A beach music legend’s first gig

Published 7:23 pm Monday, March 4, 2019

The Embers are easily one of the most renowned beach music bands in the South. Their music is played at every beach in our area. The reason for their success is a native of Washington, who is proud to tell audiences where he is from. Craig Woolard is a multi-talented musician and singer. Craig has entertained and performed in some of America’s best venues. Craig is one of the best ambassadors Washington has and one of the most talented also. His music reaches all age groups, and his performance at Christmas has become a holiday treat. He is in the Beach Music Hall of Fame and has produced many albums.

Even with all of his success, he will quickly point out and credit Jimmy Larkin like so many have over the years. Craig was a member of the Pam Pack marching band while in high school, where he learned his love for music and the many instruments he plays now. Mr. Larkin helped many others while they were in the band.

There is one story about Craig that I would like to share with you. I think he will agree. After the Junior-Senior Prom our junior year, we wanted to have a house party like the seniors have every year. We were not to be outdone by our older counterparts. Terry Smithwick and Bill Nolley had decided to have a band to play on that Saturday night at Terry’s cottage on the river. The late Burl Clark, who was in our class, had just formed a band, and he agreed to play for free. The price was right, so Terry, Bill and others agreed on them playing.

Terry had the perfect location for such a party. His cottage was located in a cove behind Edgewater Beach and just beside the Christian Service Camp. A long, winding road behind the camp would take you to his cottage. It was far enough away so the sound wouldn’t hear or bother anyone. There was no one living in the cottages beside his, and cars could park easily beside his house and in the other driveways. We all got our dates and headed to Terry’s that Saturday night. Bill Gravely, Jamie Weatherly, Bobby Hardy, Dave Tayloe, Fred Watkins, Cambo Rodman and Mike Parsons were some that I remembered, and there were others.

In the band that Burl had formed were some under classmen like Robbie Walker and Craig Woolard! There were others that I cannot remember, but it was Craig’s first gig and the rest is history. Thanks to Terry, Bill and probably Bill Gravely, Craig got his start in the cove on the Pamlico River that Saturday night. Who would have known?

No matter where he is playing now, if there is someone from his hometown there, he will acknowledge their presence. Yes, Craig Woolard is one of Washington’s greatest ambassadors and plays here as much as possible while living in Cary. He has played with The Embers before and after his own band the Craig Woolard Band was playing.

Craig is an example of the type people that Washington High School has produced over the years. We are so fortunate to have Craig and his musical ability playing in front of our youth today, and the example he is setting. Thanks, Craig, and we hope you have many years left!

They were the best of times with the best of friends and in the best of places-Washington, NC!!

— Harold Jr.

Harold Robinson Jr. is a native of Washington.