of the swamp was not as

successful as he hoped but profits were made from cutting and selling the timber. Exiting off of U.S. 17, a traveler is greeted by the Dismal Swamp Canal Welcome Center. Besides the obligatory rest rooms of a welcome center, this center provides much more. For one they handle not only motor vehicles stopping in, but also boats stopping off the intracoastal waterway. Their staff is friendly, knowledgeable and accommodating. The gift shop provides souvenirs and books about the history and natural features of the swamp. More than welcome center, which is aesthetically pleasing, the employees stand out. They are smiling when you walk in and very helpful when you ask them questions.


Day’s Trip The Great Dismal Swamp

Whether it was Donna Stewart, who has recently retired as director or Sarah Hill, who is now the director, the emphasis on making visitors feel welcome is paramount. To actually rent a bike or canoe or kayak one has to enter the state park. To reach the park one has to cross a floating swing bridge over the Great Dismal Swamp Canal. The bridge is one-of-a-kind as it swings open to allow boats to pass while floating on top of the Dismal Swamp Canal. Over 1,800 boats pass through as the bridge swings aside each time. The Dismal Swamp Canal is part of the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway and serves as an alternate more inland route than the Elizabeth River. The canal was first constructed or dug starting in 1793 and finished in 1805. It is the oldest continuing operating man-made canal in the United States. The canal itself is a historic civil engineering landmark as designated by the Society of Civil Engineers. Crossing the canal leads one onto the state park. In the seventies, The Nature Conservancy bought over 14,000 acres from private timber companies in the swamp and conveyed it to the State of North Carolina for the creation of what would become the North Carolina Dismal Swamp State Park. The main offices of the park are perched overlooking the canal and bridge. The park superintendent is Adam Carver, who has served in that role for the last five years, and is very accommodating. The main building has exhibits and information on the Native Americans who lived in the swamp as well as the role the swamp and waterway played in the underground railroad during the Civil War. Also highlighted in the exhibits, is the abundance of wild life that lives within the park. Black bears, deer, rabbits, opossums, raccoons, otters and gray foxes are just some of the animals found on park property. Over twenty miles of trails may be hiked and most of those may be biked. A bike rental costs five dollars per hour, which is the same price of a canoe or kayak. The water trail is along the Dismal Swamp Canal. Unfortunately during these COVID-19 times, one must check and see because of COVID-19 whether the facilities and rentals are available before venturing to visit. An enjoyable outing to find friendly folks blended with history and nature while exercising whether walking, riding or floating. Lewis Hoggard is Executive Director of the Windsor/Bertie Chamber of Commerce and a regular contributor to Eastern North Carolina Living.



Like many of you, I grew up in a home filled with music. Unlike our younger readers, the music in my home came from a combination 8-track and record player which, incidentally, I still have. I found it in my father’s closet after he passed away and couldn’t bear to part with it, though it ever working again seems highly unlikely. The nature of the music emanating from the system depended on who was using it at the moment.

corner – and people who can’t wait to get


back to performing in front of audiences

As we began putting together the list

all over our 14 counties. Hopefully, soon

of those whose stories we would tell in

you’ll be able to go out and meet some

If it was my father, it was likely some

this edition, it was important that we

of these musicians in person. When you

combination of Loretta Lynn, Conway

diversify so there is something for just

do, tell them Eastern North Carolina

Twitty, Dolly Parton and Kenny Rogers.

about all musical tastes. That’s why you’ll

With my mother, it was more likely to

Living sent you.

find everything from rock to Southern

be Dallas Holm, and if it was me it was

Gospel in these pages, sprinkled along

almost certainly Southern Gospel.

with band directors, those who actually

Either way I remember with fondness

repair instruments and those who spend

the sounds of that music coming from

most of their musical talents in the

the corner of our kitchen and playing


where it could be heard throughout the entire house.


than listening to Dallas Holm sing “Rise

As you thumbed through these pages, we hope you saw the importance

We’ll be back in March when we feature stories about all things some people you know and love in your communities. Until next time, remember… all who wander are not lost. Continue joining us as we wander through Beaufort, Bertie,




I guess both parents were successful

of music to those in the magazine, and

at instilling their love of music in general

we hope it also touched a chord (pun

and their style of music in particular,

intended) with you. We know many of

Northampton, Tyrrell, Washington and

because I love the music both of them

you love music and miss being able to go

Wilson counties.

chose to this day. Although I’ll never

out and hear it performed live.

Halifax, Hertford, Hyde, Martin, Nash,

rival my father’s love of Loretta Lynn, I

In these times of COVID-19, when

Thadd White is Editor of Eastern North

still have Conway Twitty on my playlist

gathering is nearly impossible, we

Carolina Living and the Bertie Ledger-

some 40-plus years later. And there’s

wanted to take time to remind our


still nothing more soul-stirring to me

readers there is music just around the




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Profile for APG-ENC

Eastern North Carolina Living - January 2021  

Bob Waters is proficient on a multitude of instruments, including the harp. Eastern North Carolina Living Magazine P.O. Box 69, Windsor, NC...

Eastern North Carolina Living - January 2021  

Bob Waters is proficient on a multitude of instruments, including the harp. Eastern North Carolina Living Magazine P.O. Box 69, Windsor, NC...