News/Thoughts

Pickin’ Potters

For many folks along the East coast, summertime means a trip to the Outer Banks of North Carolina, commonly referred to as OBX. It’s a strip of land sandwiched between the Atlantic Ocean on one side, and the Currituck Sound on the other. The area is historically noted for many things including the Birthplace of Flight (Kitty Hawk), the Lost Colony (Manteo), and the Graveyard of the Atlantic where over 3,000 shipwrecks rest in peace underwater.
Nostalgic Trip
The main drag, aside from the fairly new 158 bypass, is the historic highway 12 that runs parallel to the ocean and is dotted with favorite classic hotels, beach shops, and restaurants. Those even more adventurous take the dogleg left and travel down highway 12 south through Cape Hatteras towards the iconic Ocracoke island community, reachable only by an hour long ferry ride. In between however are nearly 60 miles of highway straddling sand dunes and a half dozen sea side communities.
It is there, in the little town of Frisco (mile post 66.5) where you’ll find a quaint pottery shop known as Red Drum. Wes Lassiter and his wife, Rhonda Bates, spend most of their spring, summer, and fall days spinning mugs, bowls, vases, and hand crafting pottery art that they sell to some of the hundreds of thousands of eager vacation travelers passing through each year.
More Than Just Pottery
Wes is also a musician, and former member of the bluegrass/Americana band Molasses Creek. He plays banjo and guitar, and even taught his wife how to play bass. Six years ago they started a new band called Banjo Island. “We had this little place that seated about 30 people, so we started doing weekly shows, and people started coming.” he told me. “Two years later we bought a building which had been an old cottage house. We made the upstairs into gallery for our pottery. Downstairs, there was this big huge closed in garage that we turned into a theater, doubling our capacity,” he quipped. “People still keep coming back year after year. We get a new audience every week, which makes it nice,” he said. “We have a fairly set show that we do every season that consists of not just bluegrass music, but we’ve also added in some more Americana style tunes too.”
Wes named the music space the Martin Parker Theater (after best friend/drummer who passed away not long ago). The converted garage seats 70 people and features music every Wednesday (and now Thursday) evening beginning at 7:00 PM. During the vacation season, from late spring through late October, Wes’s band, Bluegrass Island, headlines the evening except when guest musicians make an appearance.
Outside Acts
When I asked Wes about bringing in guest acts like Side Line, or Lonesome River Band, and even artists like Tony Trischka, he said, “The guest bands that come here truly get spoiled. You just can’t tell someone how wonderful the experience is. You have to show them. You get them fishing, and lying on this incredible beach; they don’t want to go home,” he laughed. “I’ve never had anyone come here and not say, ‘I can’t wait to get back – I love it here, and the intimacy of the room is amazing.’ We know we have something great here.”
Wes designed and installed the sound and lighting himself along with the help of Skip Cherryholmes. “We get a lot of folks tell us just how good the music sounds in here,” he said. “It’s just a special place.”
They added a coffee shop to compliment the gallery and theater, and Wes recently constructed a traveling stage/jam bus to be able to take entertainment out to other parts of the island. It is also a featured jam stage at the Outer Banks Bluegrass festival held annually in September just up the highway in Manteo, NC.
If you’re near or passing through Frisco, NC this year, you owe it to yourself to stop in and visit with Wes and Rhonda. Have a cup of Java, buy a local piece of pottery, and bring your guitar along. Wes just might even sit and pick with you a while.
www.reddrumpottery.com
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