Glenn Bolick is a musician, a potter, a sawmiller, and an inventor. A visit to Bolick Family Pottery on Blackberry Road in Caldwell County treats guests to a rare look at an operating antique sawmill, a lesson on contemporary stoneware-pottery-making processes, and a taste of old-time music.
I’ll start with my grandfather and this old house that I live in. This house is a hundred and twelve years old. I grew up just across the way over there, and I spent a lot of time here in this house with my grandparents. My grandfather and grandmother would sing together—gospel hymns—using the Christian Harmony [shaped-note] songbook.
My parents sang shape-notes at the Baptist church. They’d teach the shaped notes to us, the do-re-mi. I didn’t really learn it like I should have. But I’ve always loved singing.
We didn’t get to go to dances until we got grown and left home. When I was a teenager in the fifties, they had some dances at Blowing Rock with live bands that would play all kinds of music. Rock and roll was going strong then, and I liked it pretty good. But I got over it. I got back to the old traditional stuff. I had always had a guitar and banjo, you know, just messing around with them. I had my banjo in my car one day when we had come home here for the weekend. We stopped to visit my grandmother. She saw that banjo in the car, in the back seat, and she said, “Lord, there’s an old banjer! Let me see that thing.” So I got it out and handed it to her. She went to tuning on that thing, and she tuned it up in one of the older styles of tuning. Then she played “Fly Around My Pretty Little Miss” and she sung it. After I saw her do that, I just had to play in her style. That’s the way I learned it, after I saw her do it that way.
My wife is Lula Owens, and her folks were in pottery. I got a chance to buy this old farm, and we started our pottery business here in 1973. My daughter Janet and my son-in-law Michael have a shop of their own here. They call it the Traditions Pottery.
People come to Heritage Day to enjoy the music, but once they’re here, they can go in the shop and look around, buy pottery. Our Heritage Day was started very small, with mostly family and friends. The first year we had some quilts, a fellow brought his oxen and wagon, his wife churned butter, and we had all different kinds of old-timey things—blacksmithing, log skidding with mules, the sawmill going, and so on. We cook pinto beans in there on the wood cookstove—about thirty pounds of beans—and we bake cornbread. Last year my sister-in-law made fried pies. A niece made homemade ice cream. The whole family is involved in it. People like it ‘cause it’s so laid back. I don’t have a lot of rules and regulations. We just ask that they don’t have any alcohol or use any bad language. It’s a family event, and we want to keep it that way.
Excerpted from the Blue Ridge Music Trails of North Carolina guidebook by Fred Fussell with Steve Kruger. Photo by Cedric N. Chatterley.