Glenn Bolick grew up in Caldwell County surrounded by sawmilling, storytelling, and music, and today he carries on these three traditions. Glenn is also a potter who learned from his wife, Lula, whose Owens family pottery tradition dates back five generations. Glenn and Lula have turned the family land into a sawmilling, pottery-producing, music-making, heritage homestead where they host numerous events.
Glenn’s early musical influence came from hearing his grandparents and aunt sing unaccompanied shape-note gospel hymns in three-part harmony. He also had a battery-powered radio and would listen to the Grand Old Opry on Saturday nights, and to storytelling programs for children. Part of his storytelling repertoire comes from these programs. Some stories he tells are ones he heard from his father and other relatives and community members when they returned from sawmilling camp. Ray and Stanley Hicks also influenced Glenn’s storytelling. He often traveled with them to storytelling events, and he hosted an annual Ray Hicks Storytelling Festival at the Bolick homestead for several years.
As a teenager, Glenn listened to rock and roll, but he was also interested in traditional music and started playing guitar and banjo. One day he had his banjo when he stopped to visit his grandmother. It astonished and pleased him to see her tune up the banjo and play “Fly Around My Pretty Little Miss.” Her father, he says, had been a champion fiddler in the area. Glenn decided to learn to play banjo in a two-finger up-picking style with a drop-C tuning that his grandmother used. Glenn continues to play the banjo in that style, and with help from his wife, daughter, son-in-law, and graddaughter, Lanna, he now has a family band.
He learned to play guitar from his wife’s family. When Glenn and Lula moved to Seagrove to work for her family’s pottery business, Glenn not only learned how to throw pots in the Owens family tradition, he also became immersed in the family’s music traditions. In 1973, Glenn had a chance to buy his old family farm, so they moved to Caldwell County and started their own family pottery business. In addition to the pottery shops, wood-fired kiln, and sawmill, Glenn has also built a stage for music performances, and he hosts weekly Sunday jam sessions in the summer, a Heritage Day festival in June, and a Thanksgiving wood-fired groundhog kiln celebration. Glenn’s daughter, Janet, and son-in-law, Mike Calhoun, also have a pottery shop on the homestead.
Glenn has won a numerous awards. These include recognition for his banjo and harmonica playing, hollering, and folk singing. He is also a recipient of the Bascom Lamar Lunsford award from the Raleigh State Fair. Together with Lula, he received the Brown Hudson award from the North Carolina Folklore Society.
Click on the Artist Audio link on this page to hear a Living Traditions Moment about Glenn, and his music and stories.
Glenn is available for solo performances that include music, storytelling, and presentations of old-timey toys. Glenn enlightens while he entertains, and he works very well with children. He has presented at festivals, concerts, and in schools. He also hosts weekly music jams on Sundays in the summer months as well as other occasional festivities at his homestead. He is available to show his family’s pottery and is also an expert at sawmilling history and techniques.